European court upholds decision to fine France for illegal beef ban

Brussels, 18 December 2006 — A European court has upheld a decision to fine the French beef sector for its illegal ban against British beef during the mad cow disease scare in late 2001, though it has reduced the amount owed.

The Court of First Instance has confirmed the decision of the European Commission to fine the French Beef Federation for blocking imports of British beef. In April 2003, the Commission imposed fines of €16.68 million on the main French federations in the beef sector. The federations then challenged the decision in the Court of First Instance which ruled on Wednesday to uphold the Commission’s decision, but reduce the fine to €11.97 million.

The Court held that the actions of the French federations ‘appreciably affected trade between Member States and constituted a restriction of competition’.

Sir Robert Atkins MEP, who campaigned for British farmers during the blockade, said: “I am very pleased with the news, but where is the money going to go? It should be used to promote British food and be shared among the industry as they are who suffered and should not just go into government pockets. This decision shows that the beef ban was incorrect and unjustified but it is the long term damage it did to the British beef industry which must be repaired.

The Court of First Instance hears cases and any appeals are sent to the European Court of Justice. An appeal on a point of law can now be brought before the European Court of Justice against the decision of the Court of First Instance within two months of their ruling.

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