On 20 September 2023, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) hosted a debate highlighting the achievements of the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) "Fur Free Europe". At its core, the initiative stands as a resounding call for a fur-free continent, pushing for a total ban on fur farming and on the sale of fur products within European markets.
The ECI "Fur Free Europe" has collected the backing of an astonishing 1.5 million European citizens, achieving the required thresholds in 18 Member States in less than 10 months. These figures reflect the outcome of the Conference on the Future of Europe and the most recent special Eurobarometer survey, both of which have resoundingly endorsed higher standards of animal welfare.
The European Commission's current commitment to revising animal welfare legislation during its current mandate is a crucial opportunity to achieve a fur-free Europe, urged Elise Fleury, organiser of the ECI and Campaign Lead for Eurogroup for Animals. In her statement, she called upon the EESC to endorse the inclusion of both bans in the upcoming proposal for new animal welfare legislation.
Tilly Metz, Member of the European Parliament and President of the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals, echoed this sentiment:
The swift success of the Fur Free Europe ECI underscores the profound concern among citizens for exploited animals and calls for decisive EU action. A mere improvement of animal welfare standards will not do in this case. It is high time that we end this cruel and unnecessary business.
On 12 October, the Fur Free Europe ECI will present its initiative at a public hearing organised by the European Parliament's Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and on Internal Market and Consumer Protection. The EESC will actively participate in this event to extend its support to the initiative. An upcoming EESC opinion will also specifically address the new proposals on animal welfare and animal transport conditions expected from the European Commission by the end of 2023.
EESC President Oliver Röpke lauded this successful initiative and stressed:
I want to revitalise the EESC's active participation in ECIs and give them a democratic stage to influence EU legislation. Rest assured, the European Economic and Social Committee will not only carefully follow but also actively contribute to further developments on this subject.
As a champion of citizen participation rights and the voice of civil society, the EESC has supported the idea of a citizens' initiative from the very beginning, fighting for a simple, understandable set of rules. Over the years the Committee has played a pivotal role in promoting ECIs, facilitating networking among stakeholders and organising informative seminars and annual events, such as the ECI Day. It also takes the lead in fostering interinstitutional cooperation between the competent EU administrations, acting both as a facilitator for emerging initiatives and an institutional mentor during the ECI evaluation phases.