The EC has sent what it called a ‘reasoned opinion’ to Belgium, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal, which it said had failed to comply with Directive 1999/74/EC.
These countries still allowed the use of un-enriched cages for laying hens, despite the ban coming into force on January 1, 2012. If they fail to inform the EC within two months of measures taken to ensure full compliance, the Commission warned it could refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
No reasoned opinions were sent to Bulgaria, Latvia and Romania. That’s because the EC is assessing the additional information provided by these Member States, which state that they are now fully compliant with the rules.
Essential to avoid unfair competition
In a statement, the EC said: “The Commission welcomes the efforts made by the Member States which have complied with the rules. However, full compliance by all Member States is essential to avoid market distortions and unfair competition.
“Member States who still allow the use of unenriched cages put businesses that invested in complying with the new measures at a disadvantage. To demonstrate compliance, Member States will need to show that all those establishments still using unenriched cages have either been transformed or closed.”
The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) is spearheading a scheme to keep eggs from producers not complying with the regulations out of the UK. It claims eggs from illegal sources are undermining the UK egg industry, which has invested substantial capital into enriched cages and ensuring it was fully compliant.
The BEIC has amassed the support of more than 5,400 people for an online campaign to keep eggs from illegal sources out of the UK.
The law requires that all laying hens must be kept in “enriched cages” with extra space to scratch and roost, or in alternative systems. Cages used must provide each hen with at least 750cm2 of space, a nest box, litter, perches and claw shortening devices, allowing the hen to satisfy biological and behavioural needs.
Member States were given 12 years to ensure a smooth transition to the new system and implement the directive.