The European Commission have recently decided to take Greece and Italy to the Court of Justice of the European Union over the failure to correctly implement Directive 1999/74/EC banning “un-enriched cages” (battery cages).
The political decision for the ban on “un-enriched” cages was taken in 1999. Greece and Italy had 12 years to ensure a smooth transition to the new system and to implement the Directive.
As from 1 January 2013, Directive 1999/74/EC requires that all laying hens are kept in “enriched cages” with extra space to nest, scratch and roost, or in alternative systems. Thus cages can be used only if they provide each hen with at least 750 cm² of cage area, a nest-box, litter, perches and claw-shortening devices, allowing the hens to satisfy their biological and behavioural needs.
On the 26 of January 2012, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice asking Greece and Italy, together with 11 other EU Member States to take action to address deficiencies in the implementation of the EU legislation concerning the welfare of animals, and specifically to implement the ban on “un-enriched” cages for laying hens which applied as of 1st January 2012. This was followed by a reasoned opinion on the 21st of June 2012. Of the 13 Member States that received letters requesting them to correctly implement this directive, only two Member States remain non-compliant.
Full compliance by all Member States is essential to avoid market distortions and unfair competition. Lack of enforcement of the ban of “un-enriched” cages put businesses that invested in complying with the new measures at a disadvantage.
Greece and Italy so far, despite repeated calls by the Commission to address the situation, have failed to adequately comply with applicable EU law. The Commission looks forward to these Member States ensuring compliance.