THE LATEST ON EU AGRI-FOOD POLICIES IMPACTING LOW- AND MIDDLE-INCOME COUNTRIES

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Frequently asked questions

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Certain EU import regulations require action by national administrations in the exporting country. For example, before individual companies can export meat, fish and animal products from a given country, the authorities must meet certain requirements and provide information to the Commission in order to be included in a list of third countries authorised to export such products.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is an EU agency that provides an impartial source of scientific advice to risk managers (European Commission and Member States). EFSA collects and analyses existing research and data provided by Member States or food operators. As a basic principle, EU food law is based on the risk analysis provided by EFSA [General Food Law, Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, Art. 5]. When developing new measures, risk managers may also take into account other legitimate factors (social, economic, environmental) and the precautionary principle. In 2021, a new Regulation [(EU) 2019/1381] was adopted to improve the transparency of EFSA’s work and help maintain public confidence in the body.

Basic EU legislation must have the agreement of the Council of the EU and the European Parliament, a process known as the ordinary legislative procedure. After the adoption of a proposal by the European Commission, this process of consultation and reaching agreement between the three institutions can take 12–18 months, but in many cases lasts much longer (see the EU video How do proposals become EU law?). Basic EU legislation provides the legal framework within which more detailed and elaborate rules can be developed through Delegated and Implementing Acts.

Many EU laws are Regulations that are directly applicable in EU Member States. Some laws are Directives, which only come into effect when they are incorporated (or transposed) into the national law of the Member State. A Directive sets out a goal that all EU countries must achieve, but it is up to each Member State to develop its own laws to achieve these goals. A Directive will set a timeframe in which Member States must adopt national laws. The Single-Use Plastics Directive is a recent example of a law that is being transposed into national laws. This may lead to different rules across EU Member States.

In the European Union, the Council of Ministers and European Parliament are responsible for adopting legislation. However, they can delegate to the Commission the power to adopt Delegated Acts. This permits the Commission to act quickly and flexibly, making use of its technical expertise. Delegated Acts supplement or amend basic EU laws, but cannot go beyond the scope of the legislation. The Commission adopts Delegated Acts after consulting national experts and stakeholders. Delegated Acts are then submitted to the Council and the Parliament, who cannot change the acts, but under certain conditions may veto them.

Member States are responsible for implementing EU Directives and Regulations. Further acts are sometimes needed to ensure these Directives and Regulations are implemented uniformly. These acts confer powers on the Commission to adopt Implementing Acts. The Commission submits draft acts to committees made up of member state representatives (known as “comitology”). The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers have a right of scrutiny on Implementing Acts.

Although the Lisbon Treaty that reorganised the powers of EU institutions entered into force in 2009, there is still ongoing discussion between these institutions on the appropriate implementing and delegated powers of the Commission in regard to individual pieces of legislation. In some cases, therefore, the powers are still those that applied before the Lisbon Treaty, in which case the term “Commission Regulation” rather than “Commission Delegated/ Implementing Regulation” is used.

The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) was set up to allow the rapid exchange of information between EU Member States on risks to public health related to the food chain. On the basis of information shared, products can potentially be recalled from the market with the aim of preventing food safety risks before they cause harm. Only Member States have access to the detail of individual cases of food risk that are notified to RASFF. However, it is possible for the public to have access to summary information via the RASFF Window notification database.

In spring 2024 the AGRINFO webpages will be made available in French and Spanish, with Portuguese to follow shortly. Other languages will be added over time.

AGRINFO reports are available in these languages via the on-screen tools. Importantly, please be aware that these are automatic translations and the quality can vary, particularly for technical content. These tools can, however, help to provide a general understanding of the content.

The AGRINFO Search facility currently works in English only; work is ongoing to expand the search engine to include other languages.

AGRINFO is currently working on adding to the number of available languages. In the meantime, for languages not yet available via the platform, we recommend using machine translation software.

A number of different tools are freely available: for example, DeepL allows you to copy/paste and translate up to 3,000 characters at a time, or to translate Word or PDF documents. Your browser may have built-in features to automatically translate web pages. Google Chrome, for example, now offers Google Translate as a built-in tool.

As noted above, automatically translated texts are not perfect – please exercise caution in their use. AGRINFO accepts no responsibility for the content of machine translations.