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ip/03/1005

Brussels, 14th July 2003

Internal Market: Commission moves against 13 Member States for failure to implement EU legislation

The European Commission has decided to pursue infringement procedures against thirteen Member States for failure to implement or for implementing incorrectly in national law various Internal Market Directives and EC Treaty obligations. The Commission will formally ask Belgium, Germany, Spain, Greece, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Finland, Sweden and the UK to implement quickly the necessary legislation in a total of 16 cases covering Directives on copyright and exchange of securities markets information, along with the Second Postal Services Directive. The Commission has also decided to request Greece to amend its legislation in order to implement correctly the First Postal Services Directive. These requests will take the form of "reasoned opinions", the second stage of the infringement procedure under Article 226 of the EC Treaty. Should a Member State which has received a reasoned opinion fail to give a satisfactory reply within the deadline (usually two months), the Commission may refer the matter to the European Court of Justice. In addition, the Commission has decided, under Article 228 of the EC Treaty, to send further reasoned opinions requesting France and Ireland to comply immediately with judgements of the European Court of Justice, requiring France to implement EU law on product liability and Ireland to ratify the Berne Convention for the protection of literary and artistic works (Paris Act, 1971). If the countries concerned do not comply, the Commission can ask the Court to impose daily fines.

“It is citizens and business that suffer from the late implementation of Internal Market measures in terms of the opportunity cost of less choice, less competition and closed markets”, commented Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein. “Member States themselves set the implementation deadlines for these Directives the least they can do is respect the goals they themselves have set”.

According to the Commission's latest Internal Market Scoreboard, published in May 2003, (see IP/03/621), the backlog of Directives not implemented on time by Member States has started to grow again. The “implementation deficit” rose from an average of 1.8% per Member State in May 2002 to 2.4% this year. This deficit is the percentage of EU Internal Market Directives which have not been written into national law after the deadline for doing so has passed. The recent rise follows a decade of continuous improvement that saw the deficit fall from an average of 21.4% per Member State in 1992.

Copyright and related rights in the Information Society

The Directive on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the Information Society (see IP/01/528) was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in May 2001. Member States agreed to implement it within eighteen months, before 22 December 2002.

The Directive is the European Union's response to the digital environment as it updates copyright protection to keep pace with technology. It aims to stimulate creativity and innovation by ensuring that all copyright material including books, films and music, is adequately protected. It provides a secure environment for cross-border trade in copyright protected goods and services, and will facilitate the development of electronic commerce in new and multimedia products and services.

The Directive harmonises the principal rights of authors and certain other rightholders and provides for certain exceptions to copyright and the protection of anti-circumvention measures and rights management information.

Moreover, it is the means by which the European Union and its Member States implement the two 1996 World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) "Internet Treaties", the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, which have adapted copyright protection to digital technology. This makes implementation all the more urgent.

Greece and Denmark met the December 2002 implementation deadline. Italy and Austria implemented the Directive in April and June 2003 respectively. The Commission has now decided to send reasoned opinions to the other eleven Member States (Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, Sweden and the UK) which are still in the course of implementation. Most of them have stated that they will implement during 2003 and Germany will do so during July, but the Commission, fulfilling its role as guardian of the Treaties and in order to ensure that European citizens and businesses get the benefit of the Directive as soon as possible, will pursue infringement procedures until all Member States have written the Directive into national law.

Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Paris Act)

In order to ensure that nationals from one country may also enjoy protection for their works in other countries, a number of international conventions have been concluded. The most important international convention covering authors is the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic works (1886). This Convention has subsequently been revised, most recently in 1971 (Paris Act).

