Spain to demand full compensation from Germany over E.coli
Spain said it will demand "100 percent" compensation from Germany for falsely blaming Spanish cucumbers for the deadly E. coli outbreak, at an emergency EU meeting on the crisis on Tuesday.
"The sector and the regional governments are still trying to estimate (the damage) so that tomorrow at the extraordinary meeting of the European Union on agriculture we can put the figures on the table," Agriculture Minister Rosa Aguilar said Monday.
"We have told Germany that it must reimburse us for the loss. If it covers 100 percent, which is what we are demanding, the affair will be closed. Otherwise we reserve the right (to take) legal action," she told Spanish public television.
"We are not going to allow our producers to lose one cent, because they are not to blame."
European farm and food safety ministers are to hold emergency talks Tuesday in Luxembourg on the E. coli outbreak that has killed at least 22 people, all but one of them in Germany.
Authorities in Germany had initially, but falsely, blamed imported Spanish cucumbers.
Growers have seen their produce shunned, with Russia and Qatar among states that have applied temporary bans on fresh-produce imports.
Spain's fruit and vegetables exporters association, FEPEX, Monday estimated the losses as 225 million euros ($328 million) per week since the crisis began.
"Spanish fruit and vegetable exports were still not back to normal on Monday," a FEPEX spokewoman said.
"Russia's decision has negative repercussions, there are Spanish trucks blocked at the border. Exports to Germany are practically paralysed.
"In addition to vegetables, fruits have begun to also be badly affected, not only because exports were frozen all of last week, but because this situation has led to a fall in prices of 35 percent since May 27, according to estimates by producers" in the southern region of Andalucia, she said.
"The demand for fruits and vegetables has not recovered and that is due in large part to the lack of a clear and strong correction by German and (EU) authorities," the spokeswoman said.
Spanish Health Minister Leire Pajin warned earlier Monday that Madrid will demand answers on why German and European authorities allowed blame to be pointed at Spain before full testing was completed, as well as on how to deliver aid to distraught growers.
"We are going to express our criticisms over the way this crisis has been managed, given the serious consequences it has had for our national interest," she said in Brussels, citing "serious and irreparable damage" despite Spanish produce being "perfectly safe."
"Action is needed to prevent a repetition of this type of situation," she added before a scheduled meeting of EU health ministers in Luxembourg.
"For this reason I am going to ask the Commission to improve and strengthen its food alert mechanisms."
© 2011 AFP