chapter  7
16 Pages

The Food Law Package

Any mention of the so-called ‘Food Law Package’ carries with it a certain sense of foreboding among those who have overseen its progression through the EEA policy process. To date, it is among the most challenging legislative packages to have been incorporated into the EEA Agreement, involving substantial tension both between Iceland and the EU as well as between EFTA partners Iceland and Norway. It may even prove to be a sticking point in Iceland’s accession negotiations with the EU. Unlike the other cases explored in this volume, which focus on single comprehensive pieces of framework legislation, this chapter looks at a bundle of acts grouped together under the common heading of ‘Food Law’. This area underwent substantial reform in the early 2000s leading to the adoption of the General Food Law Regulation in 2002 (178/2002/EC), which lays down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishes the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and defines procedures in matters of food safety. This Regulation establishes an overarching legal instrument upon which subsequent acts are based. The entire package includes a number of amending acts, implementing acts and other related initiatives, namely the hygiene and control package1 and rules on animal by-products.2 In general, these measures aim to ensure a high level of food safety at all stages of the food chain. Much of the EU’s Food Law contains veterinary and phytosanitary (plant

health) measures which are included in Annex I of the EEA Agreement. Chapter I of the Annex, which deals with veterinary issues, is particularly extensive, containing a range of acts from animal welfare to public health and control measures. Prior to the adoption of the Food Law Package into the EEA Agreement, Iceland had an exemption from most of this chapter, i.e. it only implemented measures relating to aquaculture and fisheries products. This general exemption was revoked with the incorporation of the package into the EEA Agreement, obliging Iceland to adopt most acts in this field. The review of Chapter I of Annex I for Iceland significantly expanded the scope of its adoption of EU policy, making all EU legislation concerning animal products applicable to Iceland.3 However, this case is not one of quiet submission to new EU rules. Both the incorporation of the package into the EEA Agreement and the adoption at the national level were subject to

considerable delays, negotiations and special solutions. Indeed, although the Food Law Package was transposed at the national level, it appears that the contents of the national legislation deliberately included only those parts of the package which were deemed acceptable. A key question posed by this study is whether domestic adaptation to EU

requirements is inevitable in Iceland, given the asymmetry of power between the EU and the EFTA sides of the EEA Agreement and Iceland’s dependence on its access to the internal market. Previous chapters have found that the potential threat of partial suspension of the Agreement has been sufficient to ensure the incorporation of EU legislation into the EEA Agreement, although Iceland has in some cases been able to gain certain adaptations. In these cases, incorporation of acts into the Agreement has generally led to the transposition and implementation of the acts at the national level, although domestic support (or at least lack of domestic opposition) has also played an important role in the downloading process. This case offers a different scenario, which merits attention. There was considerable opposition to the package among high-level members of the government, as well as influential interest groups in society, and the downloading phase was slow, problematic and incomplete. In line with the Europeanization framework of this study, this chapter

begins by examining the background leading up to the debate and the mismatch between the EU and the national levels. Why did Iceland have an exemption from Chapter I of Annex I, why did it resist adopting legislation in this area and why did the EU push for its adoption? The following section looks at Iceland’s uploading attempts. Iceland did not make a concerted effort to influence the content of the legislation during the decision-making phase at the EU level. However, it did make a substantial attempt to secure various adaptations during the incorporation of the package into the EEA Agreement. Finally, the focus of the chapter turns to the downloading phase at the national level, paying particular attention to delays, the EU’s threat to revert to an Article 102 procedure and the content of the implementing legislation. After almost a decade of debate, it is unlikely that this matter has been fully laid to rest. Concluding remarks will therefore also contain some reflection as to what the next steps in the process might be, particularly in light of Iceland’s application for EU membership.