European Parliament resolution on the outbreak of Xylella fastidiosa affecting olive trees

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to Council Directive 2000/29/EC on protective measures against the introduction into the Community of organisms harmful to plants or plant products and against their spread within the Community(1),

–   having regard to the scientific opinions of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on the risks to plant health posed by Xylella fastidiosa in the EU territory, with the identification and evaluation of risk reduction options, published on 26 November 2013 and 6 January 2015,

–   having regard to the Commission implementing decisions of 13 February 2014, 23 July 2014 and 28 April 2015 as regards measures to prevent the introduction into, and spread within, the Union of Xylella fastidiosa,

–   having regard to the reports by the Food and Veterinary Office of audits carried out in February and November 2014,

–   having regard to the question to the Commission on the outbreak of Xylella fastidiosa affecting olive trees (O-000038/2015 – B8-0117/2015),

–   having regard to Rules 128(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas Xylella fastidiosa is a highly dangerous immediate threat to the production in southern Europe of certain crops, including olive, almond and peach trees and ornamental plants; whereas, depending on the type of bacterium, it is a potential threat to vineyards, citrus trees and other crops and could lead to unprecedented and devastating losses, with dramatic economic, environmental and social consequences; whereas the strain infecting olive trees in the Apulia region is different from the isolates causing disease in grapevine or citrus in other parts of the world;

B.  whereas the bacterium is already causing severe damage to olive groves in the Apulia region of southern Italy, potentially threatening other crops and regions;

C. whereas olive production is one of the Apulia region’s most important agricultural sectors, accounting for 11.6 % (or EUR 522 million) of the total value of agricultural production in the region and 30 % of the value of Italian olive production in 2013;

D. whereas the presence of Xylella fastidiosa is causing severe economic damage, not only to olive producers but also to the entire chain of production, including cooperative and private mills, tourism and marketing activities;

E.  whereas the first notification of an outbreak of Xylella fastidiosa was made by the Italian authorities on 21 October 2013, since when an alarming number of trees have become infected;

F.  whereas the inspections carried out in Italy in February and November 2014 by the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of the Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety confirm that the situation has dramatically deteriorated and that a further spread of the bacterium cannot be ruled out;

G. whereas no treatment is currently available to cure diseased plants in the field, and whereas affected plants tend to remain infected throughout their lives or to collapse quickly;

H. whereas a large number of different plants could host the disease, including asymptomatic wild plants, in the European Union;

I.   whereas EFSA has emphasised that, given the difficulty of stopping the spread of Xylella fastidiosa once it affects a production area, preventive action focused on imports and containment of outbreaks should be prioritised, along with the reinforcement of research sharing;

1.  Notes that the implementing decisions taken before April 2015 by the Commission focused mainly on internal actions to fight the outbreak and did not include strong measures to prevent the entry of the disease into the EU from third countries;

2.  Calls on the Commission to take targeted measures against Xylella fastidiosa in order to prevent the import of infected material into the EU; welcomes the decision taken in April 2015 by the Commission to stop imports of infected coffea plants from Costa Rica and Honduras, and the restrictions adopted in respect of plant imports from affected areas in other third countries; asks for the application, if necessary, of stronger measures, including the authorisation of imports from pest-free production sites only;

3.  Regrets the fact that very often the Commission does not react quickly enough to prevent the entry into the EU of plant diseases from third countries; urges the Commission, therefore, to verify the source of the infection and to review the implementation of the EU official phytosanitary control system in order to protect and safeguard our territory from Xylella fastidiosa;

4.  Urges the Commission, especially in view of the onset of summer, to take effective measures to avoid the spread of Xylella fastidiosa within the EU, in particular by targeting the crops most at risk, while not neglecting other crops that could also be seriously affected by the disease, and underlines the importance of the provisions of Article 9 of the implementing decision of 2015 in this regard;

5.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to compensate producers for eradication measures and loss of revenue – which involves losses in terms not only of agricultural production but also of cultural heritage, history and tourism-related activities;

6.  Asks the Commission and the relevant authorities to make use of all possible funds and instruments to assist the economic recovery of the affected areas; calls on the Commission to identify incentives for producers implementing preventive measures;

7.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that sufficient financial and human resources are available to implement the relevant strategies, including financial support for farmers to apply appropriate agricultural practices for the management of Xylella fastidiosa and its vectors; urges the Commission to promote intensified research efforts without delay, including through increased international networking and by making funds available for research institutes, with a view to increasing scientific knowledge of Xylella fastidiosa and positively identifying the nature of the link between the pathogen, the symptoms and the development of disease;

8.  Underlines the need to run information campaigns in potentially affected areas of the EU in order to sensitise those involved not only in the agricultural sector but also in the horticultural sector, including retailers of ornamental plants, professional gardeners and their customers;

9.  Considers that, especially in view of the onset of summer, the Commission and the Member States should warn travellers about the risks of introducing infected plants from countries affected by Xylella fastidiosa into the EU;

10. Calls for greater means to be made available to ensure the detection of harmful organisms at points of entry into the EU; furthermore, encourages the Member States to increase the number of regular inspections with a view to preventing the spread of Xylella fastidiosa outside the demarcated areas;

11. Calls on the Commission to provide an open database, with a list of institutions and competent authorities at EU and Member State level, for the exchange of information and experience, including best practices, as well as for rapid alerting of the competent authorities and the taking of necessary measures;

12. Calls on the Commission to draft, in a transparent manner, comprehensive guidelines for the implementation of preventive and disease control measures, with clear indications of their scope and duration, based on existing experience and best practices, that can be used as a support tool by the competent authorities and services in the Member States;

13. Asks the Commission to report to Parliament annually, or at any time if the situation evolves, on the threat posed to EU producers by Xylella fastidiosa and other organisms that are a danger to agricultural production;

14. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.