Commission acts against Belgium, the Netherlands and France for non-compliance with EU law on animal experiments

July 18, 2003

Brussels, 17 July 2003

The European Commission has requested that the Netherlands and France comply with judgements of the European Court of Justice relating to an EU law on animal experiments. The law in question aims to ensure that, where animals are used for experimental or other scientific purposes, certain common animal protection provisions are applied across the European Union. The Court had found that the Netherlands and France had failed to adopt appropriate national legislation to implement the specific provisions of the EU law. The Commission's requests take the form of a letter of formal notice (the first stage of an infringement procedure under Article 228 of the Treaty). The Commission is also sending an additional final written warning or "Reasoned Opinion" to Belgium because it has failed to comply with the same law. In particular, the Commission is concerned that, despite recent modifications, Belgian legislation still allows too wide a scope for the experimental use of cats and dogs that have not been bred for the purpose.

The Netherlands

On 16 January 2003, the Court of Justice found that the Netherlands had failed to adopt the necessary measures to correctly transpose Articles 11 and 22(1) of the Animal Experiments Directive (Case C-2001/205). Article 11 concerns the release of animals that have been used for experimental purposes. It stipulates that an animal should be set free only when the maximum possible care has been taken to safeguard its well being and provided that its health allows this to be done and there is no danger to public health or the environment. This measure has not been transposed into Dutch law. Article 22(1) relates to the mutual recognition of experiments. The Netherlands has not taken appropriate measures to enable the validity of data generated by experiments carried out in other Member States (insofar as this is possible) to be recognised, in order to avoid duplication of testing.

France

On 12 September 2002, the Court of Justice found that France had failed to adopt the measures required to correctly transpose several articles of the Animal Experiments Directive (Case C-152/00) into French national legislation. France has not correctly transposed Article 22(1) or Article 7(3), which relates to the minimising of harm and suffering for experimental animals. Finally, France has not fully transposed Article 18(1), which relates to individual identification marks.

Belgium

The case against Belgium follows a Commission investigation into a complaint that the Belgian authorities were allowing too wide a scope for exemptions for the experimental use of cats and dogs that were not bred for the purpose. This is in breach of Article 19(4) of the Directive. In July 2001, the Commission decided to refer Belgium to the Court of Justice but, following the adoption and notification of new Belgian legislation, the referral was not made. However, the new legislation still proved unsatisfactory, and the Commission has, therefore, sent Belgium a second Reasoned Opinion (final written warning).

Background

The Animal Experiments Directive

The Animal Experiments Directive (1) aims to ensure that, where animals are used for experimental or other scientific purposes, certain common animal protection provisions are applied across the EU. The Directive includes controls on breeding centres for laboratory animals. It also defines general and specific criteria concerning the housing of animals, restrictions on their freedom of movement, the close monitoring of their physical condition, measures to prevent pain and undue suffering and the timely elimination of any physical defect or suffering. The relevant public authority must approve or register the centres, which must keep detailed records on the animals in their care.

Legal Process

Article 226 of the Treaty gives the Commission powers to take legal action against a Member State that is not respecting its obligations. If the Commission considers that there may be an infringement of Community law that warrants the opening of an infringement procedure, it addresses a "Letter of Formal Notice" (or first written warning) to the Member State concerned, requesting it to submit its observations by a specified date, usually two months.

In the light of the reply or absence of a reply from the Member State concerned, the Commission may decide to address a "Reasoned Opinion" (or final written warning) to the Member State. This clearly and definitively sets out the reasons why it considers there to have been an infringement of Community law and calls upon the Member State to comply within a specified period, usually two months.

If the Member State fails to comply with the Reasoned Opinion, the Commission may decide to bring the case before the Court of Justice.

Article 228 of the Treaty gives the Commission power to act against a Member State that does not comply with a previous judgement of the European Court of Justice. The article also allows the Commission to ask the Court to impose a financial penalty on the Member State concerned. The Commission will send a first written warning to the Netherlands and France.

For current statistics on infringements in general, please visit the following web-site:

http://europa.eu.int/comm/secretariat_general/sgb/droit_com/index_en.htm#infractions
(1) Council Directive 86/609/EEC on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States regarding the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes

DN: IP/03/1039 Date: 17/07/2003

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