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2003 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 92 E/213

The Commission has no reason to believe that either Foot and Mouth Disease or Classical Swine Fever are
present in Greece at the present time. The Greek authorities are required, under Council Directive 82/894/
EEC of 21 December 1982 on the notification of animal diseases within the Community (2), to notify the
Commission within 24 hours of a primary outbreak of either disease.

Following receipt of the initial Greek response to report DG(SANCO)/8505/2002, the Food and Veterinary
Office reminded the Greek authorities, in a letter dated 10 October 2002, of the need to submit an action
plan indicating the further measures taken to respond to the conclusions and recommendations of the
report. A response from the Greek authorities is currently awaited. The Commission will continue to
monitor the situation in the game and rabbit meat sectors in Greece to confirm that the standards laid
down in Community legislation are being met.

(2) OJ L 378, 31.12.1982.

(2003/C 92 E/273) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2815/02

by Miquel Mayol i Raynal (Verts/ALE) to the Commission
(7 October 2002)

Subject: European Food Safety Authority

At the Laeken European Council meeting in December 2001, it was decided that the European Food Safety
Authority (EFSA) would start its work in Brussels. Brussels would be the EFSA’s temporary seat as it had
proved impossible to reach a political compromise on its permanent seat. Barcelona was one of the
candidates for the seat.

According to an article in the weekly newspaper European Voice (16-22 May 2002), Spain has dropped its
application for Barcelona to be the EFSA seat.

Has the Commission been informed of this?

If so, what reasons did the Spanish authorities give for dropping their application?

Answer given by Mr Byrne on behalf of the Commission

(6 November 2002)

The Commission can confirm that, in line with the decision of the Council summit of Laeken, it has taken
the necessary measures to allow the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to begin operations in Brussels
on a temporary basis.

The Commission has received no communication from the Spanish authorities renouncing the candidature
of Barcelona as a seat for the Authority.

(2003/C 92 E/274) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2831/02

by Robert Goebbels (PSE) to the Commission
(9 October 2002)

Subject: International trade and rules on the availability of balance sheets

Member State legislation varies greatly with regard to the publication of company balance sheets. Generally
speaking, public limited companies are required to publish their annual accounts, but small and medium
sized enterprises are often granted exemptions, and it is also possible for simplified accounts to be
published. The situation is the same at international level, where very few countries require the accounts of
companies registered within their borders to be published in full. In general, this requirement only applies
to listed companies.
C 92 E/214 Official Journal of the European Union EN 17.4.2003

The Commission has drawn up a proposal for a directive amending the EU accounting directives and
supplementing the regulation recently adopted by the Council on the application of international
accounting standards. This regulation provides that, from 2005 onwards, all EU companies listed in a
regulated market must prepare their consolidated financial statements in accordance with international
accounting standards. However, this requirement will not apply to unlisted companies, and there is
therefore a risk of the transparency and comparability of financial information not being enhanced.

Moreover, in some EU countries, including France, virtually all companies both large and small are
required to publish their balance sheets, which is bound to handicap SMEs that operate on international
markets where they are competing with companies not subject to this requirement.

Will the Commission propose, in the foreseeable future, general harmonisation of the rules on the
publication of balance sheets at EU level? Should it not also request that harmonised rules on the
publication of annual accounts at international level be drawn up under the auspices of the WTO, in order
to avoid any distortion of competition between EU companies and companies registered elsewhere?

Answer given by Mr Lamy on behalf of the Commission

(5 November 2002)

Current Community legislation provides for minimum harmonisation of the rules on publication of
company accounts at EU level. Directive 78/660/EEC on annual company accounts (1) and Directive 83/
349/EEC on consolidated accounts (2) require (at Articles 47 and 38, respectively) publication of the annual
accounts (balance sheet, profit and loss account and notes to the account) and, where appropriate, of the
consolidated accounts, the annual report and the auditor’s report in a register open to the public in
accordance with Article 3 of Directive 68/151/EEC (3). However, Member States have the option of
requiring small companies  e.g. those whose annual turnover is less than EUR 6,25 million and with an
average staff complement of less than 50  to prepare and publish a simplified form of the balance sheet
and notes to the account only.

This level of publication has hitherto been considered sufficient and satisfactory on the whole as it has not
been proven that the exemption granted to small businesses, which reduces their administrative workload,
could harm competition in the internal market.

