Foreign Animal Disease Risk On EU Agenda

08 March 2010
Alyn Smith MEP has today urged fellow MEPs to help him keep strict controls on foreign animals entering the UK and Scotland and ensure that Scotland and the UK can always opt out of harmonisation of animal control measures across the EU to keep our borders disease free.

The continuation of the opt out from the proposed harmonisation is up for renewal in Strasbourg on 9 March with many MEPs expected to try to impose lower standards as part of a push towards a "level playing field."

The European Commission has been working on harmonisation of the animal control regime across the EU, but presently five states can impose stricter anti-disease measures for animals entering the country: specifically the system of pet passports and compulsory worming of imported animals. This derogation is about to expire as part of that ongoing harmonisation, but the European Parliament will vote next week on a proposal to extend the derogation, though only to the end of 2011.

Even then, the UK may not have to drop its stricter rules unless independent studies show that the risk from rabies is "negligible" - and it is currently classed as "non-negligible". Smith however wants to see the derogation made permanent.

Smith said:

"Scotland and the UK are a series of islands so we have a natural barrier to animal disease, and the laws should reflect that.
"We must keep maximum national sovereignty on this issue. Nations have a fundamental right to control their own borders to prevent the transmission of diseases through animals. The Scottish and UK border marks a very strict, sound system in our system of pet passports and compulsory worming of animals and that must be maintained. It is backed by medical and veterinary opinion, so to reduce these standards for the cause of EU harmonisation is flat wrong, particularly with regard to the potentially lethal diseases spread by ticks.
"Fortunately this is not what is proposed just now, but to even see it on the agenda reminds us that we need to keep an eye on it. I hope that the other MEPs will support the proposal to extend the derogation for another two years, until the end of 2011. A lot can happen in that time: I'm sure we'll be able to make the case for a permanent derogation, especially given that the risk of rabies is described as "non-negligible" and that is hardly likely to change."