Under the terms of the treaty establishing the EU, there is a clear difference between the definitions for trade and imports.
In relation to animal products:
- Intra-Union trade or trade refers solely to the movement of animals or animal products between the EU countries
- Introduction, as it covers transit with or without storage in the EU, has generally replaced the word "import" for animal products. Imports refers solely to the movement of animals or animal products into the EU countries from non-EU countries.
Every day, meat, milk and other products of animal origin are traded or introduced into the EU. In order that all these products 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 trade and imports are laid down in specific Council Directives.
In general, the requirements are harmonized between the Member States. To ensure that harmonisation is maintained, meat, milk and other products of animal origin must be produced in an authorised establishment, usually under the supervision of an official veterinarian. Further random checks on the products may also be carried out at the final destination.
In addition to the general health requirements, specific requirements for animal products may be required during evolving disease situations in the EU countries. Specific animal health certificates may be needed in those cases.
Additional requirements for introduction are set out in specific Commission Decisions. These lay down health certificates which must accompany all animal products when introduced into the EU. These documents must be signed by an official veterinarian of the competent authority of the exporting third country guaranteeing that the conditions for import into the EU have been met.
On arrival in the EU, the animal products and the accompanying certificates must be verified and checked by EU official veterinarians at a designated Border Inspection Post. Further checks on the products may also be carried out at the final destination.