New rules to curb the influx of pests to stop them spreading and eradicate the most dangerous ones were informally agreed by MEPs and the Luxembourg Council Presidency on Wednesday.

The influx is reportedly caused by increased trade and climate change.

The provisional deal also introduces preventive measures for imported plants and fast-response mechanisms for high-risk ones.

“Plant health is an important issue for the whole of Europe.

“I am very pleased that Parliament, together with the Member States, has agreed measures to protect our countries from the ravages of pests and diseases, which can potentially destroy whole species of trees, plants and plant products,” said Anthea McIntyre (ECR, UK), who headed the Parliament’s negotiating team.

New preventive measures for imported plants and plant products

New rules introduce a mechanism of preliminary assessment of plants and plant products from third countries in order to swiftly identify those likely to pose pest risks or other phytosanitary hazards, and to impose temporary bans to stop them from entering EU territory.

Professional operators importing plants and plant products, as well as clients of postal services, internet clients and passengers importing potentially risky plants in their luggage, will be required to hold a phytosanitary certificate.

Only private travellers who import small quantities of particular plants would be exempt.

Plant passport for most plant movements in the EU

The plant passport system should cover all movements of plants for the purposes of planting within EU territory except for those supplied directly to final users, including home gardeners, says the provisional agreement on the new rules.

It will also apply to final users receiving plants through distance sales and should be reviewed after five years.

Thorough eradication and compensation for growers

The deal endorses and updates existing EU rules to make sure that growers whose plants have to be eradicated in order to wipe out certain pests will be eligible for compensation.

The amount of compensation would mirror the value of the destroyed plants or plant products.

Measures to eradicate dangerous pests can only be successful if all sources of infestation are removed.

The deal therefore allows Member States and their relevant authorities to apply the measures in private premises, if necessary, but only to the extent needed to protect the public interest.

Next steps

The provisionally agreed text still needs to be endorsed by the Council, then by Parliament’s agriculture committee and finally by the full Parliament, at an early second reading.