Application in the EU

The European Union (EU) has been applying the provisions of the CITES Convention since 1982, when the first community legislation came into force to implement the Convention. The Convention is implemented uniformly in all Member States, rather than at a national level, for the following reasons:

  • In keeping with the common trade policy adopted by the Member States, the EU has exclusive competence for the regulation of Foreign Trade.
  • The EU Customs Union means that there are no systematic border controls between Member States, thus allowing the free movement of goods among the Member States.
  • The EU has a common environmental policy, and likewise, community regulations on the protection and conservation of autochthonous species in the EU.

The CITES Convention is currently implemented in the EU, and consequently, in Spain, by means of Council Regulation (EC) 338/97, dated 9th December 1996, on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein, and by means of a further detailed Regulation, i.e., Commission Regulation (EC) 865/2006, which lays down detailed rules concerning implementation of the aforementioned Regulation (EC) 338/97. For further information, see the Legislation section on this website.

These Regulations represent the will of the EU to ensure uniform implementation of the CITES Convention in the Member States and in trade activities with third countries in order to guarantee adequate protection for species of wild flora and fauna by controlling trade therein. In many cases, this means stricter trade measures, which are also applicable to species that are not protected under the CITES Convention. Accordingly, the EU requires certain import documents that are not required under the CITES Convention. Further, the EU may prohibit or restrict imports of certain species and/or certain countries of origin, even when exports are authorized by the country of origin or source country.

This is achieved through periodic publication of an EU Regulation (referred to as the Suspensions Regulation), whereby the European Commission prohibits the introduction of certain wildlife species into the EU. The Scientific Review Group has the task of recommending the suspension of introductions from specific countries of origin into the EU of any species listed in Annexes A and B of Regulation (EC) 338/97 whenever the conservation status of that species might be seriously affected should introductions continue. The aforementioned Regulation also includes live specimens of invasive species that might be harmful to the natural environment of native wildlife species in the EU.

Although EU Regulations for CITES implementation are applied directly in the Member States, certain provisions have to be transposed into national laws when Member States have retained sovereignty over the matters referred to therein, e.g., sanctions.

In order to ensure that EU legislation is compatible with the provisions of the Convention, the Regulation provides that Member States should propose amendments to the CITES Appendices whenever the conservation status of non-CITES species that are protected by EU Regulations makes it advisable to do so.

Regulation (EC) 338/97 lists species in four Annexes, according to the level of protection granted, in decreasing order of protection: A, B, C, and D. The Annexes listing the different protected species are updated approximately every one to two years, and are published in an EU Regulation. For further information, consult the Legislation section.

  • Annex A: includes all species listed in Appendix I of the CITES Convention, some species from CITES Appendix II, some species from CITES Appendix III, and some non-CITES species (mainly autochthonous species from one or more EU Member States).
  • Annex B: includes all CITES Appendix II species, some CITES Appendix III species, and some non-CITES species.
  • Annex C: includes all other CITES Appendix III species not listed in Annexes A and B, with the exception of certain Appendix III species for which the EU has entered a reservation.
  • Annex D: has no equivalent in the Appendices to the Convention. It includes species that might be eligible for listing in one of the other Annexes, and for which EU import levels should therefore be monitored. The majority of species included in this Annex are non-CITES, or Appendix III species for which EU Member States hold a reservation.

EU regulations apply stricter import conditions for species listed in Annexes A and B than the applicable conditions under Appendices I and II of the Convention; accordingly, when trade of the species from the population concerned is considered to be sustainable, import permits are required and issued. There are also requirements to be met regarding housing and transport of live specimens, and further restrictions are applicable to internal trade in Annex A species.

Species listed in Annexes C and D require an import notification to be submitted at the point of introduction into the EU.

Member States may also adopt further national measures with regard to biological diversity and species conservation, animal and plant health provisions, animal care and welfare requirements, Customs regulations, etc.

Thus, the EU CITES Annexes involve different levels of protection for:

  • Species protected by the CITES Convention.
  • Species not included in the CITES Convention, but which are threatened with extinction.
  • Look-alike species that are listed to facilitate monitoring of species threatened with extinction.
  • Species that are accorded a higher level of protection under the EU Habitats and Wild Birds Directives.
  • Species whose introduction is known to represent a threat to certain native species of plants and animals in the EU.

In the EU, the import, export, and re-export of specimens of species included in Appendices I, II, or III of the CITES Convention and/or Annexes to EU Regulations can only be made at designated Customs entry points. CITES goods should be inspected and dispatched by Customs at these Border Inspection Points prior to the goods entering or leaving the EU.

The CITES Area of the EU Commission website includes a list of authorized EU places of introduction and export, i.e., Border Inspection Posts [PDF] [105.63 kB] (BIPs).

For further information, please consult the EU Commission Guidance [PDF] [32.54 kB] on CITES entry points.