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Minister Coughlan Responds To New EU Proposals On Bluetongue

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today noted new draft proposals from the EU Commission in relation to bluetongue, in response to her consistently stated criticism of the adequacy of existing conditions under which live animals are allowed to be moved from bluetongue-restricted areas, which Ireland had opposed.

The Minister said that she and her officials had been pressing the Commission to make every effort to ensure that those countries that are free of bluetongue remain disease-free and the latest proposals from the Commission should be seen in this context.

Minister Coughlan added that her continued determination, and that of her Department, was to maintain Ireland's disease-free status and said that the proposed restrictions on the importation of animals from bluetongue-restricted zones would have to be considered in this regard.

Minister Coughlan said that, following her introduction of import control measures last month, suspending the importation of certain cattle and sheep from bluetongue-restricted zones, she had again asked the Commission to consider revising the conditions under which live animals may be exported from bluetongue-restricted zones in the light of the then emerging information. The Minister said that she would review those unilateral measures introduced by Ireland in the context of any amendments made to the EU trading conditions, based on these latest Commission proposals.

The new proposals will be discussed at a meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) in Brussels on Monday 31st March.

In the meantime, Minister Coughlan repeated her advice to farmers not to import livestock under any circumstances. The Minister also confirmed that she and her officials were maintaining very close contact with the Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle Gildernew, and her officials in the maintenance of an all-island approach to the threat posed by the spread of bluetongue throughout Europe and Britain.

Date Released: 20 March 2008