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Brussels, 6th January 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 13 Member States for failure to implement in national law one or more of five different Internal Market Directives. The Commission will ask Belgium, Denmark, Greece, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Finland and the UK to implement quickly the necessary legislation in a total of 26 cases covering Directives on motor insurance, cultural goods, electronic commerce and the issuing of electronic money. These requests will take the form of reasoned opinions. Should a Member State which has received a reasoned opinion fail to give a satisfactory reply within two months, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court of Justice. In line with this, and after sending reasoned opinions in July 2002, the Commission will take Belgium, Germany, Spain, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria and Portugal to the European Court of Justice for failure to implement the Directive on the legal protection of designs.

Reasoned opinions will also be sent to nine Member States over non-implementation of Directive 98/44/EC on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions (see IP/02/1928).

According to the Commission's latest Internal Market Scoreboard, published in November, (see IP/02/1644) ten years after the opening of Europe's frontiers, 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 2.1% in November. This deficit is the percentage of EU Internal Market laws currently in force which Member States have not yet passed into national law. 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.

Motor insurance

The Commission will send reasoned opinions to France, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK for non-implementation of the Fourth Motor Insurance Directive (2000/26/EC) by the agreed date of 20 July 2002.

Only four Member States - Germany, Austria, Finland and Sweden - respected that deadline ; therefore, this year the Commission sent letters of formal notice to the other eleven Member States. In the meantime, Denmark and Spain have also completed the transposition of this Directive into national law. Belgium has also adopted almost all the necessary legislation to implement the Directive .

In the absence of adequate implementation of the Directive in the remaining eight Member States, drivers from one Member State involved in an accident with a car registered and insured in another Member States will still have to face serious difficulties to claim compensation quickly.

Unlike the first three motor insurance Directives, the fourth Directive covers instances when the accident takes place outside the victim's Member State of residence (visiting victims). The Directive also applies to accidents between two EU parties in any of the 40 or so countries covered by the Green Card system.

It aims to facilitate and speed up the settling of claims by allowing victims to directly refer to the insurer of the liable party rather than having to refer to the liable party him or herself. Every insurer is required to nominate a claims representative in every EU Member State, so an accident victim will be able to deal with a representative of the liable insurer in his or her own Member State and language.

Under the Directive, Member States are also required to:

  • impose sanctions to accelerate compensation, where liable insurers take more than three months to make a reasoned reply to a compensation request;

  • establish information centres to deal with motor vehicle insurance issues in general, so as to make it easier for accident victims to find out who insures the liable party;

  • establish a compensation body to settle claims in cases where there is no claims representative or where the insurer is too slow to settle. This body will then claim the money back from the compensation body of the Member State where the insurer is established.

Cultural goods

The Commission has decided to send reasoned opinions to Belgium, France and Luxembourg as these Member States have not notified the Commission their national measures implementing Directive 2001/38/EC of 5 June 2001, which amends Council Directive 93/7/EEC on the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a Member State. Member States had agreed to implement the Directive by 31 December 2001.

On the one hand, Directive 2001/38/EC establishes that the definition of a cultural good does not depend on its financial value. In this regard, it specifically modifies the annex of Directive 93/7/EEC, with the aim to clarify that certain goods, such as early printed books or manuscripts, are to be considered as cultural goods independently of their monetary value.

Directive 2001/38/EC also converts into euros the previous ECU figures for the value thresholds above which cultural goods are covered by the earlier Directive 93/7/EEC. For non-euro zone Member States, the Directive sets out value thresholds based on exchange rates applying on 31 December 2001 and subject to periodic and automatic revision.

Electronic commerce

The Commission has decided to send reasoned opinions to Belgium, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal for failure to notify national measures implementing Directive 2000/31/EC on electronic commerce.

The Directive requires Member States to establish a legal framework, which ensures the free movement of information society services throughout the European Union and which allows electronic commerce to benefit fully from the Internal Market.

The Directive entered into force on 17 July 2000. The deadline for Member States to transpose it into national law was 17 January 2002. Member States approved this short implementation period because they agreed that that it was urgent to set up a legal framework for electronic commerce.

The Commission is aware that the Member States concerned are making major efforts to transpose the Directive in the shortest possible time and that draft laws are under discussion in all those Member States. However, in the absence of a formal adoption of these laws, the Commission has decided to continue the infringement procedures.

Electronic money institutions

The Commission will send reasoned opinions to Belgium, Finland, France and Greece for failing to adopt the measures necessary to comply with Directives 2000/28/EC and 2000/46/EC on the taking up, pursuit of and prudential supervision of the business of electronic money institutions (see IP/98/727).

Electronic money means a surrogate for coins and bank notes stored on an electronic device normally a chip card, electronic purse (for example the Proton system in Belgium) or a computer memory - which is accepted by undertakings other than the issuer for the purpose of making electronic payments of limited amounts. It is necessary for e-money to be redeemable to ensure bearer confidence. Redeemability should always be understood to be at par value.

The Directives aim to facilitate the development of electronic commerce within the EU by establishing minimum rules for ensuring that institutions issuing electronic money are stable and sound, thus promoting confidence amongst business and consumers.

The Directives also aim to prevent any distortion of competition between electronic money issuers, in particular between traditional credit institutions and other firms issuing electronic money.

In order to respond to the specific risks associated with the issuance of e-money prudential supervision must be targeted and, accordingly, less cumbersome than the prudential supervision applying to credit institutions.

The agreed deadline for implementation was 27 April 2002.

Legal protection of designs

The Commission has decided to refer Austria, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, to the Court of Justice for their failure to implement into national law Directive 98/71/EC on the legal protection of designs. The Directive was adopted in 1998 and Member States themselves agreed to implement it no later than 28 October 2001.

Ensuring a high level of protection for industrial property throughout the Internal Market is essential to encouraging investment in manufacturing. The Directive aims to ensure coherence between those national provisions of design law which most directly affect the functioning of the Internal Market.

In particular the Directive:

  • defines what constitutes a "design"

  • establishes the criteria for protection (a design has to be new and have an individual character)

  • fixes the duration of protection (minimum of 5 years and maximum of 25 years)

  • fixes the scope of protection (the right holder has the exclusive right to use the design and to prevent any third party from using it)

  • establish limits to the design right (for example, it would not normally cover inter-connections between components)

  • establishes rules on the nullity of the registration of a design.

Design holders will be able to choose to register designs under national law as harmonised by the Directive, or to take advantage of a one-off process for obtaining protection throughout the EU, by registering them as "Community designs" with the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market in Alicante, in line with the Regulation on Community Designs adopted in December 2001 (see IP/02/1803).

In a letter of formal notice of 5 December 2001, the Commission reminded those Member States which had not yet implemented the Directive of the need to take steps to comply with their obligation.

Some Member States implemented the Directive during the first half of 2002. On 1 July 2002, the Commission decided to send a formal request asking those Member States that still had not complied with their obligations to do so. Today, the Commission has begun the last phase of the infringement procedure by referring the above mentioned seven Member States to the European Court of Justice.

Information concerning current infringement procedures against all Member States is available on the Europa website:

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