Food producers and meat processors in several Central and Eastern European countries will be given time to bring their plants up to the standards required by the European Union as their governments apply for EU membership.

Negotiations for the entry into the EU of the first six countries, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus, are expected to take place this autumn.

The European Commission has issued a draft negotiating position on veterinary and phytosanitary issues for the food producers in those countries. They will be granted derogation, that is an allowance to continue manufacturing products even if their plants do not meet the general EU veterinary and hygiene standards.

Products manufactured under such conditions may only be sold on the domestic market, however, and not exported across the EU.

The EC has stressed that the duration of the derogation will be limited, and that the processors will have to bring their plants up to full EU standards swiftly.