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Action Plan for the implementation of the EU's animal health strategy - briefing

10 September 2008
by eub2 -- last modified 10 September 2008

The European Commission adopted on 10 September a Communication laying down the Action Plan for the implementation of the EU's animal health strategy. The Action Plan contains the key actions and their indicative timetable. These actions are structured around four pillars. Within the pillar "Prioritisation of EU intervention" the Commission will develop profiling and categorisation of animal disease risks by 2010 which will provide the basis to prioritise actions in order to ensure that interventions and resources can be focused on diseases of high relevance. The pillar "EU Animal Health framework" provides for a proposal for an EU Animal Health Law by 2010 to replace the current series of policy areas with a single regulatory framework. A legislative proposal concerning a harmonised EU framework for responsibility and cost-sharing in detecting and eradicating diseases is planned by 2011. In terms of "Prevention, surveillance and preparedness" the Action Plan focuses on an overall reinforcement of biosecurity measures. It explores the scope to make the fullest use possible of Community funds when addressing actions which will have a positive impact on animal health. Disease surveillance will be stepped up and traceability will be strengthened by 2011. A legislative proposal for better border biosecurity will be adopted by 2010. Finally, the pillar "Science, innovation and research" will provide for enhanced cooperation between key players such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), European Medicines Agency (EMEA) and Joint Research Centre (JRC).


What is the relationship between the EU Animal Health Strategy and the Action Plan?

The Action Plan should be read in conjunction with the EU Animal Health Strategy. It gives a more concrete form to the Strategy's vision and is an important next step towards the strategy's implementation. The Action Plan contains the key actions, actual steps to be made and their indicative timetable for completion over the next years.

Does the Action Plan contain new elements?

Key elements such as the vision, purpose or goals of the Strategy have not been changed. There are many new elements in the Action Plan. These, however, only provide more details on the actions to-be-taken and are in line with the Strategy. The plan represents a renewed commitment from the Commission to follow up the steps and deliver the expected outcomes.

How is the Action Plan structured?

Similar to the Strategy, the Action Plan is structured around four main pillars of activity:
1. Prioritisation of EU intervention;
2. The EU Animal Health framework;
3. Prevention, surveillance and preparedness;

4. Science, Innovation and Research;

What are the key activities of the Action Plan in the 4 pillars?

1. Prioritisation of EU intervention

In order to re-evaluate priorities based on careful risk assessment and solid scientific advice, the Commission will develop a profiling and categorisation of animal disease risks which will provide the basis to prioritise actions. Interventions and resources will be focused on diseases with high public relevance.

2. The EU Animal Health framework

A main objective is the development of an EU Animal Health Law. The current series of linked and interrelated policy areas (trade/import, disease control, animal welfare etc.) will be replaced by a single regulatory framework. It will also re-define interfaces with the EU acquis on other areas such as environmental protection, pharmaceutical products, common agricultural policy legislation and rules established by relevant international organisations.

The introduction of a legislative proposal is planned towards a harmonised EU framework for responsibility- and cost-sharing to ensure that all players assume their responsibilities and play a part in detecting and eradicating disease.

3. Prevention, surveillance and preparedness

In the spirit of the "prevention is better than cure" identifying problems before they emerge while being ready to manage outbreaks and crises is a major objective. The Action Plan will focus on reinforcing biosecurity measures in all areas in which animals are found (farms, markets, border posts, transport vehicles etc).

It will explore the scope to make the fullest use possible of Community related funds (e.g. rural development fund etc.) when addressing actions which will have a positive impact on animal health such as investments in farm infrastructures, training for farmers, farm advisory services, and implementation of legal standards. Disease surveillance will be stepped up, and the EU traceability framework (identification, labelling, TRACES etc) will be strengthened.

To ensure better border biosecurity and to focus import controls on high risk imports, the Commission plans to adopt a legislative proposal to deliver a more risk-based approach to border inspections and to better target illegal trade.

4. Science, Innovation and Research.

Science is at the core of the Community food safety policy. Strengthening the scientific foundation of the Community animal health policy will be the key to maintaining a high level of consumer confidence and trust across the EU.

