15 November 2013
Ruža Tomašić (ECR)
There are currently seven agricultural products which Croatian farmers produce in sufficient quantities to satisfy demand on the Croatian marketplace. This short list of products includes hens' eggs, which illustrates their importance for the Croatian agricultural sector.
There are at present some 170 registered farms producing hens' eggs, with a total capacity of 2.4 million laying hens. Currently only nine farms, with a total capacity of 606 930 hens, are raising laying hens in enriched cages in accordance with EU standards.
The transition period of just one year for adapting to the new standards is the greatest problem facing Croatian egg producers, as it is almost impossible in the midst of the current economic crisis in Croatia to adapt production capacities in such a short timeframe.
I support adhering to what was agreed during Croatia's EU accession process, but I nonetheless feel that we must help Croatian egg producers to attain a level playing field with their counterparts in other Member States.
I therefore ask the Commission: is there a possibility of extending the transition period for Croatian egg producers to adapt to the new standards in view of the negative economic situation and the significant technical demands being made upon producers? Can the Commission recommend the best way to draw on EU funds in such circumstances?
12 February 2014
Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission
According to Article 5(2) of Council Directive 1999/74/EC(1) laying down minimum standards for the protection of laying hens, rearing in unenriched cages is prohibited from 1 January 2012. Article 6 of the directive lays down the requirements for enriched cages. A possible transitional period for a derogation from Article 6 was one of the items discussed between Croatia and the EU during the pre-accession negotiations.
The agreement reached and enshrined in Section 5(I) of Annex V to the Act of Accession of Croatia allows Croatia to keep laying hens in lay at the date of the accession in cages which do not comply with Article 6 of the directive for a period of maximum 12 months after accession, i.e. until 1 July 2014.
Directive 1999/74/EC does not provide for the possibility that Member States establish less stringent conditions for the protection of laying hens than the ones contained in the directive. Any decision to relieve Member States of their legal obligations under the directive can only be taken by the legislator.
Provided that it is inserted in the Croatian Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, under the EAFRD Regulation(2), support for farmers may be granted for investments to comply with EU legislation requirements for a maximum of 12 months from the date on which they become mandatory for the agricultural holding.
(1) OJ L 203, 3.8.1999, p.53.
(2) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p.21.