Under the terms of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU, there is a clear difference between the definitions for trade and importation.
In relation to live animals:
- Intra-Union trade or trade refers solely to the movement of animals between EU Member States.
- Importation, or imports refers solely to the introduction of animals into the Member States from non-EU countries
Live animals are traded or imported everyday in the European Union. In order that all these animals can be moved safely avoiding the transmission of diseases - to either the public or other animals - the EU has laid down a wide range of animal health requirements.
The general animal health requirements that are applicable to both imports and intra-Union trade are laid down in specific Council Directives.
Regarding intra-Union trade, the conditions for trade are harmonised between the Member States. All live animals must travel with a health certificate validated by an official veterinarian specifying that the animals fulfil the basic animal health requirements as set out in the relevant Council Directives.
Further random checks on the animals may also be carried out at the final destination.
In addition to the general health requirements, in the event of a serious exotic disease outbreak within the Member States, specific requirements for trade in certain live animals may also be laid down in order to prevent the spread of the disease.
For importation, additional animal health requirements are set out in specific Commission Decisions. These lay down health certificates which must accompany all animal imports. In general, these certificates must be signed by an official veterinarian of the competent authority of the exporting non-EU country guaranteeing that the conditions for import into the EU have been met.
On arrival in the EU, the animals and the accompanying certificates must be verified and checked by EU official veterinarians at a designated Border Inspection Post (BIP). Further checks on the animals may also be carried out at the final destination.