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51995AC0977

OPINION OF THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE on the proposal for a Council Regulation (EC) amending Regulation (EEC) No 404/93 on the common organization of the market in bananas, Regulation (EEC) No 1035/72 on the common organization of the market in fruit and vegetables, and Regulation (EEC) No 2658/87 on the tariff and statistical nomenclature and on the Common Customs Tariff



Official Journal C 301 , 13/11/1995 P. 0077



Opinion on the proposal for a Council Regulation (EC) amending Regulation (EEC) No 404/93 on the common organization of the market in bananas, Regulation (EEC) No 1035/72 on the common organization of the market in fruit and vegetables, and Regulation (EEC) No 2658/87 on the tariff and statistical nomenclature and on the Common Customs Tariff ()

(95/C 301/16)

On 30 May 1995 the Council decided to consult the Economic and Social Committee, under Articles 43 and 198 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on the above-mentioned proposal.

The Section for Agriculture and Fisheries, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its Opinion on 7 September 1995. The rapporteur was Mr Rodriguez de Azero.

At its 328th Plenary Session (meeting of 13 September 1995), the Economic and Social Committee adopted the following Opinion by a large majority, with eleven votes against and four abstentions.

1. Introduction

1.1. Council Regulation (EEC) No 404/93 establishing the common organization of the market (COM) in bananas came into force on 1 July 1993. Establishing a COM in bananas was required for the completion of the Single Market in a sector where there had previously been different national systems.

1.2. In the two years since its creation, COM mechanisms have proved successful in achieving its planned objectives of:

- protecting Community production;

- complying with the commitments made by the European Community with the ACP countries within the framework of the Lomé Convention and, in particular, the Protocol on bananas appended to it;

- maintaining trade levels with traditional Latin American suppliers of the Community market, with opportunities for future expansion;

- ensuring that the consumer pays a reasonable and uniform price throughout the EU, while at the same time giving him a choice of bananas from different sources.

1.2.1. The entry into force of the new Community arrangements for the banana sector has ensured the coexistence of all the commercial operators in the market, preventing a repeat of the situation which arose in some Member States in 1992. At that time, many businesses marketing bananas incurred heavy losses due to the sharp fall in prices caused by the over-supply of several national markets.

2. The Commission's proposal

2.1. The Commission takes the view that the operation of the Community arrangements in the banana sector has shown that a series of changes needs to be introduced to simplify the administration of the mechanisms established in the COM.

2.1.1. The following are the main amendments proposed by the Commission:

- the exclusion of fig bananas from the scope of the present Regulation, since they are quite different from the bananas most commonly marketed in the Community. Consequently, they should be included, along with other tropical fruit, in the Regulation establishing the common organization of the market in fruit and vegetables;

- the choice of a different criterion to select which quantity dealt with by operators will be used as a basis for the allocation of import licences within the tariff quota for the marketing of bananas from third countries. The operator, and thus the holder of the import licence, will be understood as being an actual importer of bananas;

- a reduction of three to two years in the period used to calculate reference quantities for the granting of import licences;

- the establishment of a system in which exceptional circumstances affecting production and import conditions during a given marketing year can be taken into account;

- permission for traditional and non-traditional quantities of bananas to be transferred between the ACP countries. Transfers will only be permitted between ACP countries in the same geographical area (the Caribbean and Africa), except in cases of force majeure in which a country is not able to export its traditional or non-traditional quantity of bananas. In such cases, such quantities may be transferred between two countries in different geographical areas.

3. General comments

3.1. The Committee recognizes the work and administrative effort carried out by the Commission in order to achieve an efficient and fair common organization of the market in bananas, and one which respects its original objectives.

3.2. The Committee takes the view that the Commission should, when considering banana supply, take account of the working conditions under which bananas are produced and urge the exporting countries to ensure that social conditions are respected and human rights protected in such production. In this connection, the Committee calls for proper account to be taken of the Memorandum on the social dimension of international trade submitted by the French EU Presidency on 27 March 1995.

3.3. The Committee considers that the conditions under which bananas are produced in exporting countries should meet environmental criteria, both to prevent intensive production methods and the inappropriate use of pesticides or fertilizers that might jeopardize environmental conservation. The Committee also takes the view that products from third countries should, as a matter of course, pose no danger to public health and comply with the WTO/GATT agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary measures.

3.4. The Committee welcomes the Commission's decision to propose the changes that it considers necessary, in an attempt to simplify the organization of the Community system for bananas and better adapt it to its objectives.

