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Brussels, 22nd January 2004

Internal Market: Commission refers eight Member States to the Court over failure to implement EU insurance law

The European Commission has decided to refer Belgium, Greece, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and the UK to the European Court of Justice as they have not yet implemented Directive 2001/17/EC (see IP/01/216), designed principally to guarantee consumer protection when insurance companies are wound up. The deadline for writing the Directive into national law was 20th April 2003.

Since the deadline, the Commission has taken all the procedural steps necessary under Article 226 of the Treaty to bring the cases to the Court (letters of formal notice followed by reasoned opinions). The speed of this procedure is an illustration of the Commission's determination to ensure that Member States implement correctly and on time the measures they have themselves agreed in the Council. Infringement proceedings against five more Member States Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Austria were closed in autumn 2003 as they notified the Commission of the national measures taken to implement the Directive. Germany has also very recently notified such measures.

Under the Directive, where an insurance undertaking with branches in other Member States fails, the winding up process is subject to a single set of proceedings initiated in the Member State where the insurance undertaking has its registered office (known as the home state) and governed by a single bankruptcy law that of the home state. This approach is consistent with the home country control principle that is the basis for the EU's Insurance Directives. In addition, the Directive ensures the protection of insurance creditors (such as policyholders and insured persons) by granting them preferential treatment when an insurance undertaking is wound up.

If EU Directives are not implemented into national law by the deadlines Member States themselves agreed, this creates an unlevel playing field and harms the competitiveness of the EU economy as a whole.

The Commission announced on 12 January (see IP/04/33) that only five Member States (Denmark, Spain, Ireland, Finland and the UK) had achieved the target set by the European Council of keeping their implementation deficits - the percentage of Internal Market Directives in force not written into national law by the agreed date below 1.5%. Belgium, Greece, France and Luxembourg, all of which are among the Member States now being referred to the Court over this insurance Directive have, deficits of 3% or more.

Recent information on infringement proceedings against Member States can be found at the following website:

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