It takes a long time before Georgia achieves the EU standards – Robert Liddel

Nino Arveladze

Food Safety and Standardization still remain current topics for Georgia.

Parliament is discussing amendments in the following laws on “Food safety and quality, on “protection of plants from hazard organisms” and on “veterinary science”. These amendments will suspend obligation of implementing Risk Control system, enterprise inspection up to 2011 for the enterprises exporting to EU countries. The suspension will be made for high risk enterprises (animal product processing enterprises) up to 2013 and up to 2015 for food producing enterprises.
Round Table has been held on Dec-14 at Sheraton Metekhi Palace with the organization of Eurasia Cooperation Foundation. The main speaker at the meeting was the EU Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Envoy Robert Liddel. EU reminded Georgia once again that suspension of Law on Food Safety is an unfavorable signal to European Union. One of the key requirements that Georgia will have to comply with in order to be able to start and engage effectively and efficiently in negotiations on the DCFTA is to demonstrate serious commitment to and achieve substantial progress in the establishment of a food safety, sanitary and phyto-sanitary system (or SPS) compatible with the international and EU standards.
Robert Liddel reminded attended society, advisors of prime-minister of Georgia that Food safety is regarded by the EU as a key priority for negotiations of and subsequent proper implementation and functioning of a future DCFTA (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement). The speaker emphasized that the central goal of the European Union’s food safety policy is to ensure a high level of protection of human health and consumers’ interests in relation to food, whilst ensuring the effective functioning of the internal market. The EU guiding principle is to apply an integrated approach from farm to table covering all sectors of the food chain. Envoy declared that currently, the lack of proper compatibility between the EU legislation and procedures and the SPS systems in place in Georgia severely restricts the capabilities of Georgian food products to be exported to the EU market. As you all also probably know, in recent years Georgia has undertaken some substantial steps in order to improve its SPS standards. But the overall picture of the SPS sector in Georgia is not as rosy as it may look. Possible future of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with EU should have been clarified in Oct-2008 by the EU mission to Georgia. However, they’ve decided that the country is facing serious phyto-sanitary problems.
Robert Liddel also spoke about area which would require urgent attention, the laboratories. Georgia would need to review the national laboratory network and identify national reference laboratories in the SPS sectors. The speaker noted that the EU will support Georgia in the process of improving sanitary and phyto-sanitary systems. EU was constantly recommending and providing technical assistance to Georgian government. The EU members were actively working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Safety Service in Georgia.
“Let’s face the reality as it is: Due to the persisting serious lack of basic legislation and its proper implementation in the SPS area, it is likely that it will take quite some time before Georgia is able to achieve the international and EU standards. The approximation process will require a clear and strong political will translated into concrete actions. In particular it is of the outmost importance to start the implementation of the suspended articles of food safety legislation shortly. In this context, the EU regrets deeply that the Georgian authorities have just decided to postpone this implementation once again, as it happened several times before in recent years. We cannot but understand this decision as a negative signal demonstrating a lack of commitment in the area of food safety.”
To my mind, there is no need to comment on this quotation. It requires concrete actions, instead of criticizing the EU. When saying that why it helped Poland in opening the industrial park or why it is supporting Moldova in creating free economic zone and why EU is not doing these in Georgia one should remember citation of Robert Liddel that concerns only one field.