Brussels, 21 February 2006
08th Council Meeting - Agriculture and Fisheries. Brussels, 20 February 2006
Commissioner Kyprianou informed the Council on the latest developments concerning the outbreak of avian influenza H5N1 virus in the Community and in the world.
The Council held an exchange of views on the situation. The Presidency indicated that this issue will be tackled at the informal meeting of the Health Ministers held in Vienna on 24th February, and that the Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) would meet on 9th and 10th March on this issue. The Presidency summarised the Agriculture Ministers' discussions on the spread of bird flu in Europe as follows:
1. The H5N1 virus has to date occurred in the wild bird population only. Its spread to domestic poultry has so far been prevented thanks to the EU-wide measures taken, which have been implemented by Member States according to their national risk assessments - for example, the obligation to keep poultry indoors, stricter reporting requirements, restrictions on shows, exhibitions etc..
2. Opinion in Europe is divided on the use of vaccines. Intensive discussions are taking place in various specialist fora (the EMEA and the Standing Veterinary Committee). The Commission will have to examine their conclusions in detail and carefully weigh up the pros and cons.
3. The Commission is to examine measures to compensate poultry farmers who are not directly affected but suffer losses because of the restrictions on trade and the fall in consumption, and to submit proposals to the experts as soon as possible.
4. Since the H5N1 virus could also be introduced into the EU by illegal imports from affected third countries, the Commission has been asked to examine various ways of preventing such an eventuality, for example the introduction of self declaration, initiation of contacts with affected third countries and by supporting their efforts to combat Avian flue on their territories as well as the introduction of uniform EU-wide measures. Also Member States have to do their utmost to implement the measures in an exact and an efficient manner. The success of the measures will heavily depend thereof.
5. The Commission has been asked to collect the latest data from the Member States on incidences of the bird flu virus in wild birds, and to analyse this information. Any adjustments that need to be made to the latest measures taken on the basis of experience will be submitted to the veterinary experts for decision."
The Greek and the Italian delegations, supported by the French, Spanish, Portuguese, Maltese, Cypriot, Hungarian, Polish, Irish, Slovenian, Dutch and German delegations, raised their concerns as regard the economic impact of avian influenza on the poultry industry in the EU and asked the Commission to take appropriate measures to support the businesses severely affected by the dropping prices of the poultry meat. The measures envisaged in particular by the Greek delegation may include:
- withdrawal of the existing stocks and finding of additional outlets for their disposal, with the payment of equivalent compensations to the producers;
- expansion of the export destinations (including the Balkan Countries) with the payment of export refunds;
- funding of information campaigns on the issue of the safety of poultry industry products as well as other issues, for the benefit of the European consumers;
- general economic and other support measures for those affected by the crisis.
Commissioner Fischer-Boel said her institution was already well aware of the serious market disturbances in the poultry sector and of the situation created by the outbreak of avian influenza on wild birds.
She reiterated that the Commission will continue to use export refunds within the common market organisation for poultry as the main management tool of the CMO. She recalled the delegations that export refunds had been increased by Eur 6/100 kilos of chicken in two steps in the past meetings of the management committee, in January (Eur 2/100 kilos) and February (Eur 4/100 kilos) from Euro 24/100 kilos to Eur 30/100 kilos.
As concerns the other measures envisaged by the delegations, she pointed out that an information campaign might also be counter-productive.
She made clear that exceptional market measures could not be triggered unless there is a major restriction to the free circulation of chicken and eggs, which could justify such measures. However, she noted that if a change occurs concerning the avian influenza outbreak a review of the situation could be envisaged.
She emphasized that usual market tools such as private storage or public intervention did not exist in the CMO on poultry.
Answering on a possible withdrawal of the existing stocks, she pointed out that the industry should be able to reduce the output of poultry more rapidly than in other sectors (beef) due to the short cycle of production in the poultry sector.
As regards the possibility for Member States to grant state aids to the producers, she indicated that the Commission will examine the request made by Member States in the light of their respective situation and with a positive approach.
Finally, she concluded that the possibility of taking additional measures would take a longer period as it requires a Commission proposal and the consultation of the European Parliament.
The Presidency concluded that the Council will come back on this issue at its next meeting.
News release 6083/06 (Presse 39)