Commission Press Release (IP/10/1593), 24 November 2010
The European Commission has asked France to withdraw national measures obstructing trade in milk and milk products obtained from sheep and goats. The request takes the form of a "reasoned opinion" under EU infringement procedures. In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may decide to refer France to the European Court of Justice.
Scrapie is an incurable disease affecting the nervous system of sheep and goats. It is one of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) – the sheep-and-goat equivalent of BSE, or "mad cow disease," which is the most well-known and infamous TSE that affects cattle. Scrapie has been present in Europe for centuries.
Precautionary measures against scrapie were initially taken during the BSE crisis due to the relatedness of the scrapie agent with that of BSE. Even though some uncertainties persist, scientific evidence produced and evaluated in the aftermath of the BSE crisis shows that the agent causing the disease will not provoke food borne disease in humans.
Following the TSE Road Map review exercise the initial precautionary measures related to scrapie in small ruminants were reassessed in order to tailor them to the actual needs and to ensure that they are proportionate to the risk as assessed today.
Regulation (EC) No 103/2009 amending Annexes VII and IX to Regulation (EC) No 999/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down rules for the prevention, control and eradication of certain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies adjusts the EU measures to the current scientific knowledge provided by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
France refuses to apply Regulation (EC) No 103/2009 arguing against the opinion of the Commission and the other Member States that Union measures were not complete and thus it adopted its own national rules. With Decision 2009/726/EC (concerning interim protection measures taken by France as regards the introduction onto its territory of milk and milk products coming from a holding where a classical scrapie case is confirmed), France was called to suspend these rules at least until case T-257/07 France v Commission (also discussing the proportionality of precautionary measures related to scrapie in small ruminants has been decided. France also refuses to apply this Decision.
The Commission thus initiated the infringement procedure, described in Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) by sending a letter of formal notice to France. By the sending of a "Reasoned Opinion," the Commission formally requests France to take action to comply with EU law within a period of two months. Subsequently, the Commission may decide to refer France to the ECJ if action to ensure compliance is not taken.