13 January 2000
France free to maintain beef ban

By FWi staff

THE European Commission has decided against applying for an emergency injunction forcing France to immediately lift its ban on British beef.

The interim measure would have forced France to accept shipments pending a final European Court of Justice decision on whether the ban is legal.

But lawyers have advised the commission that the court is unlikely to approve an injunction because France is maintaining its ban on public health grounds.

Now the lawsuit must be pursued through the court in Luxembourg, in a lengthy process which could take more than 18 months to complete.

The decision came as little surprise to many observers, who said it was almost impossible for Brussels to apply for the interim measure.

Winning an injunction was made unlikely after, in a politically astute move, France launched its own counter case against the commission.

France accused the EC of failing to take account of fresh information it had presented to experts in Brussels, thus jeopardising consumer safety.

The commission could have been accused of exposing France to unnecessary health risks had it insisted that the ban be lifted and then lost the court case.

The commission would also have had to forfeit the right to present certain documents if it had insisted on interim measures, said legal experts.

The EU lifted its three-and-a-half-year BSE ban on British beef in August. France and Germany have refused to accept British beef citing health fears.

German health and agriculture committees are to consider the issue before it is put to the vote in the upper house of the German parliament next month.