European Union and European Economic Area Member States undertook to adhere to the Paris Act before 1 January 1995, but Ireland has not done so and therefore the Commission referred it to the European Court of Justice

On 19 March 2002, the Court declared that, by failing to adhere before 1 January 1995 Ireland had failed to fulfil its obligations under the EC Treaty. Ireland has still not yet adhered to the Paris Act and, therefore, has not complied with the Court's ruling. The European Commission has therefore decided to send Ireland a reasoned opinion under Article 228 of the Treaty. Should Ireland not comply within the prescribed time limits, the Commission may return to the Court and ask it to impose a fine.

Exchange of securities markets information

Directive 2000/64/EC on the exchange of securities markets information amends the provisions of several previous financial services Directives in so far as co-operation between supervisory authorities for financial services is concerned. It requires that Member States should conclude co-operation agreements with supervisory authorities of third countries only if professional secrecy rules applicable to the staff of supervisory authorities are also covered by such agreements.

In approving the Directive in the Council, Member States agreed to bring their national legislation into line with it by 17 November 2002. Finland and Greece have not yet informed the Commission of any measures taken to do so. Therefore, the Commission has decided to send reasoned opinions to these two Member States.

Postal services

The Commission is sending reasoned opinions to Austria, France and Greece for failing to implement the Second Postal Directive (2002/39/EC) by the agreed date of 31 December 2002. The Directive was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers in June 2002 (see IP/02/671, IP/02/406 and IP/01/1420).

Until national legislation is modified to reflect the obligations to which Member States committed themselves in adopting this Directive, companies will not be fully able to provide a number of postal services that the Directive has opened to competition. This may deprive citizens and businesses from enjoying the benefits expected from the liberalisation process, in terms of price and quality.

The Directive aims to further open postal services to competition in a gradual and controlled way, while allowing for the safeguarding of quality universal services (i.e the services required to be provided to all members of the public at an affordable price). Its main provisions require Member States to open certain market segments to competition in 2003 and 2006.

In January 2003, the Commission sent letters of formal notice the first stage of the infringement procedure - to the eight Member States that had not implemented the Directive by the agreed date. Since then, five Member States (Denmark, Spain, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal) have notified the Commission that they have written the Directive into national law.

Austria, France and Greece have also begun the implementation process and Austria and France have introduced some administrative measures to partially remedy the effects of the delay. Given that this delay is already over six months, the Commission will continue the formal infringement procedures against Austria, France and Greece to help ensure that any further delay is minimised.

The Commission has also decided to send a reasoned opinion requesting Greece to bring its legislation in line with the First Postal Directive (97/67/EC). The aim of this Directive is to introduce common rules for the development of the internal market in postal services and for the improvement of quality of service, including the safeguarding of the universal postal service.

The Directive prevents Member States from requiring companies to obtain an explicit decision from the authorities before commencing the provision of "non-universal" postal services, though registration or declaration procedures can be applied. Greece still requires such an explicit decision, which the Commission considers an unjustified obstacle to the provision of postal services.

Furthermore, the Directive specifies the conditions under which Member States can introduce a fund to compensate a universal service provider for the burden it may incur in meeting its obligations. Such funds aim to ensure the financial viability of the provision of the universal postal service. The Commission has requested Greece to modify the conditions under which companies operating non-universal services may be requested to contribute to such a fund, to bring them into line with the Directive.

Defective products

The Commission has decided to send France a reasoned opinion since it has still not complied with a judgement issued by the Court of Justice in 2002, in spite of a letter of formal notice sent by the Commission in April 2003 (see IP/03/581). In the judgement the Court found that the French law transposing the "liability for defective products" Directive did not conform to the Directive.

The Directive aims to ensure that consumers are sufficiently well protected throughout the European Union and to eliminate obstacles to the functioning of the internal market and distortions of competition arising from differences in national law in this area. Such differences could discourage the sale of certain products in certain Member States and thus limit the choices available to consumers, who may therefore also have to pay more than is necessary for the products concerned. The Directive has therefore provided a common framework for liability without fault.

For the latest information on proceedings concerning all Member States, consult the following site:

http://ec.europa.eu/secretariat_general/sgb/droit_com/index_en.htm


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