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Document 52003AE0582

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the "Proposal for a Council Regulation establishing a system for the identification and registration of ovine and caprine animals and amending Regulation (EEC) No. 3508/92" (COM(2002) 729 final — 2002/0297 (CNS))

OJ C 208, 3.9.2003, p. 32–34 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)


Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the "Proposal for a Council Regulation establishing a system for the identification and registration of ovine and caprine animals and amending Regulation (EEC) No. 3508/92" (COM(2002) 729 final — 2002/0297 (CNS))

Official Journal C 208 , 03/09/2003 P. 0032 - 0034

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the "Proposal for a Council Regulation establishing a system for the identification and registration of ovine and caprine animals and amending Regulation (EEC) No. 3508/92"

(COM(2002) 729 final - 2002/0297 (CNS))

(2003/C 208/08)

On 7 February 2003 the Council decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 251 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on the above-mentioned proposal.

The Section for Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 1 April 2003. The rapporteur was Mr Donnelly.

At its 399th plenary session on 14 and 15 May 2003 (meeting of 14 May), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 119 votes to 1, with 3 abstentions.

1. Introduction

1.1. The potential of animal and animal product movements to transmit diseases from one region to another has long been recognised. The objective of safe trade in animals has therefore always been an objective when free movement of animals is considered. If disease has been transmitted the tracing of animals is essential in order to carry out epidemiological studies.

1.2. Prior to the completion of the internal market Council Directive 90/425/EEC of 26 June 1990 required that animals for intra-Community trade be identified and registered in such a way that the original or transit holding, centre or organisation could be traced. Council Directive 91/496/EEC of 15 July 1991 made similar requirements on animals entering the Community.

1.3. Whereas Council Directive 90/425/EEC required the extension of these requirements to the movement of animals within the territory of each Member State before 1 January 1993, Council Directive 92/102/EEC of November 1992 increased the requirements of Member States with regard to the identification and registration of animals. This was an important step, bearing in mind the abolition of veterinary checks at frontiers with the completion of the single market.

1.4. Council Directive 92/102/EEC set out minimum requirements for the identification and registration of animals, which included inter alia the following provisions:

- that Member States maintain a register of holdings;

- that the keepers of cattle, pigs sheep and goats keep a register stating the number of animals present on the holding;

- that Member States ensure the following general principles:

a) that identification marks must be applied before animals leave the holding of birth and

b) that no mark be removed without the permission of the competent authority.

1.5. Article 10 of Council Directive 92/102/EEC requires that the Commission would report not later than 31 December 1996 with a view to defining a harmonised Community identification and registration system and decide on the possibility of introducing electronic identification arrangements. The Committee highlights that the mentioned deadline was not met. Furthermore on 17 April 1998 the Commission submitted a report on the identification and registration of animals(1) and a large-scale project on livestock electronic identification (IDEA) was launched in 1998.

1.6. Whereas Article 5 of Council Directive 92/102/EEC lays down specific rules with regard to ear-tagging requirements and specific age requirements for registration of bovines, none of these requirements are laid down for sheep and goats. The establishment of national databases for and the recording of animal movement of bovines has already been introduced through amendment of Council Directive 64/432/EEC as an element of a system of surveillance networks.

1.7. The lack of a Community system for the identification, registration and efficient method for the tracing of sheep movements needed to be addressed in light of recent experiences.

2. Gist of Proposal

2.1. The proposal foresees reinforcing Council Directive 92/102/EEC in particular with regard to the introduction in each Member State of an identification system that ensures that animals bear an identification mark and that all movements are recorded with the aim of tracing animals for health reasons. The provisions of Council Directive 92/102/EEC, specifically relating to ovine and caprine animals, will no longer apply.

2.2. Whereas the report of the IDEA project demonstrated that a substantial improvement in tracing ovine and caprine animals can be reached by using electronic identifiers, pending the development of implementing measures for the proper launch, 2006 has been set as the date of introduction.

2.3. The proposed system for identification and registration covers the following elements:

- means of identification to identify animals individually;

- up-to-date registers on each holding;

- movement documents;

- a central register; and

- a computer database.

2.4. According to the proposal, all animals born on holdings in the EU or intended for intra-Community trade shall be identified. Concerning animals from third countries, they will be subjected to identification only if it is intended that they will remain in the Community territory. Furthermore, it is not necessary to identify such animals if directly transported from the veterinary border-inspection post to the slaughterhouse situated in the same Member State and slaughtered within 14 days from check.

