Background on European Citizens’ Initiatives (ECI)
European citizens have the right to ask the Commission to propose legislation on a matter on which they consider that an EU legal act is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties. As prerequisites, the request must be within the scope of the Commission’s legal powers and the organisers of the initiative must collected at least one million supporting signatures from at least seven Member States. In case of a successful initiative, the Commission responds by way of a communication. In the communication, it assesses the initiative from legal and political perspective and outlines the actions it intends to take, if any, its reasons for doing so and the envisaged timeline for these actions. Detailed information on ECIs is available on the dedicated Commission's ECI webpage, in the ECI-Regulation and, in view of the COVID-19 outbreak, in Regulation (EU) 2020/1042.
‘End the Cage Age’
The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) ‘End the Cage Age’ calls on the Commission to propose legislation to prohibit the use of cages for EU farmed animals for:
- laying hens, rabbits, pullets, broiler breeders, layer breeders, quail, ducks and geese;
- farrowing crates for sows;
- sow stalls, where not already prohibited;
- individual calf pens, where not already prohibited.
Within one year, the organisers of the ECI, with the support of more than 170 non-governmental organisations across Europe, collected 1.4 million signatures from supporters throughout the EU. Detailed information on this ECI is available on the website of the organisers and on the dedicated Commission's 'End the Cage Age' webpage.
Response of the Commission
On 30 June 2021, the Commission decided to positively respond to the ECI. In its communication, the Commission sets out plans for a legislative proposal to prohibit cages for a number of farm animals. The proposal will come as part of the ongoing revision of the animal welfare legislation under the the Farm to Fork Strategy.
In particular, the Commission’s proposal will concern:
- Animals already covered by legislation: laying hens, sows and calves;
- Other animals mentioned in the ECI: rabbits, pullets, layer breeders, broiler breeders, quail, ducks and geese.
For these animals, the Commission has already asked EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) to complement the existing scientific evidence to determine the conditions needed for the prohibition of the use of cages. The legislative proposal, which will include a proposal for the date of entry into force of the prohibition, is foreseen for the end of 2023 and will be part of the planned revision of EU animal welfare legislation.
In parallel to the legislation and to facilitate a balanced and economically viable transition to cage-free farming, the Commission will seek specific supporting measures in key related policy areas, such as trade and research and innovation. In particular, the new Common Agricultural Policy will provide financial support and incentives – such as the new eco-schemes instrument – to help farmers upgrade to more animal-friendly facilities in line with the new standards. Additionally, Member States can draw from the Just Transition Fund and the Recovery and Resilience Facility to support farmers in the adaptation to cage-free systems.
The revision of the EU Animal Welfare legislation is already on-going as part of the objectives under the Farm to Fork Strategy. The “phasing out” of cages will also be included in this process.
In July 2021, the Commission started an Inception Impact Assessment with the publication of a Roadmap presenting the policy options envisaged to be examined in the Impact Assessment.
A public consultation will follow in the first quarter of 2022 (at the latest) and the impact assessment will be finalised by the end of 2022.
The legislative proposal will also be based on scientific opinions of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), already requested by the Commission to the Authority, the last of which is expected in the first quarter of 2023.
The impact assessment will constitute an important element since it will determine, in particular, the length of a reasonable transition period and the accompanying and supporting measures to facilitate the transition.
Amending legislation requires to take the time necessary to evaluate the expected impacts. Or, in other words, to do it right and as efficiently as possible. And proceeding as quickly as possible.
Please see the press release from 30 June 2021.
On the occasion of the adoption of its communication on ‘End the Cage Age’, the Commission has released a video.