On May 22 2014, the EU Court of Justice condemned Italy for infringement of the Council Directive 1999/74/EC of 19 July 1999 laying down minimum standards for the protection of laying hens.
This Directive also called the "laying hen Directive" came into force on January 2012 after a twelve years transition period during which Member States should take the necessary steps to comply with the Directive. In particular, the Directive provided that up from January 2012, rearing of laying hens in "traditional battery cages" would be prohibited, as well as the trade, import and export of eggs coming from these kinds of rearings. Consequently, since this date, only eggs coming from "enriched cages", barn eggs and free-range eggs are allowed to be produced and traded in the EU.
Despite the ban and the long transition time to apply it, and several "warnings" (within the preliminary infringement procedure) from the EU Commission, Italy has waited spring 2013 before starting to change its legislation, and the effects of the change have not been noticed before summer 2013. Therefore, the EU Commission decided to bring Italy in front of the EU Court of Justice for infringement following Article 268 TFEU.
According to the EU Commission, when the ban entered into force, there were still on the Italian territory 239 farms rearing 11,729,854 laying hens in non-enriched traditional cages.
To defend itself, Italy tried to argue that the delay in implementing the ban was resulting from problems existing in its internal legal order, and moreover during this time the trade of these illegal eggs was limited to the Italian territory. But the EU Court rejected these arguments and condemned Italy. The exact amont of the fine will be decided later.
Please find here the full text of the judgment (available up to now only in Italian): Judgment of the Court – 22 May 2014 "Commission v Italy", Case C-339/13 (not yet published)
Please also find here some more information about the EU laying Hens legislation: http://lawyersforanimalprotection.eu/eu-animal-welfare-legislation-and-reports/laying-hens/ and here: http://www.vier-pfoten.eu/our-focus/farm-animals-2/laying-hens/