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98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 386/145

The Ministry of Agriculture showed in the technical statement for the project that all legislative requirements
were complied with. In particular the Environmental Protection Service in approving the project took into
account the planned future construction of an adjacent building to house the training school.

As proposed by the Ministry at the time and subsequently confirmed, the laboratory will be concerned solely with
checks on foodstuffs of animal origin from outside the Community. Such checks are directly linked to protection
of public health. The reagents used in this type of check are completely harmless to the environment and local
residents. The laboratory will not be dealing with live animals.

After planning the laboratory the Ministry of Agriculture assigned an adjacent area of 10 000 m2 belonging to it
for construction of the training school. Obviously if there was the least risk to the laboratory’s neighbours it
would not have done this.

In order nonetheless to dispel any uncertainty on the environmental implications of the project, the opinion was
sought of two professors of medicine and infectious diseases, of the University of Thessaloniki. They confirmed
that the laboratory is not a risk factor for the surrounding area, including the adjacent technical high school.

As with all construction work erection of the laboratory is bound to occasion a certain amount of nuisance, but
this is no reason for halting a project of evident utility for control procedures on foodstuffs imported through the
neighbouring port of Piraeus.

It is difficult to see how operation of the laboratory can lead to a significant increase in traffic. The building,
which will be erected on a site of 7 000 m2, will cover only 6 % of that area. The remaining 94 %, as stated by the
Ministry, will be developed as a park and leisure centre, and neither the small size of the laboratory staff nor
movement of the samples warrant anxiety on this score.

No reason can be found then for taking action to prevent construction of the laboratory.

(98/C 386/200) WRITTEN QUESTION E-1546/98

by Cristiana Muscardini (NI) to the Commission

(19 May 1998)

Subject: Unilateral concessions in the floriculture sector

Under the new system of generalized preferences, whereby the principles applied to industrial products have been
extended to agricultural products (differentiated tariff reductions depending on how ‘sensitive’ the product is),
and in accordance with the Lomé agreements with more that 70 ACP countries, increasing quantities of
floricultural products are being imported into the EU at reduced rates of duty or even duty free. These privileges
have presumably been granted in order to encourage economic and technological development and promote job
creation in developing countries.

1. Will the Commission say whether these special import arrangements are contributing to the crisis in this
sector in Europe?

2. Will it say how many jobs have been created in the floriculture sector in the countries concerned as a result
of the preferences and special concessions given to them?

3. Will it ascertain whether the populations of these countries genuinely benefit from the preferences given to
exports to the European Union?
C 386/146 Official Journal of the European Communities EN 11.12.98

4. Will it say whether in some of these countries the real beneficiaries are multinational companies with
holdings in local firms, some of which are based in one of the Union’s leading flower-producing countries?

5. Will it propose measures to prevent multinationals increasing their income through Community budget

Answer given by Mr Marín on behalf of the Commission

(3 July 1998)

1. The preferential arrangements in question include the duty-free importation of products originating in the
African, Carribean and Pacific (ACP) States, and reduced rates of duty under the system of generalised
preferences (GSP). However, as a large proportion of the flowers exported by the countries benefiting from
the GSP are cut flowers and as such are classed as very sensitive products, only a small reduction − 15 % of the
Common Customs Tariff (CCT) − is provided for, thus limiting the impact of the GSP in this sector. A further
reduction of 10 % may be granted under special incentive arrangements subject to compliance with the social
standards set by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The GSP grants countries working to combat drug
trafficking (including the leading flower exporters such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Guatemala) a
suspension of duties on the products in question. However, an exceptional provision reduces the impact for cut
flowers by allowing for application of the safeguard clause for these products where a certain level of export
performance, based on previous export figures for the country in question, is exceeded.

More generally, it should be pointed out that with Community flower and plant production worth a total of
ECU 12 000 million imports do not play a significant role − they account for no more than ECU 900 million,
i.e. 13 times less.

2. Of the countries that export flowers to the Community market, 50 are beneficiaries of the tariff preferences
scheme. In 1996 their exports of ornamental plants (flowers, plants and foliage of headings 0602,0603 and 0604 of
the Combined Nomenclature) totalled ECU 347 million. The same year the Community imported around
ECU 157 million of these products from 47 ACP States. Tables showing the main supplier countries and their
export amounts are being sent directly to the Honourable Member and the Parliament Secretariat.

The Commission does not have figures on the jobs created in this sector for the GSP and ACP countries; it only
has estimates for the main exporting countries. In Colombia, the direct and indirect jobs are estimated at around
75 000 and 50 000 respectively, while in east and southern Africa the number of direct jobs is thought to be
between 70 000 and 100 000.

3. and 4. Flower production has four main features compared with other export products. It is a high
technology sector, where the lack of a long tradition is a major handicap to the development of quality products. It
is very labour-intensive: on average, 25 to 30 workers are needed for 1 hectare of roses, compared with only
1.5 people for 1 hectare of pineapples.

The sector is also very capital-intensive owing to the investment cost for greenhouses and plant material (which is
usually imported) and this restricts the capacity of family businesses. Finally, it is a free-enterprise sector without
protected markets or guaranteed prices, which demands a very good knowledge of international trade. Almost all
of the export channels for flowers in the developing countries were therefore originally set up with foreign
capital, technologies and commercial contacts, with local enterprises developing later.

In the Andean countries, the special support scheme for the fight against drug trafficking set up in 1990 under the
Community’s GSP encouraged export activities and generated jobs. In addition, companies often do much to
improve labour conditions through various social initiatives.

5. It should be clear from the foregoing that the measures referred to by the Honourable Parliamentarian are
not appropriate to the current situation.