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Hudghton (Greens/EFA) - Mr President, it is regrettable that again today we are having this debate in the absence of a decision from the committee currently meeting in Brussels. It is also regrettable that this debate has taken such a hysterical tone in certain parts of Europe, fuelled by some of the London-based media in particular.
We would all agree that food safety and public health issues must be regarded as the highest political priorities throughout Europe, but British beef, as stated again today by Commissioner Fischler, has satisfied the public health objectives set by the European Union. I wonder whether the Commissioner, in his summing up, can state that every other Member State now meets equally high standards in beef production and slaughter. I also regret that this matter has been allowed to be portrayed as a battle between Britain and France, because it ought to be an issue between France and Europe. Here we have just ended a period of the most difficult conditions being set by the European Union on the British beef production industry, conditions which have been met, and therefore action to implement the lifting of the beef ban should be taken decisively by the Commission. My group colleague, Mr Graefe zu Baringdorf, referred once or twice in his speech to 'English' beef but of course the UK consists of four distinct countries and in Scotland, where I come, from the beef farmers are rightly entitled to feel badly treated because we did not have a significant BSE problem in the first place. These conditions set by Europe have been met and still we are not able to export. Our farmers rightly wonder what was the point of all of the pain they went through over the last few years in order to meet the high standards which have been set and which have been met. What would be the point of having more years of discussion and of setting up a European food standards agency if its recommendations were not to be implemented? The issue here is that if we are to have European standards then surely we must be entitled to expect that these standards are accepted by the participating Member States. Our consumers must be protected in relation to food safety, but consumers are also entitled and intelligent enough to make choices. I am quite convinced, as a resident of Angus in the heart of Scotland' s Aberdeen Angus beef production country, that consumers in France, as elsewhere, would choose Scottish beef if they were allowed to do so.