"The inspections showed the British have done their utmost to offer the necessary guarantees for public health" and they have reacted "favourably to the latest recommendations for improving the reliability of the system", according to a European Commission spokesman, who was anxious to allay the fears of consumers. "Few farms may export once more, thereby making it easier to carry out checks" he pointed out. In the wake of the drastic measures taken, the number of cases of BSE has dropped dramatically in the United Kingdom, from 36,000 in 1992 to 1,000 this year. However the number of cases of Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (a degeneration of the human brain that may be linked to consumption of BSE-contaminated beef) is on the increase in the UK. During the final quarter of 1998, 10 people died in the UK as a result of a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease: four times more than in the two previous quarters. A total of 40 people have died from this disease in the UK. This resurgence of the epidemic is of concern to the Member States, and some are inclined to think the Commission decision might be a bit premature.Some Member States doubtful.Prior to setting a firm date for the resumption of exports, the European Commission has first of all had to notify the Member States. It did so during a meeting of the Committee of Member States' Permanent Representatives to the EU (COREPER), a few hours before European Commissioners authorised the decision of November 25, 1998 to allow the partial lifting of the ban. France, Austria and most of all Germany (which has long opposed the resumption of British beef exports) expressed a certain amount of reluctance tinged with a degree of perplexity. This country would have liked to have seen more guarantees about full compliance with the preconditions set during the Florence Summit. Rejecting charges of wishing to call into question the validity of the British system, or the justification for lifting the ban, France would have liked to have taken the precaution of getting the Standing Veterinary Committee to decide again about setting the date or at least further inspection missions on British soil, according to a French official, adding "the Commission has, in exchange, given guarantees". The Commission had little choice, as the UK, insisting its obligations had been met, was in a position to appeal to the EU Court of Justice to complain about the Commission's failure to act.Soothing noises form European...

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