In October 2016, a new European Regulation (EU) 2016/2031 (Regulation) on protective measures against plant pests was adopted. The Regulation repeals and replaces seven existing European Directives on harmful organisms. They entered into force on 13 December 2016 and will be directly applicable in all of the EU Member States from 14 December 2019.
These new regulations aim to modernise the EU plant health regime, enhancing more effective measures for the protection of the Union's territory and its plants. They provide a greater focus on preventing the spread of certain pests and broaden the requirements on importing plants into the EU as well as the movement of plants within the EU. The regulations will also impose additional obligations and responsibilities for professional operators.
Overview of the regulations
The new regulations will focus on four key areas; plant pests, the import of plants in the EU, the movement of plants or plant products within the EU and the introduction of new obligations and responsibilities for professional operators. Each of these areas are discussed in greater detail below.
I. Plant Pests
The Regulation focuses on the prevention of entry or spread of plant pests within the EU.
These are currently regulated under different legal acts depending on their quarantine status or whether they affect the quality of plant reproductive material. Under the new regulations plant pests will be organised under three main categories:
- Union quarantine pests: Not present at all in the EU territory or, if present, just locally and under official control. Strict measures must be taken to prevent their entry or further spread within the EU due to their increased risk for plant health. These pests have to be eradicated immediately if detected.
- Protected zone quarantine pests: Present in most parts of the Union, but still known to be absent in certain demarcated areas called 'protected zones'. These pests are thus not allowed to enter and spread within these protected zones. Measures are taken (such as prohibition or restriction of movement of commodities, surveys, etc.) to avoid the introduction of these pests into the protected zones or to ensure their eradication if found present in these zones.
- Regulated non-quarantine pests: Widely present in the EU territory but, since they have an impact on the quality of the plants, plant reproductive material on the market should be guaranteed free or almost free from the pest.
The concept of "Priority Pests" will also be introduced under the Regulations, this contains pests which will have the most severe impact on the economy, environment and/or society within EU countries. These pests will be subject to enhanced measures concerning surveys, action plans for their eradication, contingency plans and simulation exercises. Which pests fall into the category of "Priority Pests" is still unclear as the EU Commission has not yet published a comprehensive list.
II. The import of plants in the EU
Currently, the import of most plants, plant products and other objects (e.g. soil or a growing medium) is allowed, subject to certain conditions. In the event that a risk assessment highlights the pests these plants may host, these plants, plant products or other objects may be subject to very strict requirements or may be prohibited in their entirety. From a regulatory standpoint, there are 4 main categories:
- Regulated: Before entering the EU, certain plants, plant products and other objects are currently required to have a phytosanitary certificate under EU Directive 2009/29/EC. This guarantees that they were inspected, are free from quarantine harmful organisms and are practically free from other harmful organisms.
The new regulations alongside the Commission Implementing Regulation 2018/2019 now require a certificate for all plants, in addition to certain plant products and other objects, being imported into the EU.
Plants which have successfully undergone a risk assessment based on evidence on pest risks and experience will not require a phytosanitary certificate. A list of plants which are exempt from acquiring a phytosanitary certificate are set out in the Commission Implementing Regulation 2018/2019.
- High risk: The Commission Implementing Regulation 2018/2019 also provides a list of "high risk" plants, plant products and other objects. As of 14 December 2019, the import of these into the EU will be provisionally prohibited until a full risk assessment is conducted.
- Temporarily restricted: Where the is little experience or knowledge of certain plants, plant products or other objects and where related pest risks are still unknown, the Regulation provides the possibility of temporary restrictions or a prohibition until more scientific information is available.
- Prohibited: As under Directive 2000/29/EC, certain plants, plant products or other objects are not allowed to be introduced into the Union territory if they originate from all or certain third countries or territories. The EU Commission has to adopt a list of plants, plant products or other objects which are prohibited from being introduced into the EU, together with the third countries, groups of third countries or specific areas of third countries to which the prohibition applies. This list shall at least include the plants, plant products and other objects as well as their countries of origin as listed in Part A of Annex III to Directive 2000/29/EC.
III. The movement of plants/plant products within the EU
Currently once imported to the EU, plants, plant products and other objects listed in Annex A of EU Directive 2000/29 EC are required to have a "plant passport". This requirement will be much broader under the new regulations and the EU Commission has to establish an extensive list of the plants, plant products and other objects that will require such a "plant passport", including:
(a) all plants for planting, other than seeds
(b) the plants, plant products and other objects listed in point (I) of Part (A) of Annex V to Directive 2000/29
(c) plants, plant products and other objects for which control or emergency measures have been adopted
(d) seeds subject to the requirements on Regulated Non Quarantine Pests
(e) plants, plant products and other objects subject to special requirements, except plants for planting, plant products and other objects requiring another specific label or other type of attestation
When plants are transferred to non-professional consumers (i.e., in retail shops) or when plants, plant products or other objects are transferred between the premises of the same registered operator, within close proximity to each other, no passport is required.
IV. New obligations for professional operators
As of 14 December 2019, professional operators must notify of any pest they find in their control. They will also be obligated to take immediate precautionary measures to prevent the pest spreading and withdraw any plants, plant products and other objects under their control in which the pest may be present, from the market.
For the purpose of more efficient controls, the professional operators will have to be registered by the competent authorities. The professional operators will also have to ensure the traceability of certain plants, plant products and other objects they receive from and transfer to other professional operators.
If authorised by the competent authorities, and subject to their supervision, professional operators can also be granted the power to issue plant passports.
What do the new regulations mean for you?
- A phytosanitary certificate will be required for (most) plants entering into the EU.
- Plants, plant products and other objects mentioned on a list of "High Risk" plants adopted by the EU Commission will be provisionally prohibited from entering into the EU.
- More plants, plant products and other objects will require a plant passport.
- Professional operators have the obligation to:
- be registered by the competent authorities
- notify of any pest they find in their control
- take immediate precautionary measures to prevent the pest spreading
- withdraw any plants, plant products and other objects under their control in which the pest may be present, from the market
- ensure the traceability of certain plants, plant products and other objects they receive from and submit to other professional operators