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European Commission - Press release

Environment: Commission continues to pursue Spain over incomplete execution of the Zoo Directive.

Brussels, 29 September 2011. The Commission is sending Spain a reminder about its obligation to comply with a European Court of Justice ruling on the situation of animals in zoos. In December 2010, the Court ruled that Spain was failing to license zoos properly in a number of regions. Nearly a year later, the Commission still has no proof that licensing is working properly, or that substandard zoos have been closed. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is therefore sending Spain a Letter of Formal Notice. If Spain fails to respond appropriately, the Commission may return to the Court and ask for financial penalties.

The issue first arose in April 2002, the original deadline for transposing the 1999 Zoo Directive. As Spain did not meet all the Directive's requirements at that time, the Commission responded with a series of letters which culminated in a referral to the European Court of Justice.

While Spain did transpose the Directive into national law, the new laws have not been properly implemented at a local level. Spain has not provided the Commission with sufficient proof that a number of zoos are being managed in line with the EU requirements, in particular with regard to licences, inspections and procedures for zoo closures. The zoos affected are in the regions of Aragon, Asturias, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castile and Leon, Extremadura and Galicia.


Council Directive 1999/22/EC of 29 March 1999 on the keeping of wild animals in zoos (Zoo Directive) adopted common minimum standards for housing and caring for animals in zoos with a view to reinforcing the role of zoos in conserving biodiversity.

Many animals in European zoos are not always kept under acceptable conditions. It is therefore important to implement regulations concerning the keeping of animals in zoos to ensure the protection of wild fauna and the preservation of biodiversity while retaining a role in education of the public and scientific research.

The Directive aims to protect wild fauna and to preserve biodiversity by inviting Member States to take measures concerning the granting of licences and the carrying out of regular inspections in European zoos in order to check that the conditions related to the granting of licences are met.

Further information:

Zoo Directive

The 2010 ruling by the European Court, in French and Spanish

For current statistics on infringements in general, see:

See also MEMO/11/646

Contacts :

Joe Hennon (+32 2 295 35 93)

Monica Westeren (+32 2 299 18 30)

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