Brussels, 26 April 2013,
On 25th April 2013, the EU Commission announced that Greece and Italy will be refered before the EU Court of Justice for infringement of Directive 1999/74/EC ("the laying hens directive"). This is the last step of the infringement procedure laid down by Article 258 TFEU.
If the EU Court of Justice recognizes the infringement, Italy and Greece may be condemned to high lump sum or penalty payment following the proposal done by the EU Commission.
Then the EU Commission will be responsible to enforce the judgment and check if the condemned Member States are taking all the necessary steps to be in compliance. If after the expiration of the delay fixed bythe judgment, the EU Commission estimates that the States are still not in compliance, the EU Commission may bring this States again before the EU Court of Justice for a second infringement judgment. In practice this is quite rare as States prefer to avoid having huge fines to pay.
As noticed by the official press release of DG SANCO, "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."(1)
The Directive 1999/74/EC entered into force in January 2012 after a twelve years transition period. It improved the condition of rearing of laying hens by prohibiting the use of the traditional barren cage in favour of enriched cages. On January 26 2012, the EU Commission has started infringement procedures against 13 Member States by sending a letter of formal notice (Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Romania). Then on June 21 2012, EU Commission dropped charges for Bulgaria, Latvia and Romania and decided to follow the infringement procedure for Belgium, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal by sending a reasoned opinion. Finally, after a 10 month delay, the EU Commission estimated that Italy and Greece are still not in compliance with the ban and decided to step forward and bring these Member States in front of the EU Court of Justice which may statute on the infringement and the sanctions.
For more information on the infringement procedures, please consult http://www.vier-pfoten.eu
(1) Official Press release of EU Commission of 25/04/2013, "Animal Welfare: Commission refers Greece and Italy to Court for failure to enforce ban on cages for laying hens" IP/13/366