2.5. Animals born after July 2003 or intended for intra-Community trade will have to be identified in accordance with Section A of the Annex. This requires the use of two ear tags on each animal containing a unique individual number. One ear tag will be substituted with an electronic identifier from 2006. However, Member States may authorise this substitution as from 1 July 2003, in compliance with specific measures, ensuring the reading of the electronic identification throughout the EU. There is a derogation in relation to the requirement of a unique individual number for animals intended for slaughter before the age of six months. These animals will however have to be tagged in both ears and the ear tags will have to contain at least the two-letter country code, the identification code of the holding of birth and the month of birth.

2.6. Animals will have to be identified within a period determined by the Member State as from the birth of the animal. This must be done within a month of birth; however, where animals are in extensive farming conditions or in free range, this period may be extended to six months.

2.7. Also, as from 1 July 2003, whenever an animal is moved it must be accompanied by a movement document issued by the competent authority and completed by the keeper with the information about the animal(s) and the movement.

2.8. From 1 July 2004 a database must be put in place by Member States containing information on all holdings, including the number of animals updated at regular intervals.

2.9. From 1 July 2005 each movement will be entered into a database in order to support the tracing of animals electronically. This will be done in a batch format as applies to pigs at present.

2.10. It is important to stress that according to the proposal, each Member State is free to choose the model of the means, the method of identification in accordance with the specifications laid down, as well as the model of the movement document and the model of holding register to be used within their territory. The Member States are obliged to communicate the models to the Commission and the other Member States.

3. General comments

3.1. The EESC believes that there is an urgent need for developing an efficient and effective method of rapid tracing and identification of the animals in the EU. The system would be of crucial importance in the event of an outbreak of a contagious disease.

3.2. The EESC therefore supports the Commission's proposal.

3.3. The EESC supports the elaboration of a regulation which will ensure a consistent implementation in all Member States and facilitate possible future amendments, which may be required from the experience in the field.

3.4. The EESC notes that potential problems may arise in the context of enlargement in relation to the establishment of an effective system of animal identification and registration.

3.5. The Commission foresees the entry into force of this proposal in July 2003, however the EESC would recommend extending the timetable for such implementation.

4. Specific comments

4.1. The EESC notes that the final report from the 2002 IDEA project (first launched in 1998) recommended the setting-up of an electronic identification system and supported the necessity to put in place a clear and unambiguous legislation and registration system of the animals. The EESC favourably notes the recommendations of the IDEA project aimed at the implementation of a EU harmonised system based on the following principles: implementation guidelines available at EU level, creation of a databank at EU level concerning common glossary, common dictionary and communication standards for the data management of livestock-related information at Community level. The databank would work as a mean of information and registration related to the animals, the holdings, the identification, the movements, and the possible slaughter.

4.2. The EESC would like to highlight that the proposal does not foresee the implementation of a harmonised and centralised system of registration and identification of the animals, leaving the Member States free to set up their own national system and bounding them to communicate to the other Member States and the Commission. With a view to the forth-coming enlargement, the EESC considers this as a missed opportunity. Given the intra-community nature of animal trade, operators and local authorities would benefit from having access to a European centralised identification and registration system, which would establish an effective European traceability system.

4.3. The EESC looks forward to implementation measures for the proper introduction of the proposed system of electronic identification on a Community scale. Improvements also need to be promoted in third countries in order to improve protection and reduce risks of introducing disease to the EU.

4.4. The EESC notes that the identification and traceability system will not be applied to animals from third countries not intended to remain in the Community territory. The EESC is concerned about this derogation, which might produce a lack of information on certain movements of animals, facilitate fraud and limit the achievement of a full traceability system in the EU. The EESC suggests developing and implementing a traceability system for this category of animals as well, in order to include them within the scope of the proposal.

4.5. The Committee addresses the situation of ovine and caprine animals freely wandering in the open land and eventually joining a group of animals identified and registered according to the proposal. As this scenario is not foreseen by the proposal, the Committee calls for its consideration and regulation in order to avoid possible negative consequences for farmers in case of official controls.

4.6. The EESC is conscious of the falling market value of ovine animals, which may be exacerbated as a result of the proposed reforms of the CAP. It therefore asks the Commission to report before the proposed deadline of 1 July 2006 on the costs of electronic identification and identifiers.

4.7. The EESC believes that the introduction of electronic identification must not compromise the viability of producers and meat establishments and therefore proposes that funding is made available if costing threatens the viability of enterprises.

4.8. The EESC proposes that a feasibility study is carried out by the Commission on the possibility of linking of National databases and the ANIMO system in order to ensure the most rapid tracing in the event of an outbreak of contagious disease.

Brussels, 14 May 2003.

The President

of the European Economic and Social Committee

Roger Briesch

(1) COM(98) 207 final.