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European Commission - Press release

Services Directive: the Commission refers Germany, Austria and Greece to the Court over incomplete transposition of the Directive

Brussels, 27 October 2011 – The Commission has decided to refer Austria, Germany and Greece to the Court of Justice, and to ask the Court to impose penalty payments on these Member States, on the ground that they have so far only partially transposed the Services Directive (2006/123/EC). The Directive on services in the internal market was adopted on 12 December 2006 and the time-limit for its transposition was 28 December 2009. Twenty-two months have elapsed since the transposition time-limit expired.

For the first time the Commission has made use of the new possibility offered by the Lisbon Treaty to request the Court, as soon as a case is referred, to impose daily penalty payments on Member States that have not fully transposed the Directive by the time the judgment finding it has failed to fulfil its obligations is delivered. From January 2010 the Commission initiated proceedings against Member States that had failed to transpose the Directive on time. The three Member States now concerned by the referral are the only ones that have not yet fully transposed the Directive.

Services constitute 70 % of the European economy. But unjustified or disproportionate administrative requirements are still putting a major brake on the development of service activities. Businesses, in particular smaller ones, are unable to take advantage of the opportunities available to them, whether they want to do business at home or abroad. Citizens, in particular consumers, are as a result denied access to a wider and better range of services.

According to conservative estimates the potential economic benefits of the Services Directive are somewhere in the range of 60-140 billion euros, representing an annual growth potential of 0.6-1.5 % of EU GDP.

The penalty payments requested of the Court are € 44 876.16 for Austria, € 141 362.55 for Germany and € 51 200.10 for Greece. These penalties have been set taking into account the different situations in the Member States and accordingly the seriousness of the infringements. The financial penalties requested consist of daily penalty payments which would have to be paid from the date of the Court's judgment (assuming that there is no compliance by then) until transposition is completed.

What is the aim of the EU rules in question?

The Services Directive aims to improve the functioning of the Single Market for services, which is currently the EU’s major source of growth and job creation. The Directive requires EU countries to remove unjustified or disproportionate legal and administrative barriers to the setting up of businesses and the provision of cross-border services in the EU. It also aims to dismantle unwarranted barriers affecting service recipients (whether consumers or businesses) wanting to have access to services from other Member States. Proper implementation of the Directive will contribute to making freedom of establishment and the free provision of services a practical reality for European businesses and consumers.

The challenge of implementing the Services Directive

The three Member States affected by the Commission’s decision have already notified a certain number of measures adopted to implement the Services Directive. Nevertheless, not all of the necessary implementation measures have been adopted. Austria has yet to pass any horizontal transposition laws while in Germany three measures have still to be adopted (one at federal level and two at regional level). In Greece a whole series of measures has yet to be adopted, especially in economically important sectors such as tourism and personal and business services. A law on private employment agencies and a law on estate agents and sales representatives, for example, have still to be adopted.

Background

In June 2010 the Commission asked the three Member States, in the form of reasoned opinions, to notify the measures that they had already adopted to implement the Services Directive (see IP/10/821). In April 2011 the Commission sent them supplementary reasoned opinions drawing their attention to the Commission’s new possibility to request financial sanctions when referring a case to the Court.

Further information

On the Services Directive:

http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/services/services-dir/news_en.htm

The most up-to-date information on infringement proceedings concerning all Member States:

http://ec.europa.eu/eu_law/index_en.htm

On the implementation of the new infringement rules:

http://ec.europa.eu/eu_law/infringements/infringements_260_en.htm

For more information on EU infringement procedures, see MEMO/11/739

Contacts :

Chantal Hughes (+32 2 296 44 50)

Catherine Bunyan (+32 2 299 65 12)


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