Representatives from Slovakian ministries of agriculture and economy made the comments during The Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left European Parliamentary Group (GUE/NGL) meeting in Bratislava on consumer protection and food safety standards in Slovakia and Czech Republic.
The Slovak Republic became a member of the European Union in May 2004. The country assumed the EU presidency for the second half of this year.
TTIP and CETA on agenda
Martina Anderson, Irish MEP, said she was ‘struck’ by the higher standards of food regulation before Slovakia joined the EU and the harmonisation ‘down’.
“My concern is therefore that with multinationals and CETA that the regulatory conformity that is being talked about would result again in the lowering of standards,” she said.
“So, on the one hand, you would have a commissioner driving forward on regulations on food safety whilst on the other, you have trade deals taking place and the consequences could be the potential lowering of food safety and food standards for people - chemicals, GMOs etc.
“Once again, we could potentially have a situation of being presented with horse meat instead of beef.”
The delegation heard from the Wine Growers’ Union of the Czech Republic that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) pose a threat to the country’s wine heritage.
They were also told of problems from the black market and third-country counterfeits across the EU due to a lack of border checks and strict control.
Higher standards in Western Europe
Czech MEP Kateřina Konečná, a coordinator on the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), said she was worried for falling standards in her country and member states across Central and Eastern Europe.
“We already have a big problem with the quality of food in this part of the EU because the standards in Western Europe are higher than ours,” she said.
“We often see companies selling us inferior products in Eastern and Central Europe because they think we are poorer with lower living standards. But in the European Union, there should be a single standard across the board for meat, milk and children’s food - not one for Austria and another for the Czech Republic.”
She added member states in Eastern and Central Europe will be hit hard by TTIP and CETA so market and standards need to be protected even more.
“We need serious discussions on this issue in Brussels and this ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement)/ICS (Investment Court System) will not help.”
Kostadinka Kuneva, Greek MEP, spoke about the problems facing Czech wine producers near the border with Slovakia.
“We can now better understand the urgent need to protect local wine producers in Moravia and it is so frustrating to learn that not only have they got to deal with climate change, they also face the twin-threats of counterfeit wines arriving from third countries outside of the EU as well as Commission policies that can somehow alter the way the wines and grapes are cultivated.”
GUE/NGL organised another event in Rakvice, Czech Republic on 20-21 September.
The ‘study days’ are organised twice a year in the member state holding the EU Presidency to understand local perspectives on pressing issues.