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Saturday, 15 December, 2001, 06:01 GMT
French minister defends beef ban
France fears UK beef still poses a risk of mad cow disease
France's Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany has defended his country's ban on British beef imports, defying a European Union court ruling that Paris is breaking EU law.

Mr Glavany, speaking on French radio, said he still felt that Britain had not done enough to combat mad cow disease, or BSE.

We still have only a limited view of the epidemiological situation in Britain

Jean Glavany
"All of Europe has put in place a system to test cows more than 30 months old before they are made available for consumption," he said.

"Everyone has done that except the United Kingdom."

On Thursday the European Court of Justice ruled that the French ban violated EU law.

But Mr Glavany said he had to take precautions to ensure that French consumers were protected.

Heavy fines

France imposed the ban because of fears about the spread of BSE and refused to lift it when the commission gave British beef a clean bill of health more than two years ago.

Beef AP
The EU lifted a ban on British beef in 1999
After the Luxembourg court lifted the ban the country now faces the prospect of heavy fines.

However, the French consumer group ConsoFrance said that the government should disregard the ruling and continue with its cautious policy.

The ruling itself came on the eve of an EU summit at which UK Prime Minister Tony Blair will be meeting French President Jacques Chirac.

France has never denied that it is in breach of the law, but says no member state can be expected to ignore the findings of its own national experts.

The judges however agreed with commission lawyers that no national law could justify a refusal to apply community law.

Otherwise "the primacy and uniformity of community law is jeopardised," they said.

French farm minister Jean Glavany
Jean Glavany: Putting French consumers first
EU health commissioner David Byrne said: "The decision vindicates the commission's policies and stance.

"I expect France to implement the judgement and lift the ban on the import of British beef."

France's decision to maintain the embargo also sparked a trade row, with British farmers threatening tit-for-tat bans on French goods.

The commission brought an action against France before the Court of Justice in January last year and the court has been considering the written evidence ever since.

The BBC's Jake Lynch
"Farmers want to know how the court intends to enforce its ruling"
The BBC's Jon Sopel
"The EC is demanding that the French Government comply with the ruling"





See also:

19 Jun 01 | Europe
French beef ban goes to court
13 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
British beef 'safer than French'
04 Dec 00 | Europe
EU agrees anti-BSE action
09 Dec 99 | Media reports
French minister defends beef ban
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