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The BBC's Angus Roxburgh
"Commission consider France are infriging of community rules"
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The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"The advice is to ask questions"
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Dr Christl Donnelly
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British MEP Philip Whitehead
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Tuesday, 19 June, 2001, 18:02 GMT 19:02 UK
French beef ban goes to court
cow
France says British beef could still pose a health hazard
By Angus Roxburgh in Luxembourg

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has heard arguments from lawyers in the case brought by the European Commission against France over its refusal to lift its ban on British beef.

The ban was lifted in 1999, but France has kept it in place, arguing that its own scientific advice suggested there were still risks of BSE in British beef exports.

A lawyer for the French government argued that the European Commission had been over-hasty in lifting its ban on British beef before considering new evidence brought by the French food safety agency.

Beef AP
The EU lifted a ban on British beef in 1999
He cited French concerns over the traceability of British beef and the thoroughness of British controls.

David Anderson QC for the United Kingdom defended what he called the rigorous standard of the date based export scheme, under which beef is selected and slaughtered for export, and argued that while France had the right to carry out strict veterinary checks on British beef, it did not have the right to flout a binding EU decision.

Counsel for the European Commission, Gerard Berscheid, said France's refusal to comply was brazen, flagrant and utterly unjustified.


The circumstances and provisions of national law cannot in any case justify a refusal to apply Community law

Gerard Berscheid, counsel for the EC
In January last year, the commission brought an action against France before the Court of Justice.

The court has been considering the written evidence ever since.

Judges will take several months to reach a verdict, but even if they find against France, beef exports are unlikely to resume quickly, as consumers will also have to be convinced.

BSE has now spread to several European countries, leading to a drastic slump in beef consumption.

Confidence in beef from the country regarded as the source of mad cow disease will be very hard to rebuild.

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See also:

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
08 Dec 99 | Europe
France keeps British beef ban
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