The Commission will continue to use the best available science in developing its animal health measures. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will continue to mobilise and coordinate scientific resources throughout the EU in order to provide the best scientific advice. The network of Community and national reference laboratories will be further developed

With the support of the European Medicines Agency (EMEA), the Commission will ensure that a suitable framework at Community level provides more incentives to manufacturers to develop new medicines and diagnostic tools. EMEA will also increase knowledge on the availability of EMEA Assistance to Small to Medium Sized Enterprises and applicants for Minor Uses Minor Species products.

Antimicrobial resistance remains an important concern. EFSA has provided an opinion on food-borne antimicrobial resistance. In the light of EFSA's opinion, the Commission will decide how to shape its policy as regards the surveillance and control of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in zoonotic agents caused by the use of antibiotics in animals.

What is the timetable for completion of key actions proposed under the 4 pillars?

Excerpt of the key actions and their timetable (the full table is available in the Communication itself):

Main actions
Indicative date for completion
1. Prioritisation of EU intervention
Categorisation of animal diseases
2. The EU Animal Health framework
EU animal Health Law (legislative proposal)
EU cost and responsibility sharing schemes (animal diseases) (legislative proposal)
3. Prevention, surveillance and preparedness
Development of EU biosecurity guidelines
2009 - 2013
To explore possibilities of funding to finance and promote biosecurity measures and training for farmers
2008 - 2013
TRACES: a wider, integrated electronic system
Revision of import legislation: risk-based approach to border inspections - targeting illegal trade
Animal Disease information System (ADIS)
4. Science, Innovation and Research
Mobilise and coordinate scientific resources with EFSA support
2008 - 2013
Evaluation of the Community reference laboratories
2008 - 2009
Surveillance/control of antimicrobial resistance
2008 - 2010
More incentives to develop new medicines and diagnostic tools
2008 - 2013
Partnership and communication
Mid term review and report

How can one learn more about these actions?

The Action Plan contains an overview and summary of the key actions. Interested persons, organisations or other parties will be able and are welcome to follow the progress of the different activities through a dedicated website:

In addition to the Action Plan, that page will contain a wealth of information that will be updated regularly. The webpage will act as a dynamic blueprint and an extension of the Action Plan, evolving over time and giving the correct state of play on the various items.

How does the Action Plan foresee the participation of stakeholders in the process?

The Commission recognises that it cannot achieve these objectives by acting alone. Two key underlying principles apply to all the work of the Commission: partnership and communication. The Commission will take advantage of existing collaborative efforts, and encourage new initiatives, such as the Animal Health Advisory Committee, including the further development of the website as one of the focal points to transmit and receive information and with regularly updated contact details.

What is the Animal Health Advisory Committee and how does it work?

One of the new initiatives, already operational, is the Animal Health Advisory Committee. It has been created as a working group of the Advisory Group on the Food Chain and Animal and Plant Health and meets 3-4 times annually. The Advisory Committee is expected to follow the progress and will be consulted on all impact assessments and will advise the Commission on the best means of delivering agreed outcomes. It may also provide strategic guidance on the appropriate level of animal or public health protection, and on priorities for action and communication.

As a working group, there is no specific membership. Invitations are sent to all members of the Advisory Group, to representatives of animal owners, the veterinary profession, animal welfare organisations, food chain businesses, animal health industries, animal interest groups, researchers and teachers, governing bodies of sport and recreational organisations, educational facilities, consumers, travellers. The Commission also welcomes the participation of small or newly created associations when representation of a specific sector is missing, EU or other international bodies (such as EFSA, EMEA, ECDC, OIE, FAO) and third countries representatives or specific expertise when needed.

Which organisation coordinates the actions of the Action Plan?

The overall coordination lays with the Commission's Directorate-General for Health and Consumers.

What are the next steps?

These are too numerous to be listed. In any case, they will include preparatory work on the new Animal Health Framework Law, progress on the area of prioritisation of animal diseases, consultation processes on responsibility- and cost-sharing in relation to animal diseases, financial guarantees for the feed sector and on better border biosecurity. Interested parties are invited to check all the developments on the website.

Source: European Commission