As Covid-19 is spreading, the EU Commission addresses first measures for handling the severe health emergency and assuring the official control system run the business despite the circumstances are, litterally speaking, “extra ordinem”.
Following a number of urgent request from the Member States, the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/466 of the 30th of March 2020, regarding temporary measures to contain risks to human, animal and plant health and animal welfare during certain serious disruptions of Member States’ control systems, published on the 31st of March on the Official Journal of the European Union, shall enter into force from the 1st of April 2020.
It lays down some of the circumstances in which derogation from some of the duties and requirements of the official control as referred to in Regulation (EU) 2017/625 is allowed.
Firstly, it shall regard «temporary measures necessary» to contain widespread risks to human, animal and plant health and animal welfare, with the aim of tackling serious disruptions in a Member State’s control system’s functioning in view of the ongoing crisis related to COVID-19. The condition of waiver should be applicable for two months (whereas 14), but an extension is likely to be granted.
Very briefly, the hypothesis specifically mentioned in the Regulation 2020/466 concern:
- Recourse to external natural persons for the execution of official control activities, provided that: (i) a specially-made designation is put in place; (ii) a constant contact with the competent authority by any available means of communication occurs; (iii) the duty to follow the instructions of the competent authority for the performance of such official controls and other official activities is effective; (iv) the impartiality principle is fulfilled and «any conflict of interest» occur (art. 3);
- Acceptability, for the purpose of official control, of an electronic copy of the original of official certificates or attestations, as well as on an electronic format of the certificate or attestation produced and submitted in TRACES, provided that the person responsible for presenting the copy undertakes to submit the original «as soon as technically feasible» (art. 4); when performing such hypothesis, the competent authority shall take into due account the «risk of non-compliance of animals and goods concerned and operators’ past record as regards the outcome of official controls performed on them and their compliance with the rules referred to in Article 1, paragraph 2 of Regulation (EU) 2017/625»;
- Exceptional recourse to laboratories out of “official labs” which can be designated on an exceptional and temporary basis, for the analysis, testing or diagnoses replacing the official laboratories, when the latter would be unable due to the covid-19 crisis (art. 5.1 (a));
- Recourse to means of distance communication for the conduct of physical meetings with operators and their staff in the context of official control methods and techniques referred to in Article 14 of Regulation (EU) 2017/625, via available means of distance communication.
The Regulation of the Commission also establishes the commitment for the Member States that wish to apply one or more of the temporary measures provided for in the Implementing Regulation 2020/466 to inform the Commission and the other Member States thereof.