Bonn ban nears on UK beef

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The Independent Online
BONN - Germany turned the screw tighter on Britain yesterday when the upper house of parliament voted to allow Bonn to impose a partial import ban on UK beef, because of the alleged dangers of mad cow disease (BSE), writes Steve Crawshaw.

The move by the Bundesrat means that Horst Seehofer, the German Health Minister, has full authority to introduce a ban. Whether he will ever do so, is another matter.

Klaus Kinkel, the German Foreign Minister, is clearly embarrassed by the row which comes as Germany takes over the European presidency. The European Commission has made it clear that if Germany introduced a unilateral ban it could face the European Court.

British politicians have suggested that the German campaign is merely an election stunt, designed to gain extra votes in October. But the debate over British beef is far from being a flag-waving issue. The amount of British beef eaten in Germany is tiny.

Part of the problem is one of perception. Britain insists that there is no proof of danger. Germany admits this but, to the irritation of the British, maintains that the question remains open. The British say that Mr Seehofer is either paranoid, or electioneering, or both. Mr Seehofer insists he is merely being careful.