Cooperation with partners in the EU Member States and at international level has been important since EFSA was founded. The importance and relevance of such activity remains high, considering that EFSA’s second key strategic objective is to build a sustainable risk assessment community with MS. This Annual Report brings together the activities undertaken in 2014 by EFSA jointly with the Focal Point network to implement Scientific Cooperation. It also highlights how EFSA supports the European Commission in its enlargement programmes and contributes to the harmonisation of risk assessment practices with EU institutions and agencies, as well with international partners.
EFSA’s Advisory Forum continued its activities centred on the development of an EU Risk Assessment Agenda, on data collection and access, on strengthening scientific cooperation and on reviewing the operation of the Advisory Forum. During 2014, Focal Points continued to act as an interface between EFSA and national authorities, research institutes, consumers and other stakeholders, supporting AF members in the implementation of activities related to networking and scientific cooperation. A review of the Focal Point network was concluded in 2014 with the approval of new Focal Point Agreements as of 2015, with an increase of the EFSA`s financial support granted to Focal Points to approximately 1 million euros.
With regards to information exchange, a total of 109 requests for input were sent by email within the Focal Point network in 2014, while 213 documents were shared by via the EFSA`s Information Exchange Platform, their vast majority (70%) concerning risk assessment outputs. Moreover, 18 Focal Points also shared information on relevant planned activities, in particular annual and strategic work plans, as well as planned risk assessment activities.
By end of 2014, EFSA’s Article 36 List contained 330 entries from 30 different countries (EU Member States, Iceland and Norway). Almost all Focal Points (26 out of 30) reported to have taken actions to promote (and support the review) of the List, having organised a total of 60 meetings. Overall, 58 new organisations were included on the List, 185 updates of organisation profiles were endorsed and 101 entries were removed from the List.
In 2014, EFSA conducted an external evaluation to assess the impact of its science grant and procurement projects. The external evaluation showed that these projects have a strong networking and cooperation benefit, facilitating collaboration between MS organisations and forging new, lasting relationships, particularly for Article 36 organisations. The evaluation also brought up the added value of larger and longer term grant-funded projects. Based on the evaluation, thematic grants and framework partnership agreements were launched as new tools under the grant schemes.
By end of 2014, a total of 4,528 applications were submitted to EFSA’s Experts Database, representing 225 new applications submitted during the year, bringing the total number of included experts up to 3,813. Attracting scientific experts to collaborate with EFSA on an ad-hoc basis remains an important support activity carried out by Focal Points. In 2014, almost all Focal Points (29 out of 30) reported to have promoted the submission of new applications to the database, while 19 reported to have promoted the database as a source of expertise for national use.
Training in risk assessment is an increasingly growing activity that promotes the harmonisation of risk assessment practices across the EU and contributes to capacity building. During 2014, EFSA supported the implementation of the 2nd edition of the Better Training for Safer Food risk assessment training courses. A total of 32 courses will be run during the period 2014-2018, delivering training in eight different risk assessment areas to 800 national experts from Member State public organisations. Overall, 20 Focal Points reported in 2014 to have provided support to the implementation of these training opportunities.
During 2014, EFSA further implemented recommendations arising from the self-review of EFSA’s Scientific Networks. An important recommendation concerns the role that Focal Points play in facilitating the exchange of information between network members and Advisory Forum members at national level. Fifteen Focal Points reported to have held at least one meeting with national network representatives; 9 reported to have held bilateral meetings with their Advisory Forum members; and 6 reported to have supported the updating of the list of network representatives.
In 2014, EFSA concluded the implementation of its Pre-Accession Programme 2011-2014 set up under the EU Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance. Activities carried during the year included the organisation of induction trainings on GMO and pest risk assessment, and a seminar on risk communication, all addressed to Pre-Accession countries. In addition, representatives from Pre-Accession countries participated in 11 EFSA meetings, including Advisory Forum and Focal Point meetings.
In February 2014, EFSA started its European Neighbourhood Programme for 2014-2016. The overall objective of the programme is to promote the understanding of EFSA’s work, share expertise and create information exchange mechanisms. Two country visits as well as a three-day food safety conference - with 55 participants from the ENP countries and speakers from the European Commission, international organisations, Member States, Pre-Accession countries and EFSA - were organised.
EFSA worked closely with a range of international partners. In particular, scientific and technical support was provided to the European Commission in Codex Alimentarius related activities. EFSA also started activities to strengthen scientific cooperation with the Joint Expert Committees of World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization; and took over the scientific secretariat together with the European Commission of the International Food Chemical Safety Liaison Group.
EFSA collaborated closely with EU sister agencies (ECHA, EMA, ECDC and EEA), for example through regular bilateral videoconferences with the European Chemicals Agency, a trilateral meeting with this Agency and the Joint Research Centre’s Institute for Health and Consumer Protection, and a visit to the European Environment Agency. In 2014, EFSA took over the chairing of the meetings of the European Agencies’ Network on Scientific Advice.