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Briefing Note on the Animal Health Strategy 2007-2013

1. Introduction

This briefing provides an overview of the Animal Health Strategy for 2007-2013 that was announced by the Commission on 19 September 2007. This strategy comes at an important time for the South West with the recent outbreaks of Foot & Mouth and Blue Tongue in the UK (see section 5 below on relevance of strategy to UK).

2.  Background Context

The EU plays a key role in the field of animal health throughout Europe. Much of the legislation regarding animal health has been drawn up between 1986 and 1995. But in the light of recent epidemics, the Commission launched a stakeholder consultation in December 2004 in order to update its animal health policy and attempt to simplify the legislation. Following from this consultation, the Commission announced its Communication on the Community Animal Health Policy (CAHP) 2007-13.

3. Contents of the Communication

As already noted the overarching principle of the strategy is “prevention is better than cure”. The Strategy sets out four key objectives:

  • Ensure a high level of public health and food safety by reducing the risks that problems with animal health can pose to humans
  • Promote animal health by preventing or reducing the incidence of animal diseases, and in doing so, protect farming and the rural economy
  • Improve economic growth, cohesion and competitiveness in animal-related sectors
  • Support the EU Sustainable Development Strategy by promoting farming and animal welfare practices which prevent threats to animal health and minimise the environmental impact of raising animals

The strategy is based on four pillars:

I. Defining Priorities

  • Reevaluate priorities based on careful risk assessment and solid scientific advice
  • Focus funds on diseases with high public relevance and potential impacts on human health, society and the economy

II. A Modern Legal Framework

  • Establish a single regulatory framework for animal health in the EU, covering intra-community trade, imports, animal disease control, animal nutrition and animal welfare
  • Seek to converge with the international recommendations, standards and guidelines of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and Codex Alimentarius, the food standard-setting body created by the UN
  • Develop a harmonised EU framework for sharing costs and responsibility

III. Threat Prevention, Surveillance and Emergency Preparedness

a. Surveillance

  • Enhance the EU traceability framework: identification systems, labelling, and TRACES (the Community TRAde Control and Expert System for traceability)
  • Improve the quality, accuracy, availability and timeliness of data on live animals, food of animal origin, and feed, both within countries and across Member State borders

b. Threat Prevention

  • Focus controls on high risk imports
  • Help third countries combat threats to animal health and food safety
  • Develop stronger measures against the illegal trade in animals

c. Emergency Preparedness

  • Establish a rapid response network, crisis management units and an EU veterinary rapid response team
  • Reinforce the EU antigen and vaccine banks

IV. Science, Innovation and Research

  • Stimulate scientific innovation and research to provide a sound basis for developing animal heath rules
  • Ensure sufficient funding through public-private partnerships
  • Develop the network of national reference laboratories to maximise knowledge and expertise
  • Increase the activities of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in the field of animal health
  • Link up with the 7th Research Framework Programme (2007-13) to support research into animal health and welfare issues

4. Implementation

The Commission says that the strategy has been designed to fit within the existing EU Budget, which already has earmarked €2.9bn over 2007-2013 for veterinary and phytosanitary measures.

The Commission envisages the Animal Health Strategy as providing an EU Framework within which Member States will devise national plans or measures for delivery, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. The Commission envisages a broad involvement of stakeholders in this process:

“…The new strategy will require cross-sector support and cooperation at all levels to fulfill its potential and meet its objectives. The role and responsibilities linked to animal health will be shared across the board – from farmers, to transporters, to industry, to authorities and even to consumers.”

5. Relevance to UK agenda

In the UK context DEFRA has prepared an Animal Health & Welfare Strategy for Great Britain, which identifies five key areas: 1) working in partnership; 2) understanding roles and responsibilities; 3) prevention is better than cure; 4) understanding costs and benefits; 5) delivering and enforcing standards. These broadly reflect the Community Animal Health Strategy, although DEFRA says that the real test will be when the Commission comes forward with detailed and concrete proposals in the Action Plan. DEFRA did highlight two areas they considered particularly positive for the UK:

  • The elaboration of the Communication involved partnership-working and involved a broad panel of stakeholders. This falls in with the first principle of the strategy in the UK.
  • The creation of an “Animal Health Advisory Board” that will involve stakeholders of the animal health sector, broadly understood as representatives from non-governmental organisations, consumers as well as governments. The Board will provide strategic guidance and will be an advisory body helping the Commission deliver agreed outcomes. Although the workings of this body are not yet specified, it will help increase transparency.

5.  Next Steps

The Council and the Parliament are expected to adopt their positions on the CAHP Communication by the end of 2007.

In the meantime, the Commission is preparing a detailed Action Plan, which will complement the Strategy, setting out how each of the objectives will be achieved. This Action Plan depends upon the positions adopted by the Council and the Parliament. As such, the Commission expects to publish its Action Plan by the first semester of 2008.

European Commissioner for Health Markos Kyprianou made an official presentation of his draft Community strategy for animal health (2007-2013) on 22 October at the Agriculture Council meeting in Luxembourg. Some Member States criticised one of the ideas in the text, namely sharing the cost of management of epizootic crises with professionals through insurance and mutual funds. The Commissioner indicated that he was going to lead a specific study on this matter, which will be presented by the end of 2008. Another issue of importance to the Council was the strengthening of the sanitary safety of imports into the Union.

Beforehand, on 17 October, Neil Parish (MEP for the South West) chaired a debate on the new Strategy at the European Parliament, where Commissioner for Health, Marcos Kyprianou made a presentation on the Commission proposal. During the debate, stakeholders welcomed the new Communication but emphasised two issues in particular, which they felt had not been sufficiently addressed in the strategy: namely the availability of vaccines and animal welfare.

We wait to see if these issues are picked up by the Council and Parliament, or by the Commission in its Action Plan.

SWUKBO will follow developments within this area, and provide an updated briefing once the Action Plan has been published