BTSF: EAHC has just been entrusted with new responsibilities concerning the management of BTSF training activities. What do these responsibilities entail?
Koen Van Dyck: They are basically related to the management of two new training activities which are similar to those which already fall under EAHC's jurisdiction. Both of these new activities are to take place in non-EU countries. The first activity provides trade-related assistance, training and capacity building for third countries in order to enable them to participate more effectively in the meetings and work of international standard setting bodies (ISSB). The second essentially both replaces, continues and expands the two existing activities on EU food standards and control of highly pathogenic avian influenza and other animal diseases.
BTSF: Aside from the management of training programmes, are there any additional features of this outsourcing?
Koen Van Dyck: Another aspect of the outsourcing is the fact that EAHC can now, for the first time, use funding sources for management of BTSF activities other than those which are explicitly provided for by the legal basis of BTSF. For example, the programme on ISSB is funded by the European Commission Directorate-General for Trade under its "Aid for Trade" budget. Funding for the other BTSF activities in non-EU countries is provided by the Development Cooperation Instrument which comes under the Directorate-General for Development and Cooperation's Food Security Thematic Programme.
BTSF: Will this decision bring about significant changes to EAHC's work?
Koen Van Dyck: Not really, as the nature of the tasks which are now being outsourced is no different to those which EAHC has managed successfully over the past few years. Moreover, the existing BTSF team within EAHC will be able to take responsibility for all of this new work and so it will not affect the organisational structure of the Agency. Aside from the fact that EAHC will now be using two new budget lines covered by different legal bases from those used hitherto, the only other change will be a small amendment to the legislative decision which established EAHC.
BTSF training is first and foremost intended for EU participants so why has it been decided to launch these new activities for third countries?
Koen Van Dyck: It is quite true that BTSF training is mainly aimed at EU Member State control officials and has the aim of harmonising implementation of EU law on food and feed safety, animal health and welfare and plant health. However, from the start we have recognised the importance of providing training for non-EU countries so as to increase their knowledge and understanding of EU sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) requirements. This helps them to comply with these requirements and consequently, to trade with the EU, and promotes global trade in safe food based on European and international norms. It also allows us to make more targeted and risk-based controls on imports at the EU's borders.
The original decision to outsource management tasks related to BTSF to EAHC was taken in 2008. How does this new decision reflect on the work done in this area since the 2008 outsourcing?
Koen Van Dyck: As you say, DG SANCO and EAHC have worked closely together on the BTSF programme since 2008. Prior to the outsourcing of tasks to EAHC, BTSF was managed in quite an ad-hoc manner. The outsourcing represented the first big step in the development of a long-term structure for the organisation of the initiative. At first, all of us were slightly unsure about how the arrangement would work out, but the last few years have seen considerable increases in both the quality and quantity of training. This would not have been possible with the efficient and flexible management by EAHC of aspects such as public procurement processes and their close and effective monitoring of the implementation of training contracts. Nor would BTSF have achieved its successes without the development of a positive and constructive working relationship between SANCO and EAHC.
Suffice it to say that we are now all convinced that we made the right decision in 2008 and the recent decision to extend the Agency's mandate to include the management of these two new programmes is a testament to the good work done by EAHC over the last four years.