The European Union
The European Union is a unique economic and political collaboration between 28 member countries, first established in 1985 by six countries. Originally, the idea of the European Union was that countries that depend on each other for trade, will not that easily end up in violent conflicts. As the Union developed further, the central government was not only involved in economic issues anymore, but also in wider policy areas. This includes for instance issues regarding the climate, environment and public health.
A variety of European institutions leads the European Union, some of which are directly elected by the Unions citizens. These institutions lay down legislation for the entire Union. These regulations for instance lay down requirements for food safety and animal health control. This ensures all member states act on the same basic level of safety, hygiene and quality. In most cases, member states are allowed to add higher standards, as long as the countries at least comply with all EU regulations.
The European Union puts a lot of focus on being transparent in its decision making process and other procedures. In this light, the Eur-Lex website houses all relevant EU legislation and is publicly accessible.
Each member state has its own competent authority in place. In the Netherlands, this is the NVWA. These authorities ensure companies implement the relevant legislation properly. The Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of the European Union in its turn supervises the national authorities. The FVO performs regular inspections in all member states, to assure the countries keep performing on an equally high level.
Within the European Union, there is a single internal market. This means that goods and humans can transfer between EU member states without borders, as if moving within a single country. For movement of live animals, registration systems are in place, to ensure the competent authorities know where animals are at any given moment in time.
The EU institutions control imports into the European Union at a central level. Only the EU can grant market access to third countries. The local competent authorities then again perform the inspections at the border.
Currently, for export either the individual member states (bilateral agreements) or the EU as a whole can negotiate with third countries. The competent authority of the country of export issues animal health certificates after ensuring all requirements that the country of destination asks for are complied with.