Proposal for a new Regulation on official controls
In May 2013 the Commission published a proposal to revise the rules on official controls. The proposal aims to simplify and clarify the legal framework applicable to official controls, promote an integrated approach to official controls across the entire agri-food chain and ensure that Member States appropriately resource control authorities through fees charged on operators.
This proposal is part of a comprehensive packagewhich includes additional major reviews to modernise the animal health, plant health and plant reproductive materials legislation, and a proposal managing Commission expenditure to simplify the previous complex provisions.
In particular, the proposal will:
extend the scope of Regulation (EC) 882/2004 on official controls to plant health, plant reproductive material and animal by-products in order to cover the whole agri-food chain;
allow for the adoption of official control requirements adjusted to the needs of specific sectors (e.g. meat inspections, controls on organic products, animal welfare controls);
increase the transparency of official controls activities carried out by national authorities, and allow them – under certain conditions - to publish information on the results of controls on individual operators and to establish "rating schemes";
extend mandatory fees to most official controls to ensure that Member States appropriately resource their control authorities through fees charged on operators, whilst exempting micro-businesses from those fees;
create a common framework for carrying out border controls on animals and goods entering the EU;
eliminate inefficiencies in the system of official controls on residues of veterinary medicines in animals and animal products;
strengthen mechanisms for administrative assistance and cooperation between Member States in case of cross-border breaches of agri-food chain rules;
modernise the computerised systems for the management of data and information on official controls (a new system will integrate all existing and future systems and will allow the use of e-certificates and e-signatures);
provide that financial penalties applied by the Member States to intentional violations are set at amounts that offset the economic advantage sought by the perpetrator of the violation, so as to ensure the dissuasive character of the sanction;
give the Commission more powers to require Member States to carry out controls and tests within a coordinated control plan and to establish permanent specific control requirements in relation to specific sectors and/or newly identified risks;
require that regular unannounced official controls directed at identifying possible intentional violations of agri-food chain rules be integrated into national control plans.
Review of the current system of inspection fees
Results of reports and studies
The proposal adopted by the Commission in May 2013 includes a review of the current system of inspection fees based on the results of the reports and studies mentioned below:
- Study on fees or charges collected by the Member States to cover the costs occasioned by official controls, 2009 , which highlighted the difficulties encountered by the Member States with implementation of the rules on the financing of official controls and suggested possible solutions.
Report on the application of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 on official controls, published by the Commission in July 2009, which was based on the external study on fees (mentioned above) and stressed the need to:
- review the current inspection fees system;
- ensure a steady and consistent funding of the work of the competent authorities;
- ensure a long-term sustainability of official controls.
- External Study carried out in 2010, which suggested specific improvements in legislation and provided the basis of an impact assessment. The study concluded that:
- existing provisions on financing official controls from fees are not fully delivering on the objective of ensuring an adequate level of resources to conduct official controls;
- current rules do not ensure fair and consistent approach across sectors, as only some operators are charged, and fees are not calculated in a uniform and transparent way across Member States, or in a manner that rewards operators’ compliance.
The above studies and reports highlighted that the system of financing of official controls should be reviewed to:
- guarantee the resources necessary to maintain an adequate level of controls and, consequently, the level of protection offered by EU food chain rules;;
- ensure that the burden on food chain operators is distributed in a fair and equitable manner and avoids distortions;;
- guarantee transparency and allow the public and operators to understand how fees are calculated and revenue employed (so that transparency can act as a driver to accountability).
The main change to the system of financing of official controls foreseen in the new proposal is the extension of mandatory fees to most official controls performed on operators. This should ensure continuous and sufficient revenue for Member States to resource their control activities. However, the proposal exempts microenterprises from mandatory fees to ensure that their competitiveness is not adversely affected.
Where charged, fees will need to guarantee full cost recovery. Member States will have the possibility to establish fees:
- at a flat-rate for all operators, irrespective of whether they are controlled or not during a concerned period of time (bonus-malus principles will allow the fee level to be lowered for compliant businesses); or
- on the basis of the actual costs of each individual control.
Regarding the transparency of the inspection fees system, the competent authorities have to:
- consult operators on the methods of calculation of fees;
- publish the way in which fees are calculated;
- publish the arrangements in place to ensure their thrifty and efficient use once collected.
Previous steps in the review process
Report on the application of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 on official controls, July 2009 suggested that current rules applicable to official controls in specific areas should be integrated (e.g. residues of veterinary medicines in live animals and animal products, import controls and plant health).
Study "Fees or charges collected by Member States to cover the costs occasioned by official controls", 2009 pointed out problems with application of the rules on the financing of official controls.
Report on the effectiveness and consistency of sanitary and phytosanitary controls on imports of food, feed, animals and plants, 2010 suggested that import controls could be made more coherent by reviewing and consolidating existing acts.
Report on Preparatory work to support the impact assessment on reviewing the rules on the financing of official controls carried out in 2010, suggested specific improvements in legislation and provided the basis for an impact assessment.
The study concluded that:
existing provisions on financing official controls from fees are not fully delivering on the objective of ensuring an adequate level of resources to conduct official controls;
current rules do not ensure a fair and consistent approach across sectors, as only some operators are charged, and fees are not calculated in a uniform and transparent manner across Member States, or in a manner that rewards operators’ compliance.