Key facts of the case:
- Combating epizootic diseases is a legitimate aim for the European Union (‘EU’) legislature. However, the new system for the individual electronic identification of sheep and goats, introduced by Council Regulation (EC) No 21/2004 of 17 December 2003 establishing a system for the identification and registration of ovine and caprine animals and amending Regulation (EC) No 1782/2003 and Directives 92/102/EEC and 64/432/EEC, (2) is unsuitable for the attainment of that objective, unnecessarily burdensome and costly, as well as discriminatory. As such, that regulation breaches the freedom of animal keepers to conduct business, enshrined in Article 16 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’), and the principle of equality under Article 20 of the Charter, and is therefore invalid.
- That, in essence, is the main argument raised by Mr Herbert Schaible (‘Mr Schaible’), a German keeper of sheep with 450 ewes, in proceedings before the Verwaltungsgericht Stuttgart (Stuttgart Administrative Court) (Germany) which he had brought against the Land Baden-Württemberg in order to be released from a number of obligations laid down in Regulation No 21/2004.
- In this Opinion, I will try to illustrate why it is my view that the legal arguments raised by Mr Schaible are not well founded. Accordingly, I will propose that the Court state in reply to the national court that consideration of the questions referred has not disclosed any factor of such a kind as to preclude the validity of the provisions at issue. Lastly, to the extent that my analysis shows that the practical application of that regulation can potentially constitute an obstacle to the full achievement of its overarching aim and the overall fairness of the system, I will briefly present some considerations de lege ferenda.
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
The Court answer the question referred for a preliminary ruling by the Verwaltungsgericht Stuttgart (Germany) as follows:
Consideration of the question referred for a preliminary ruling has disclosed nothing to affect the validity of
- the animal keepers’ obligation under Articles 3(1) and 4(2) of Council Regulation (EC) No 21/2004 of 17 December 2003 establishing a system for the identification and registration of ovine and caprine animals and amending Regulation (EC) No 1782/2003 and Directives 92/102/EEC and 64/432/EEC to identify individual animals,
- the animal keepers’ obligation under Article 9(3)(1) of Regulation No 21/2004 to identify individual animals electronically, or
- the animal keepers’ obligation under Article 5(1) of Regulation No 21/2004, read in conjunction with point B(2) of the Annex thereto, to keep holding register C.