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19.8.

2003 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 195/19

Final report of the Hearing Officer in case COMP/38.279 — Viandes Bovines Françaises

(pursuant to Article 15 of Commission Decision 2001/462/EC, ECSC of 23 May 2001 on the terms
of reference of Hearing Officers in certain competition proceedings (OJ L 162, 19.6.2001, p. 21))
(2003/C 195/13)

The draft decision put before the Commission calls for the following comments as regards respect of the
right to be heard:

1. Access to the file


Following the launching on 30 October 2001 of an own-initiative investigation by the Commission in the
beef and veal sector in France on the basis of information supplied by its Directorate-General for Agri-
culture, a statement of objections was sent on 25 June 2002.

All the documents accessible in the file were sent to the Federations concerned on 1 July 2002. Access to
the file did not elicit any challenge or particular request from the Federations.

2. Time allowed for the parties to reply and be heard


The FNSEA, which was responsible for coordinating the defence of several Federations, requested a few
days' extension of the three-month time limit set for a reply to the statement of objections. This was
agreed to and the final deadline for the submission of replies was set as 4 October 2002.

The parties asked to present their arguments at a formal oral hearing, which took place on 31 October
2002.

On that occasion, the FNICGV asked me to summon several people to the hearing, in particular, the
former French Minister of Agriculture who was in office when the agreements were signed. This was not
done, as the competition rules applicable do not provide for the Commission to summon witnesses to be
heard at a hearing. The hearing is one reflection of the right to be heard orally, and it is for each party
being heard to produce their own representatives.

3. Concordance between the statement of objections and the draft decision


I have found no new objections in the draft decision compared with the statement of objections.

It follows from the above that the undertakings' right to be heard has been respected.

Done at Brussels, 18 March 2003.

Serge DURANDE