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17. 3.

98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 82/131

Can the Commission indicate whether it carried out a prior inquiry into the social and economic consequences of
the protective measures on these overseas countries and what its reaction is now?

Is it aware that the protective measures taken against the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba have also resulted in
more than 10 000 farmers in Guyana and Suriname getting into serious difficulties?

Is it aware that some of the rice involved in Suriname and Guyana now stored in warehouses has been bought up
by Spanish businessmen at knockdown prices and nonetheless been imported into the Community? Can the
Commission explain why this selfsame Indica rice may not be exported to the Community by the overseas
countries, although it may be so exported by Spanish businessmen?

Does the Commission intend to pursue its protectionist policy, which has caused so much damage in Third World
countries, or is it prepared to seek a compromise solution acceptable to all parties? What concrete suggestions
could it make?

Answer given by Mr Fischler on behalf of the Commission

(10 September 1997)

The safeguard measures on rice imports originating in the overseas countries and territories (OCTs) introduced
by Council Regulations (EC) No 304/97 and No 1036/97 (1) were adopted following serious disturbances of the
Community rice market. Bearing in mind that, after three months of implementation of the second safeguard
measure, the quota of 69 610 tonnes has not yet been exhausted and that, between 1 September 1996 and 15 July
1997, 157 000 tonnes of milled rice equivalent were imported from the OCTs, as against 185 000 tonnes for the
same period during the previous marketing year, when no safeguard measure was applied, it is hard to believe
that these measures could have the negative impact on the economic and industrial activity of the OCTs which
the Honourable Member claims. Moreover, the Court of First Instance refused two applications from the
Government of the Netherlands Antilles and the company Antillean Rice Mills seeking to having the safeguard
measures suspended by court order, because the applicants failed to prove serious and irreparable damage to
operators and to the macro-economic situation of the Netherlands Antilles. It must also be recalled that the
Commission has, since 1993, repeatedly warned against the risk of speculative investments in the OCTs.

The African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries are entitled to export 125 000 tonnes of husked rice
equivalent directly to the Community at reduced rates of duty, but very little of this quota has been used owing to
the ‘OCT route’, which was much used again in 1996/97. Moreover, the Commission has for years been
providing assistance to rice producers in Surinam and Guyana through the European Development Fund (EDF),
in order to improve the competitiveness of their product and diversify their export market.

In view of the critical state of the European rice market (buying-in of indica rice and exports with refunds despite
an under-supplied market) caused particularly by imports from the OCTs, the application of safeguard measures
was inevitable. However, the Commission has always defended the need to find a compromise in the Council
between the development interests of the OCT and the common agricultural policy, through a quantitative
restriction on rice imports from this origin. This solution, accepted since November 1996 by fourteen Member
States and refused by the Netherlands, is currently being discussed by the Council.

(1) OJ L 51, 21.2.1997; OJ L 151, 10.6.1997.

(98/C 82/213) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2717/97

by Heidi Hautala (V) to the Commission
(1 September 1997)

Subject: Substances depleting the ozone layer

In the context of the Montreal Protocol and the substances which deplete the ozone layer, why has the EU not
taken any concrete action to ban CFCs in medical uses, more specifically in metered dose inhalers (MDI), and to
halt new CFC approvals, as currently a Technical and Economically Feasible Alternative (TEFA) is available for
such products? The Commission has recently launched a rolling plan on the transition to CFC-free MDIs. When
is it going to put forward a phase-out policy for CFSs to the UNEP?
C 82/132 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 17. 3. 98

During the 15th Open-Ended Working Group Meeting of the United Nations in Nairobi, beginning of June, the
Technological and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP) showed scientific evidence that there were alternatives
available for methyl bromide. What is the Commission strategy in this field and has it initiated a debate or does it
plan to do so on how to phase-out methyl bromide? How expensive will it be to phase out methyl bromide in the
EU by 50% in 2001 and by 100% in 2005?

Answer given by Mrs Bjerregaard on behalf of the Commission

(22 September 1997)

The use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in metered dose inhalers for the treatment of asthma and chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease is an agreed essential use under the Montreal Protocol and under Council
Regulation (EC) No 3093/94 on substances that deplete the ozone layer (1). This means that CFCs may continue
to be used in these medicinal products until technical and economically feasible alternatives are available to
doctors and patients. At present, only a small number of non-CFC products are available on the European market.
They are not yet approved in all Member States, nor do they represent alternatives for all the CFC products
currently in use. It would therefore not be appropriate at this stage to ban CFCs in medical uses. A wider range of
non-CFC alternatives is expected to become available over the next 12 − 18 months. The Commission is
currently working with Member States, representatives of the European pharmaceutical industry and asthma
patients to prepare a strategy to phase out CFCs in medicinal uses as alternatives become available without
jeopardising patient health. The first draft of this strategy will be available in September 1997, and a copy will be
made available to the ozone secretariat at the United Nations Environment programme (UNEP).

The Commission strategy for methyl bromide is to press for its earliest possible phaseout without jeopardising
the agricultural enterprises and other fumigation activities which currently use the substance. This could be
achieved by an early phaseout in those uses where alternatives are currently available, and a temporary
exemption for other, critical uses where alternatives have yet to be identified. Within Europe, the greatest current
dependency on methyl bromide is in the southern Member States. That is why the Commission, together with the
Netherlands ministry of the Environment, the university of La Laguna and the Consejo superior de
investigaciones cientificas co-funded a workshop in April 1997 to demonstrate and discuss alternatives to methyl
bromide appropriate to southern Member States.

It is not possible to derive reliable figures of the cost across the Community of phasing out methyl bromide in any
particular year. The cost will depend critically on the alternative chosen, and that depends on local
circumstances. Typically, chemical alternatives such as metam sodium will be more expensive than methyl
bromide, while the use of solarisation and integrated pest management is less expensive. Where methyl bromide
has already been successfully phased out and agricultural management changed accordingly, it is common to
find higher yields and consequently higher farm profitability. On this basis, and including the exemption for
critical uses where necessary, the Commission believes that methyl bromide can be phased out quickly
throughout the Community without significant damage to the productivity or profitability of farmers who
currently use it.

(1) OJ L 333, 22.12.1994.

(98/C 82/214) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2721/97

by Jesús Cabezón Alonso (PSE) and Juan Colino Salamanca (PSE) to the Commission
(1 September 1997)

Subject: Floods in Palencia (Spain)

A torrential downpour of rain and hail on the night of Tuesday, 15 July 1997 flooded the city of Palencia in
Castile-León, causing serious damage to the city and the industrial and farming areas of the capital and province.

Has the Commission set aside any emergency aid to help alleviate the damage caused in Palencia?