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Brussels, 28 March 2007

Commission initiates infringement proceedings against Greece over ban on certain animal imports

Today the Commission has decided to send a Letter of Formal Notice to Greece for imposing a national ban on imports of fattening lambs and kids from Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, and from all third countries. As intra-Community trade and rules for imports of animals and animal products are harmonised, such unilateral bans are contrary to EU law.


Under a Decision adopted by the Greek Minister of Agriculture at the beginning of March 2007, Greek veterinary authorities are prohibited from granting import permits for lambs and kids (small goats) intended for fattening which come from third countries or from Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. This means in effect that lambs or kids are currently not being allowed into Greece from these countries for fattening but only for immediate slaughtering. Moreover, the Greek authorities have introduced a system whereby lambs or kids from any other Member State must be issued with an import permit before they are allowed into Greece. The restrictions have led to serious concerns amongst many Greek operators, who contacted the Commission to complain about substantial financial losses caused as a direct result of this measure.

Under EU legislation (Directive 91/68/EEC), provisions for intra-community trade in live ovine and caprine animals are completely harmonised. This means that, once the conditions laid down in the Directive are satisfied, Member States are not allowed to impose further conditions or any barriers to imports of such animals from other parts of the EU.

With regard to imports from third countries, EU legislation (Directive 2004/68/EC) lays down strict health requirements for any live ungulate animals being imported into or transported through the EU. These are harmonised measures, designed to protect animal health and food safety throughout the EU. Member States may not impose any additional requirements to those provided for under EU legislation, nor can they unilaterally decide to interrupt imports from any third country which has been approved by the Commission for export to the EU.

For the above-mentioned reasons, the Commission is now opening urgent infringement proceedings against Greece.

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