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EP to hold final vote on 2015 proposal for extra olive oil duty free quota for Tunisia

On 10 March, the European Parliament (EP) will hold a final vote on the European Commission’s 2015 proposal increasing an annual duty free tariff quota for Tunisian olive oil after the Council unanimously endorsed a set of additional safeguards requested by MEPs.

Meeting on 9 March in Coreper II , the EU member states rubber-stamped “all amendments” put forward by the EP during the plenary vote on 25 February, according to sources.

In order to speed up putting in place the extra olive oil quota that was supposed to apply as of January 2016, the EP will hold a final vote on the amended Commission proposal for a resolution at the ongoing plenary session.

Provided no new amendments are adopted, the EP will be in a position to close the first reading procedure. The proposal for a regulation will then go back to the Council for formal approval.

It is expected that EP President Martin Schulz will sign the final text of the regulation at the next plenary session in April, paving the way for its entry into force following publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.

As several amendments were adopted at the plenary vote in February the EP decided to postpone the final vote on the proposal. The draft was sent back to the International Trade Committee (INTA) to start trilogue negotiations with the Council on the final text.

As the Council adopted all the EP’s amendments, trilogue talks were not needed.

Background

Despite reassurances and calls for solidarity, the EP plenary supported, on 25 February, amendments submitted by Italian, Spanish and Portuguese MEPs, calling for a tracking mechanism to be established to ensure that all olive oil under the quota originates in Tunisia. In addition, MEPs rejected the possibility of extending the application of the quota beyond the initial two years and upheld a request submitted by INTA for a mid-term review of the impact of the quota on the EU olive oil market.

Under the Commission proposal, Tunisia’s annual duty free tariff rate quota for olive oil would increase as of 1 January 2016 by 35 000 tonnes. Currently Tunisian olive oil producers are allowed to export to the EU, using the above-mentioned quota system, 56 700 tonnes annually.

The additional quota will be made available for a period of two years, until 31 December 2017, and it will be opened once the existing duty free tariff rate quota of 56 700 tonnes is exhausted.

Putting forward its proposal in September last year, the Commission stressed it would benefit the Tunisian economy, which was severely hit in 2015 because of terrorist attacks. Olive oil is Tunisia’s biggest agricultural export product.

By Joanna Sopinska