The European Ombudsman has opened an inquiry into the European Commission’s (EC) failure to publish a legislative proposal to phase-out and ultimately ban cages for farm animals, in line with its official answer to the End the Cage Age European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI).
Eurogroup for Animals and numerous other animal protection organisations wrote to the European Commission in October after it unexpectedly backtracked on the commitment to bring forward legislation banning cages in 2023, and did not provide any clarity on when it would be published.
In June 2021, the EC promised that by the end of 2023, it would put forward a legislative proposal to phase out and finally prohibit the use of cages, a commitment which it re-stated and reinforced on numerous occasions. The EC had generated legitimate expectation among citizens that legislation would be forthcoming, creating a case of maladministration.
After not receiving a response from the EC, in November 2023, Eurogroup for Animals and several of its members made an official maladministration complaint to the European Ombudsman against the EC for failure to uphold its commitment to an ECI in which 1.4 million citizens asked for a ban on cages and failure to appropriately communicate its position.
The complaint raises the issue of the EC undermining the rules that govern ECIs and the very credibility of the democratic participatory process they represent. In the run up to the European elections in June of this year, this is a particularly poor signal to send to citizens.
The European Ombudsman has now asked the EC to send an official reply to Eurogroup for Animals and all the other complainants by the end of January.
Reineke Hameleers, Chief Executive of Eurogroup for Animals, said, “The opening of the inquiry of the European Ombudsman sends a clear signal that the democratic tool of the ECI should not be undermined. Citizens are using the tools at their disposal to make their voice heard on issues that matter. We expect the European Commission to follow through on its commitment, and we continue asking for a timeline indicating when the promised proposals will be published.”