The Veterinary Agreement governs the control of animal diseases, trade in animals and animal products and the import of these animals and products from third countries. It creates the basis for the common veterinary area.
Annex 11 of the bilateral Agreement on trade in agricultural products between Switzerland and the EU is known as the Veterinary Annex or the "Veterinary Agreement". It covers health and animal breeding measures applicable to trade in live animals and products of animal origin.
The Veterinary Agreement governs:
- the control of certain animal diseases and their notification
- trade between Switzerland and the EU in living animals, their sperm, egg cells and embryos and animal products (milk and dairy products, meat and meat products)
- the import of these animals and products from third countries
- animal breeding
Common veterinary area
Border veterinary controls for trade in animals and animal products between Switzerland and the EU were abolished on 1 January 2009.
Shipments from non-EU countries (third countries) are inspected when they enter the Swiss-EU veterinary space and can then be moved freely. Appropriate facilities have been set up in Switzerland at Geneva and Zurich airports. This is where the Swiss border veterinary service inspects products of animal origin. In return, the EU Member States control shipments destined for Switzerland when they first arrive in an EU Member State (e.g. Rotterdam, Frankfurt).
It should be noted that the customs and species conservation controls for imports from third countries and from the EU are still in place.
Joint Veterinary Committee (JVC)
Correct implementation of the Veterinary Agreement is monitored by the Joint Veterinary Committee. It is responsible for updating the Veterinary Agreement, discusses bilateral problems and looks for mutually acceptable solutions.
In Switzerland, the FSVO is responsible for issues associated with the Veterinary Agreement. It sends a delegation to the JVC, thus ensuring direct dialogue and good relations between Switzerland and the EU on veterinary matters.
Implementation in Switzerland
In Switzerland the FSVO is responsible for:
- updating the Veterinary Agreement
- modifying Swiss legislation in response to changes in EU legislation
- communicating changes in Swiss legislation
- monitoring compliance at the external border (border control points)
Influence of Switzerland on the EU
Decisions taken by the EU in the area of animal health and food safety affect Swiss legislation through the Veterinary Agreement. Switzerland therefore seeks to represent its position to the EU when legislation is being drafted and as scientific developments occur. It does this by participating in working groups and in the standing committee.
Its scope for influence is, however, limited since Switzerland does not have voting rights. Good bilateral contact is therefore vital for ensuring that Switzerland's concerns and interests are taken on board.
Free trade between Switzerland and the EU
Agriculture, food safety, product safety and public health
The objective of the negotiations on the agreement on agriculture, food safety, product safety and public health is to strengthen networking between the stakeholders in the value added chain in the food and agriculture sector. They are also intended to strengthen cooperation with the European Union (EU) in food and product safety as well as in public health.
Switzerland wants to protect its population effectively against dangerous foods and open the EU market to Swiss producers. For these reasons it wants to participate in the EU food safety system and is negotiating membership of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF).
Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF)
The RASFF was set up by the EU in 1979. It enhances consumer protection against unsafe food. National coordinating offices issue warnings about unsafe food and provide information on product recalls. This information is sent through the system to the EU Member States and to Norway, Iceland and the Principality of Liechtenstein (members of the European Economic Area (EEA)). As Switzerland is only a partial member of the RASFF, it only receives notifications of food or feed being rejected at the border and notifications that affect Switzerland directly.
Full membership would bring Switzerland many benefits. Access to all RASFF notifications would enable it to actively obtain additional information and take early action to protect consumers. This would make it possible to intensify controls at the border and market monitoring. In addition, Switzerland could then better coordinate the measures it takes with those taken by the EU Member States and countries in the EEA.
Acquis communautaire in food safety: The body of EU law covering food safety is very extensive and dynamic. Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 and the other EU food legislation based on it comprise more than 150 decrees and affect the entire food chain. Switzerland's membership of the risk evaluation authority EFSA and the rapid alert system RASFF would be contingent on its adoption of the relevant acquis communautaire (accumulated legislation).
Animal welfare within free trade in agricultural goods
Veterinary issues between Switzerland and the EU are already largely regulated in a Veterinary Agreement. Equivalent rules on animal diseases and import regulations have been in place for some time. Animal welfare is an issue in negotiations on free trade in agricultural produce. With the conclusion of a free-trade agreement between Switzerland and the EU, the two parties would recognise the equivalence of each other's animal welfare regulations or Switzerland would have to adopt the EU acquis in the field of animal welfare too. But this would not lower standards of animal welfare in Switzerland, because Switzerland would still be able to enact stricter standards.
The ban on transiting animals for slaughter through Switzerland still applies: Switzerland opposes the transport of animals for slaughter through the country. The ban on transporting biungulates and horses and poultry for slaughter through Switzerland by road has been enshrined in the Animal Protection Act since the beginning of 2013. Maintenance of the transit ban is justified by animal welfare concerns. The current review of applicable animal transport regulations in the EU (concerning the duration of transport, livestock density etc.) are also likely to play an important role in discussions on this issue between Switzerland and the EU.
Last modification 07.03.2017