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25th Jun 2022

MEPs call for common EU circus policy

The European parliament is set to vote on a report calling for standardised rules for circuses performing across the continent.

MEPs suggest circuses should be referred to as part of Europe's cultural heritage, but they disagree on whether they should include presentation of animals or not.

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The report contemplating the "new challenges for the circus as part of European culture" is to be voted on Thursday (13 October).

It covers three main areas: the education of children from travelling communities, health and safety standards and visa or work permit rules for artists from third countries, like Russia, Mongolia or China.

EU circus policy?

The parliamentary rapporteur, German centre-right MEP Doris Pack, argues the fact that circuses are generally mobile "highlights the need to look at their situation from a European point of view and consider EU measures in this area".

According to Arie Oudenes, from the European Circus Association (ECA), most circus companies represented in ECA have been in favour of putting more pressure upon member states to harmonise their rules, to simplify the movement of circuses from one country to another.

"It is very complicated for them to follow, say, different rules on tent quality or visa and work permits when moving from France, through Germany to the Netherlands, which is often the case", he said.

However, he admitted some companies fear the new rules could be stricter than the average standards in most countries "for which none of us are ready".

At the same time, circus owners from some member states, mainly Britain, argue they prefer national law-making in this area, as they have managed to protect their interests in all the controversial issues, including work permits for foreign artists.

With or without animals?

The report originally included reference to animal welfare measures, which Green MEPs tried to make stricter than those suggested by Mrs Pack.

In a bid to avoid a debate - which would in any case be outside the scope of the education and culture parliamentary committee - its MEPs voted down all references to animal welfare.

However, the document still contains a clause, suggesting "it would be desirable for it to be recognised that the classical circus, including the presentation of animals, forms part of Europe's culture".

According to Karen Bentolila from the Green group, its MEPs will try to water down this suggestion in a split vote tomorrow.

Mr Oudenes from ECA argues that the wording surrounding this issue will be crucial for traditional circuses.

"If we have a clear recognition by the European Parliament that 'classical circus' does include shows with animals, our position in some states will be much stronger when there is an initiative at national level to ban them", he suggested.

At the moment, Austria does not allow circuses to use any wild animals, while the Scandinavian countries ban some kinds of animals, such as lions and tigers.

Belgium is also currently drafting much stricter rules, effectively ruling out animals in circuses.

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