3.5. The Committee would point out that the three basic arrangements of the COM in bananas are:

- the establishment of a tariff quota to avoid over-supplying the market;

- a system of allocating import licences as part of this tariff quota, according to operator type (66,5% to operators who imported third country and non-traditional ACP bananas; 30% to operators who marketed Community bananas and imported traditional ACP bananas; and 3,5% to new operators) to promote the marketing of Community and ACP bananas;

- the compensatory aid system to compensate Community producers for any loss of income arising from a fall in the price of their bananas.

3.6. The Committee hopes that the implementation of the changes proposed by the Commission will not jeopardize the efficiency of the above arrangements. In this way the COM can fulfil the objectives for which it was created.

4. Specific comments

4.1. The Committee takes the view that the term 'fig' bananas in the French version covers a wide range of types of bananas, some of which are very similar to commonly marketed varieties. The translations of 'bananes figues' in other languages ('plátanos guineos' in the Spanish version) are generic and do not identify a specific variety of banana. For this reason, the Commission should ensure that excluding certain varieties of bananas from the scope of the COM in bananas does not lead to distortions in the import system for bananas.

4.1.1. The Committee does not, therefore, consider that either Regulation No 404/93 or, consequently, Regulations Nos 1035/72 and 2658/87 should be amended.

4.2. The Committee takes the view that for operators importing third-country bananas, in order to simplify the administration of the tariff quota and avoid entering reference quantities twice for operators who have different functions in the banana-marketing chain, the Commission is right to select the importing function as the only one that may be used to allocate import licences for bananas which are subject to the tariff quota.

4.3. The Committee considers that in the case of category B operators who market Community and traditional ACP bananas, the current three-function system should be maintained, since it entails a major incentive for the sale of Community and ACP bananas. The Committee would also emphasize that there have not been any problems relating to entering reference quantities twice for the marketing of Community and ACP bananas.

4.4. The Committee takes the view that reducing the reference period is a positive step which will bring the administration of the quota more in line with the current state of the market and its operators. It also considers that the reference period could be further reduced.

4.5. The Committee welcomes the planned adoption of the measures required to guarantee the continued operation of the market in the event of exceptional circumstances affecting production and import conditions in a given marketing year.

4.6. The Committee considers that in Article 19a(1) of the Commission proposal, the concept of 'force majeure' should include war which seriously affects the production possibilities of a given country. These measures should be designed to remedy the serious damage suffered by producers in the affected countries.

4.7. The Committee takes the view that temporary reallocation of traditional and non-traditional quantities of ACP bananas, for reasons other than 'force majeure', should also be possible between two ACP countries in different geographical areas.

5. Conclusions

5.1. The Committee considers that the Commission has made an attempt to make Community arrangements for bananas simpler and more transparent. It does, however, take the view that this should not jeopardize the effectiveness of the three basic arrangements that constitute the

COM in bananas. For this reason, the Committee hopes that the points which it has made concerning the proposed amendments to the COM in bananas will be taken properly into account.

Done at Brussels, 13 September 1995.

The President

of the Economic and Social Committee

Carlos FERRER

() OJ No C 136, 3. 6. 1995, p. 18.

APPENDIX to the Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee

The following proposals for amendments to the Section Opinion were rejected in the course of the discussions:

Point 4.1.1

Delete and replace to read as follows:

'In the event that the proposal is maintained to remove fig bananas from the scope of Regulation (EEC) 404/93, the Committee calls on the Commission to establish clear criteria so that such bananas falling out with the scope of that Regulation can be readily identified.'

Reasons

The Opinion of the Section gives broad support for the Commission's proposals and does not contain any strong argument against the proposed reclassification of 'fig' bananas.

The botanical classification of bananas is complex and the avoidance of confusion, e.g. to customs authorities, is essential.

Voting

For: 18, against: 43, abstentions: 11.

Delete paragraph 4.7.

Reason

There are several traditional ACP suppliers which have insufficient allotted quantities owing to problems during the years which were used to calculate the base quota. In the Caribbean area this applies particularly to Belize. On the other hand in the same area there are frequent hurricanes such as the one which has just wiped out all or most of the crop in Antigua. Keeping exchanges within the area (except for force majeure) is the fairest way of dealing with the problems of this area which consists entirely of small producing countries.

Voting

For: 21, against: 36, abstentions: 12.