Brussels, 24 June 2010
EU law: Commission acts to ensure that European legislation is fully and properly implemented
In its monthly package of infringement decisions, the European Commission is pursuing legal action against 27 Member States for failing to comply properly with their obligations under EU law. These decisions cover many sectors. They aim at ensuring proper application of EU law for the benefit of citizens and businesses. The Commission has taken 330 decisions, including 45 complaints taking Member States before the EU's Court of Justice, and 4 decisions related to failure to respect a previous Court ruling.
Formal complaints before the Court of Justice (Art 258)
In accordance with the provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the Commission has decided today to take several Member States to Court for failing to comply with their legal obligations under EU law. Before referring a Member State to the Court, the Commission first requests information from the Member State concerned and then, if necessary, formally requests the Member State to comply with EU law. More than 90% of infringement cases are resolved before they reach the Court.
Internal Market: The Commission has acted to ensure the compliance with the Treaty rules on free movement of capital by referring Austria to the Court of Justice over the acquisition of agricultural real estate in Vorarlberg (Austria). Under rules applied in the region of Vorarlberg, if a non-farmer wants to acquire agricultural land, any farmer may notify his interest to buy the land at the usual local price. No appropriate exceptions to this pre-emption mechanism are applied, making it difficult for non-farmers to invest in the region, even for agricultural purposes. ip/10/810
Public procurement: The Commission has referred Greece to the Court of Justice over the direct award of a public service contract for the management of hazardous medical waste in Attica without following a public tender procedure in line with EU public procurement rules. : IP/10/814
Internal Market : In order to ensure that EU citizens and businesses fully benefit from the Internal Market, the Commission has referred Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, France, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Sweden to the Court of Justice for late implementation of the Shareholders' Rights Directive. The Directive introduces minimum standards to ensure that shareholders of companies whose shares are traded on a EU regulated market have timely access to the relevant information ahead of the general meeting and simple means to vote at a distance. ip/10/815.
Public procurement: The Commission has acted to ensure fair access to public contracts by referring Slovakia to the Court of Justice. The Commission considers that Slovakia has breached EU public procurement rules by not opening up a contract for legal services relating to motorway construction projects to EU-wide competition. : IP/10/816
Medical devices: The Commission has decided to refer Estonia to the Court of Justice for not implementing the revised Medical Devices Directive (2007/47/EC) within the deadline (December 21, 2008). IP number: IP/10/823
Veterinary devices: The European Commission has decided to refer Estonia to the Court of Justice for not implementing Directive 2008/13/EC (which repealed Directive 84/539/EEC on electro-medical equipment used in veterinary medicine). IP 10/825.
VAT: The European Commission has decided to refer The Netherlands, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, United Kingdom, the Czech Republic and Denmark to the Court of Justice with regard to their failure to respect their obligations under EU law as regards VAT grouping rules. VAT grouping is allowed for the purpose of administrative simplification under the VAT Directive, which gives Member States the option to treat those who are legally independent but closely bound to one another by financial, economic and organisational links as one single taxable person. IP/10/795.
Taxation: The European Commission has decided to refer France to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failure to comply with Community rules on the super-reduced rate of VAT for first performances and for limiting the quantity of manufactured tobacco that can be purchased in other Member States IP/10/793.
Rail Services:The Commission has decided to refer 13 Member States (Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain) to the Court of Justice for failing to correctly implement various parts of the basic EU legislation on opening the EU's rail market to competition, known as the "first railway package" (Directives 91/440/EEC, as amended, and 2001/14/EC). . IP/10/807
Environment: The Commission is taking four Member States (Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Greece) to the Court of Justice for failing to implement EU environmental legislation into their national laws. Belgium is being referred to Court concerning EU rules on end of life vehicles, Luxembourg concerning groundwater and drinking water legislation, Germany concerning EU rules on the access and use of spatial data related to the environment and Greece concerning landfill rules. IP 10/830 …..
