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Free movement of goods for sporting purposes

The free movement of goods is one of the cornerstones of the single market. Consequently, goods intended for sporting purposes may also be freely circulated within the European Union (EU). Nevertheless, certain sectors, including equidae, racing reindeer, fighting bulls, sledge dogs and racing pigeons, continue to be regulated, particularly for public security or health reasons.

Since 1993, the single market has provided four freedoms as its cornerstones, one of which is the free movement of goods within the European Union (EU). As an essential element of the single market, the common customs union abolished controls at the Union’s internal borders, thus creating a single trading area where goods may be freely circulated. This principle of free movement of goods is established in Articles 34-35 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which prohibit restrictions on imports and exports between EU countries. The movement of horses and other animals being part of and playing a role in sports within the Union continue to be regulated at the EU level.

Free movement of horses

The EU has adopted measures that regulate the movement of and trade in equidae, which also have repercussions for the movement of horses for sporting purposes.

Directive 2009/156/EC defines the animal health conditions for the movement within the EU and importation from non-EU countries of equidae. It requires registered equidae that will be moved between EU countries to be identified by means of an identification document set out in Directive 90/427/EEC on the zootechnical and genealogical conditions governing intra-EU trade in equidae. These identification requirements are implemented by Regulation (EC) No 504/2008/EC. Specific provisions apply to equidae dispatched from EU countries that are affected by the African horse sickness.

Directive 90/428/EEC governs trade in equidae intended for competitions as well as establishes the conditions for their participation in competitions. It relates to all types of competitions and to all equidae, whether registered or not. The competition rules may not discriminate between equidae that are registered in or that originate from the EU country in which the competition is being held and equidae registered in or originating from another EU country. Equal treatment of equidae must be ensured with respect to the:

  • requirements for entering competitions;
  • judging of competitions;
  • prize money or profits that may accrue from competitions.

Nevertheless, EU countries may make exceptions to these rules when they organise:

  • competitions reserved for a particular breed registered in a specific studbook (register), with a view to improving that breed;
  • regional competitions;
  • historic or traditional events.

In addition, the Commission has adopted Decision 93/195/EEC, which lays down the animal health conditions for the re-entry of registered horses for racing, competition and cultural events after temporary export to non-EU countries.

The Commission has also laid down rules for the temporary admission (for a maximum of 89 days) of registered horses in Decision 92/260/EEC. This decision is mainly, but not exclusively, used in the arrival from and return to their home countries outside the EU of sport horses.

Last updated: 26.04.2011
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