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The European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (EuFMD)

History

A Global Strategy

Currently, the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (EuFMD), through the technical expertise in its Secretariat and team of 10 in FAO Headquarters provides a significant contribution to the overall FAO effort against this extremely important trans-boundary animal disease. Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) has global significance as a non-tariff trade barrier as well as for national food security. The current advanced state of FMD control in Europe, maintained through continual vigilance and co-operation between member states, the EC and EuFMD, has significantly contributed to the FAO global goal of sustainable management of natural resources through more efficient livestock production. The EuFMD now undertakes an important part of Strategic Objectives SO2 and SO5 activities in the area of circa 55 countries in the wider European neighborhood.

Origins

The EuFMD was established in 1954 to create an intergovernmental mechanism for coordinating actions to control the disease which was endemic in Europe and affected, each year, almost all European countries, causing catastrophic losses affecting food security in a Europe still rebuilding its livestock production.

In 1989 the Commission published an account of the first 35 years of activities; a timely record of the activities and achievements since the foundation, at which time outbreaks occurred every year in the majority of countries and devastating epidemics of the disease swept across Europe at intervals resulting in major agricultural and socio-economic disruption. At the time of publication in the late 80’s, with Europe in a far more stable situation, approaching freedom from disease and with the cessation of national mass vaccination programs in sight, the achievement of the main aim of control of the disease in Europe evident- and the future of the Commission came under review.

 

The future of the Commission was reconsidered when, in 1990, the decision to stop vaccination across Europe was taken. Was a Commission to co-ordinate measures still needed? The Member States decided it was and events since then have shown how vulnerable Europe remains to incursions and the great benefit of having the Commission work as part of a wider European animal health safety effort. The latter was initially seen mainly (by donors) as an emergency response mechanism in FMD crises but was increasingly funded as a specialist body, able to undertake preventive actions in the European neighborhood to promote improved planning of prevention and control in those neighborhood countries which remain endemic for FMD, at this point, from Kazakhstan to Mauritania. The membership and governance of European countries ensures a high profile for FAO and EuFMD in European veterinary services and in the EC in Brussels. This creates a substantial and positive image for FAO in a region where FAO is not perceived as being active in animal health matters directly affecting European countries.

In consideration of the potentially unstable situation after cessation of vaccination in Europe, and politically in parts of the region, decisions were taken to continue the work in order to counter the threat to the unprotected livestock population of Europe. These aims were increased rather than decreased, to focus on reducing the risk from zones not free of disease on the borders of Europe and from farther afield. In 2004, approaching the 50th year of the Commission’s activities, an update to the 1989 publication is provided, as a supplement to the original document which is of historical interest and not widely available. In 2004 thirty one of the thirty three member states are free of FMD, and therefore a Europe free of FMD has not yet been fully achieved, but must continue to be the aim.