The adoption of international accounting standards (IAS) by the EU should help ensure greater
comparability of company financial reports. Although Regulation (EC) No 1606/2002 (4) is primarily
aimed at listed companies, it also gives Member States the option of permitting or requiring unlisted
companies to apply IAS in the preparation of their annual or consolidated accounts. The aim of the
proposed Commission directive amending the accounting directives is to facilitate the gradual adoption of
IAS by unlisted companies over a timescale acceptable to Member States. The Commission has also
advocated to the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) the development of IAS specific to small
and medium-sized enterprises. This project features prominently on the IASB’s agenda.

It should also be noted that there are other methods for accessing company accounts than those used in
the European Union. In the United States, for example, the data can be obtained through companies which
specialise in financial information.

As regards the part of the question about the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the possibility of
harmonised rules on the publication of annual accounts at international level in order to avoid any
distortion of competition between EU companies and companies registered elsewhere, it should first be
noted that the WTO is an international organisation mandated by its statutes to deal with international
trade. It is not the WTO’s role to solve all economic problems of distortion of competition at world level.
While fair economic competition is more than desirable, for example through harmonised rules on the
publication of companies’ annual accounts, the structure of the various international organisations (WTO,
International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, etc.) and the
principle of specialisation mean that each organisation must confine its intervention to its own sphere of
action and, where necessary, coordinate its action more closely with the others.
17.4.2003 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 92 E/215

In 1998, WTO Members adopted ‘Disciplines on Domestic Regulation in the Accountancy Sector’
(document No S/WPPS/W/21). These are to be applicable to Members who scheduled specific
commitments for accountancy at the conclusion of the current round of negotiations. They are intended
to facilitate trade in accountancy services by ensuring that domestic regulation affecting trade in
accountancy services meets the requirements of General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) Article
VI:4. Basically, they consist of a set of rules aimed at ensuring that regulations are transparent and
administrative procedures predictable, reasonable and objective. However, they do not establish, or aim to
establish, any international harmonisation of accountancy rules and regulations.

(1) Fourth Council Directive 78/660/EEC of 25 July 1978 based on Article 54(3)(g) of the Treaty on the annual
accounts of certain types of companies, OJ L 222, 14.8.1978.
(2) Seventh Council Directive 83/349/EEC of 13 June 1983 based on Article 54(3)(g) of the Treaty on consolidated
accounts, OJ L 193, 18.7.1983.
(3) First Council Directive 68/151/EEC of 9 March 1968 on coordination of safeguards which, for the protection of the
interests of members and others, are required by Member States of companies within the meaning of the second
paragraph of Article 58 of the Treaty, with a view to making such safeguards equivalent throughout the
community, OJ L 65, 14.3.1968.
(4) Regulation (EC) No 1606/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 July 2002 on the application
of international accounting standards, OJ L 243, 11.9.2002.

(2003/C 92 E/275) WRITTEN QUESTION P-2849/02

by Bart Staes (Verts/ALE) to the Commission

(4 October 2002)

Subject: Recognition of D’Hoppebos as a habitat conservation area

The Natura 2000 network, created by the Commission on the basis of the Habitats Directive (92/43/
EEC (1)) and the Birds Directive (79/409/EEC (2)), establishes areas of Europe where the protection and
conservation of the biological diversity of fauna and flora are the highest priority.

In Belgium, two conservation areas in particular have been, or are being, put forward by the Walloon and
Flemish regions:

 the Pottelberghbos, which the Walloon region intends to propose,

 the Brakelbos, which was proposed in 1996 by the Flemish region,

However, it is striking that D’Hoppebos (which forms part of the same habitat area as the abovementioned
woods) has not been put forward as a conservation area by the Walloon region. Splitting up the area in
this way negates the efforts made by the Commission. The region is only habitable for protected species if
the various woods are treated as a single, connected area. In the case of a number of species, this is even
an essential condition for their survival.

Furthermore, D’Hoppebos has for years been used as a waste dump by the Fort-Labiau group. The
company recently applied for a ten-year extension of its environmental permit for the dump. The results of
various analyses included in the official environmental impact report show that both groundwater and
surface water have been polluted by numerous chemical substances. Since the adoption of the Habitats
Directive, conditions in this natural habitat have significantly deteriorated. The waste dump presents a flaw
which has affected some 20 ha of woodland. A road whose foundations are partly made of waste has been
built barely a few tens of metres away from the Brakelbos.

In the light of the provisions of the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive, do the above facts constitute
sufficient grounds for instituting a bilateral consultation procedure between the Commission and the
Member States pursuant to Article 5(1)?