Asylum procedure: The Commission has referred Belgium and Ireland to the Court of Justice for not completing the implementation of EU rules determining minimum standards to be respected in the framework of procedures for granting and withdrawing refugee status. : IP/10/808.
Public sector information: The European Commission has decided to refer Poland to the Court of Justice over incorrect implementation of an EU Directive on the re-use of public sector information such as digital maps, meteorological, legal, traffic, financial, economic and other data. IP/10/801:
Enforcing Court rulings
When, despite a first ruling by the Court, a Member State still fails to act, the Commission warns the Member State in writing. In case of continued lack of appropriate action by the Member State, the Commission may take the Member State back to Court, and can request the Court to impose a lump sum penalty and/or a daily penalty payment on the Member State concerned. This procedure is based on Article 260 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Water waste treatment: The Commission is referring Belgium back to the Court of Justice for its failure to bring the country's waste water treatment up to the standards required by EU law. The Commission has asked the Court to impose a lump-sum fine of more than €15 million and a daily penalty payment of nearly €62,000. Despite an earlier Court ruling in the long-running case, some 40 agglomerations still remain listed as not complying with EU legislation. The Commission is also sending Luxembourg a fresh warning that it will be taken to the Court of Justice (ECJ) for the second time with the possibility of fines over the same issue. Both Member States are still not complying with the 1991 Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, despite having been condemned by the Court of Justice for this. IP/10/835:
Professional qualifications: The Commission has referred Luxembourg to the EU's Court of Justice for not complying with a judgement of the Court of Justice in 2008 (C-223/08). The Court ruled that Luxembourg had failed to fulfil its obligations to implement a Directive that would extend the scope of common rules on the recognition of professional qualifications to citizens from Romania and Bulgaria. As Luxembourg has still not complied with the Court judgement and has not implemented the Directive in full, the Commission has now decided to refer the case back to the Court again will ask the Court to impose financial penalties on Luxembourg of 14 280 euros per day from the date of the first Court ruling until the second Court ruling and 4 760 euros per day from the date of the second Court ruling until Luxembourg complies with the Directive. IP number: IP/10/817
Medical devices: The Commission has formally requested Greece to comply with a Court judgement from 2009 (C‑489/06), when the Court ruled that Greece had failed to fulfil its obligations under common EU rules on harmonisation as well as the public procurement directives by rejecting offers from suppliers of medical equipment bearing the CE marking. The Commission considers that Greece has not taken the necessary measures to comply with the judgement of the Court as several Greek public hospitals still continue to reject such offers. In the absence of compliance, the Commission may refer the case for the second time to the Court and ask it to impose a lump sum or penalty payment. IP/10/814
Background on legal process
Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFUE) gives the Commission the power to take legal action against a Member State that is not respecting its obligations under EU law.
The infringement procedure begins with a request for information (a "Letter of Formal Notice") to the Member State concerned, which must be answered within a specified period, usually two months.
If the Commission is not satisfied with the information and concludes that the Member State in question is failing to fulfil its obligations under EU law, the Commission may then send a formal request to comply with EU law (a "Reasoned Opinion"), calling on the Member State to inform the Commission of the measures taken to comply within a specified period, usually two months.
If a Member State fails to ensure compliance with EU law, the Commission may then decide to refer the Member State to the Court of Justice. However, in over 90% of infringement cases, Member States comply with their obligations under EU law before they are referred to the Court. If the Court rules against a Member State, the Member State must then take the necessary measures to comply with the judgment.
If, despite the ruling, a Member State still fails to act, the Commission may open a further infringement case under Article 260 of the TFEU, with only one written warning before referring the Member State back to Court. If the Commission does refer a Member State back to Court, it can propose that the Court imposes financial penalties on the Member State concerned based on the duration and severity of the infringement and the size of the Member State (both a lump sum depending on the time elapsed since the original Court ruling and a daily penalty payment for each day after a second Court ruling until the infringement ends).
For current statistics on infringements in general, see: