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Brussels, 21 March 2007

Commission refers Greece to Court over animal welfare infringements

The Commission has decided to refer Greece to the European Court of Justice for failure to properly implement and enforce EU legislation on animal welfare in transport and at slaughter. The decision to take this action against Greece follows persistent short-comings identified in the field of animal welfare over a number of years. The standard of animal welfare in Greece remains below par and the necessary legislation has not been adequately implemented. Therefore, the Commission has no alternative but to refer the case to the Court of Justice


Member State authorities are responsible for ensuring that EU rules are properly enforced and complied with within their territories. However, a number of inspections carried out by the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) between 1998 and 2006 reported consistent and serious shortcomings in the area of animal welfare in Greece.

Among the Commission's concerns is the failure of the Greek authorities to implement and enforce the EU Directives on animal welfare during transport[1] and on the protection of animals at the time of slaughter[2]. With regard to animals in transport, Greece still does not carry out the identification and authorisation of transporters, as required under EU legislation. The same is true for road checks on transporters and controls of their route plans, and there are no adequate facilities at or near the Greek ferry ports for animals that have undergone long journeys. With regard to the welfare of animals at slaughter, the Greek controls were found to be insufficient to ensure the correct application of the EU rules on matters such as the appropriate stunning of animals.

The Commission first initiated an infringement procedure against Greece on non-compliance in the field of animal welfare in 1998, but terminated it following commitments from the Greek authorities to improve matters. However, subsequent FVO visits carried out between 2003 and 2006 revealed no substantial improvement in the overall animal welfare situation in Greece. Moreover, the EU legislation on animal welfare during transport and on animal welfare at the time of slaughter, were still not properly implemented.

In May 2005, the Greek authorities transmitted an action plan to the Commission, outlining how they intended to improve their enforcement record with respect to animal welfare legislation. The plan also established a timetable for the implementation of the FVO's recommendations in this respect. However, a follow-up FVO inspection in 2006 found that the action plan was still not fully implemented and that an adequate animal protection system was still lacking.

Therefore, the Commission sent a Reasoned Opinion to Greece on 4 July 2006, warning them primarily to implement the necessary EU legislation as required.

The response by the Greek authorities to the Reasoned Opinion once again failed to produce satisfactory results. There has been little or no progress in improving animal welfare in Greece and the overall system of implementation and enforcement of EU animal welfare legislation remains unsatisfactory. For that reason, the Commission is now referring the case to the European Court of Justice.

[1] Directive 91/628/EEC on animal welfare in transport, now replaced by Regulation 1/2005

[2] Directive 93/119/EC on the protection of animals at the time of slaughter or killing

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