Do you have any concerns regarding plant health measures from the UK's exit from the EU?
We are at the beginning of the Brexit negotiations and this is one of the issues that must be tackled over the next two years. The UK is very important within the EU's animal and plant health safety system with many EU reference laboratories located in Britain.
The UK's Animal & Plant Health Agency is a key partner and I hope that the UK will continue to be an integral part of the vital scientific network that protects us. In this field, international cooperation is a must.
We can't do research, nor can we protect our national borders through isolation. Pest and diseases don't stop at borders, especially in a world of strong international trade in plants and plant material and global travellers. We need an integrated approach for all of Europe regardless of EU membership.
Where, in your opinion, is the EU's weakest link when it comes to a potential plant pest outbreak?
The EU system is, in general, excellent in keeping us and our plants safe. Nevertheless, outbreaks like the Xylella Fastidiosa olive epidemic in the south of Italy, ash die-back disease, the oak processionary moth and the Asian longhorn beetle further north, are proof that we need to remain vigilant on preventing new pests or disease threats entering Europe.
That's why the EU adopted the new legislation last year, to further increase the level of protection while still maintaining an open and business friendly import regime. Geographically speaking, of course southern Europe is more exposed to new pests due to its climate but no region in Europe is safe. That is why we must pay particular attention at Europe's major trade entry points.
How well prepared, do you think, the EU is against a potential new outbreak?
It is difficult to be fully protected, but we have never been better prepared than we are now. The new plant health legislation will further increase this level of protection through adapting quarantine measures, improving the rapid alert system and better informing travellers of the risk of bringing uncontrolled plants with them.
Tractability will also be much improved with the new EU Plant Passport. As I mentioned, we are never fully safe from new outbreaks but we have equipped ourselves with robust legislation and an advanced control system backed by a thriving research community.