The European Commission has proposed that European Union nations ban the use of great apes for scientific experiments and restrict the use of animals for research and testing.
"It is absolutely important to steer away from testing on animals," EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in a statement.
"Scientific research must focus on finding alternative methods to animal testing, but where alternatives are not available the situation of animals still used in experiments must be improved," he added.
Under the proposed EU law, great apes could be used only when the research would help the survival of the species or help fight the outbreak of a disease life-threatening to humans.
EU countries have not conducted experiments on great apes for nine years, unlike the United States and Gabon, an official working for Mr Dimas said.
Apart from great apes, some 12 million animals are used in experiments throughout the EU each year, according to the bloc's executive arm.
The commission said that an outright ban on the use of animals for safety testing and research was not possible, but proposed that "their use must be fully justifiable and the expected benefits must outweigh the harm caused to the animals."
"The proposal would also ensure that animals receive suitable care and treatment such as appropriately sized cages and an environment adapted to each species. These provisions would be continually monitored," the commission said.