New EU plant health rules

|Gert Würtenberger|

The need for measures to secure plant health has long been recognized. They have formed the subject of international agreements and international conventions including International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) of 6 December 1951, concluded at the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and its new, revised text approved by the FAO Conference in November 1997 in its 29th Session. The Union and all its Member States are contracting parties to the IPPC.

Importation of plant material into the territory of the European Union (EU) so far was subject to the requisites determined by Council Directive 2000/29/EC of 8 May 2000 on protective measures against the introduction into the Community of organisms harmful to plants or plant products and against their spread within the Community. As Directives leave it to the authorities of the Member States to choose the form and the methods to achieve and safeguard the Directives’ goals, Directive 2000/29/EC did not lead to a uniform application. For this reason, the Commission decided after an evaluation of that plant health regime to set up new rules in the form of a Regulation as the same is directly applicable in all Member States. Thus, no implementing legislation in the Member States is required.

The new regime determined by Regulation 2016/2031 sets out criteria for the identification of pests for which the adoption of measures is necessary to prevent their introduction into and spread within the entire Union territory. Such pests are referred to as “Union Quarantine Pests”. Moreover, the regulation sets out for the identification of pests for which it is necessary to adopt measures by control only as regards one or more parts of that territory. Such pests are referred to as “protected zone quarantine pests”. In cases in which pests have been found to be present in certain territories, the Member State concerned must undertake appropriate measures according to principles established by the Regulation which the Member State should follow when deciding which measures should be taken. Those measures should include the establishment of demarcated areas, consisting of an infested zone and a buffer zone and, when applicable, the determination of actions which should be taken by a professional operator or other person in order to eliminate the quarantine pest or in order to prevent the spread of that pest.

Moreover, it is provided that in certain cases, Member States should impose measures for the eradication of quarantine pests on plants in private premises. In such cases, the Member States will have legal access to those premises which may involve a limitation of fundamental rights such as respect for private and family life, right to property. These limitations, how­ever, must be necessary and proportionate to the achievement of the public interest objective of the Regulation.

While it is provided to establish a list of high-risk plants, plant products and other objects, introduction of which into the Union territory should be prohibited, exemptions from that prohibition will be provided (Art. 48 of Regulation 2016/2031). Such exemptions may encompass plants, plant products and other objects for certain purposes such as official testing, scientific or educational purposes, trials, varietal selection or breeding.

The requirement that plants, living parts of plants and plant products (as determined in Art. 2 of the Regulation 2016/2031) will have to be accompanied by plant passports when imported into the EU is regulated more specifically. Any plant material must be accompanied by phytosanitary certificates which comply with the requirements of the IPPC attesting compliance with the requirements and measures established pursuant to the Regulation. In order to ensure the credibility of phytosanitary certificates, rules will be established concerning the conditions of their validity and invalidation.

Plant passports, in general, will not be required for plants, plant products or other objects supplied directly to final users, including home gardeners. However, certain exceptions may apply.  In order to ensure the credibility of the plant passports, rules should be established concerning their content and form.

The new EU Regulation 2016/2031 entered into force on 13 December 2016 and will be applicable from 14 December 2019.

Posted in Plant Health.