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C 354/40 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 19. 11.


(98/C 354/74) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0923/98

by Mihail Papayannakis (GUE/NGL) to the Commission
(26 March 1998)

Subject: Packaging of ‘feta’ cheese

Under the Greek Food and Drink Code, the traditional and widely consumed ‘feta’ cheese must be packed and
transported only in wooden barrels or metal containers. However, the number of instances is increasing in which
feta is instead sold in plastic containers both on the domestic market and as exports to other countries,
particularly to Member States of the Union. Apart from the breach of the Code, there is also the issue of the
effective protection of consumers and public health. Moreover, the unlawful use of plastic containers adversely
affects producers of wooden barrels, a traditional craft which had been encouraged and given hope for the future
by the Code.

Can the Commission investigate this matter and consider whether the use of plastic containers for selling feta
also constitutes a breach of Community consumer law and policy and, if so, can the Commission help to enforce
the above provisions of the Greek Food and Drink Code by making representations to the Greek Government?

Answer given by Mr Fischler on behalf of the Commission

(13 May 1998)

The name ‘feta’ has been registered in the Community as a protected designation of origin under Commission
Regulation (EC) No 1107/96 of 12 June 1996 on the registration of geographical indications and designations of
origin under the procedure laid down in Article 17 of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2081/92 (1). Registration
means that the Community has endorsed the binding specifications laid down for feta cheese by Greek
ministerial decree No 313025 of 11 January 1994.

Under Article 3(6) of that decree, feta cheese must be sold in either wooden barrels, metal containers, or materials
suitable for coming into contact with foodstuffs.

Accordingly, the Commission cannot object to the plastic containers referred to by the Honourable Member as
long as they meet the criteria laid down by the framework Directive 97/48/EC of 29 July 1997 on materials and
articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs (2) and Commission Directive 96/11/EC of 5 March 1996
amending Directive 90/128/EEC relating to plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with
foodstuffs (3).

(1) OJ L 148, 21.6.1996.

(2) OJ L 222, 12.8.1997.
(3) OJ L 61, 12.3.1996.

(98/C 354/75) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0930/98

by Concepció Ferrer (PPE) to the Commission
(26 March 1998)

Subject: Payments made for measures in favour of small and medium-sized enterprises

At the end of 1997, only ECU 140 million of the ECU 910 million set aside for the Community SME initiative
had actually been paid out.

Can the Commission say whether these figures are accurate? Can the Commission explain the reasons for this
disparity between commitments and payments? What measures will the Commission take to remedy the disparity
between commitments and payments made in connection with Community measures for small and medium-
sized enterprises? Can the Commission list the amounts paid to each Member State for each of the measures
designed to favour small and medium-sized enterprises?
19. 11. 98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 354/41

Answer given by Mrs Wulf-Mathies on behalf of the Commission

(29 April 1998)

A table sent directly to the Honourable Member and to Parliament’s Secretariat, sets out the level of
commitments and payments made up to February 1998 for the programmes adopted under the Small and
medium-sized enterprises (SME) Community initiative. The total European co-financing allocated to the various
programmes is 1 060 MECU, of which 545 MECU have already been committed and 303 MECU paid.

The differences between these figures result from a number of factors. This is the first programming period for
this initiative, and this has resulted in some significant delays in the preparation and approval of the programmes,
with some programmes only being approved in 1997. Delays in approval have also led to delays in
implementation, with new partnerships having to be created and made operational. However, it is normal, during
the currency of structural funds programmes, for payments to be less than commitments. Payments continue for
two or three years after the final date for commitments.

Where appropriate, the Commission is encouraging Member States, through monitoring committee meetings, to
speed up the execution of the initiative. The Commission is also facilitating the implementation of a series of
exchange of experience projects to begin later this year within the framework of the initiative. These will act as a
catalyst to encourage best practice and increase the quality of the actions.

(98/C 354/76) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0932/98

by Giuseppe Rauti (NI) to the Commission
(26 March 1998)

Subject: Italy’s obligation to import rice

Will the Commission say whether and how it is assessing the increasingly serious situation facing Italian rice
growers who are being greatly damaged by the Community’s policies?

Italy has the most fertile rice fields in Europe in the areas surrounding Vercelli, Novara, Pavia and Milan (see Il
Corriere della Sera of 17 February 1998). With a crop of 1 500 million kilos of rice cultivated over 232 000
hectares (including the rice fields of Ferrera, Mantua and Oristano), production is huge and is, at least enough to
meet our domestic demand. However, the paradox is that, as a member of the European Union, Italy is obliged to
honour agreements and concessions in aid of south-east Asian rice growers and we are having to stockpile our
own rice in warehouses and stores with vast quantities going unsold and being spoiled instead of reaching Italian
dinner tables.

Can the Commission therefore explain this situation in which − whilst the agreements are aimed at ensuring the
expansion of trade in various products − in practice, third countries are regularly purchasing industrial goods
from northern and central Europe but are ‘harming’ Italy, in particular, with their agricultural exports?

Answer given by Mr Fischler on behalf of the Commission

(20 April 1998)

Italian rice production is of major significance because Italy is the largest rice producer in the Community.
Production, which currently amounts to three times national consumption, has continued to increase in recent

Moreover, good weather has resulted in large harvests in all producer Member States, which makes the sale of
Italian rice in the rest of the Community more difficult. This increase in Community output coincides with lower
protection at the border as a consequence of the agreements concluded by the Community within the framework
of the Uruguay Round. The combined effect of high production and increased imports has lead to difficulties in
marketing rice produced in the Community.