16 November 1999
EC in legal action against France

By FWi staff

LEGAL proceedings have been launched by the European Commission against France for refusing to lift its ban on British beef.

But with both Britain and France sounding upbeat after recent negotiations many observers believe the beef war could be resolved without recourse to the courts.

EU food safety commissioner David Byrne told MEPs in Strasbourg that the decision was “without prejudice” to discussions to end the dispute, reports BBC Online.

Mr Byrne told the European Parliament he was convinced the ban could be lifted in the near future and has given France two weeks to submit a reply to the commission.

This decision came despite reports that France had reached a provisional settlement with Britain which would allow it to lift its ban on British beef.

French agriculture minister Jean Glavany made that announcement during question-time at the French national assembly, adding that there were a few more details still to be worked out.

Mr Glavany said the government would take advice from its food agency before reporting to the commission.

Negotiations between the two sides are continuing and Mr Byrne said he hoped to have an agreement in the next few days, which would make legal action unnecessary.

Although the EU lifted its three-and-a-half-year BSE ban in August, France and Germany have retained boycotts, citing concerns about the safety of British beef.