Today's Annual Report on monitoring the application of EU law sets outhow the Commission monitored and enforced EU law in 2017. The online Single Market Scoreboard, also published today and marking the 25th anniversary of the EU Single Market, shows that whilst most barriers to the free movement of persons, services, goods and capital are being eliminated, in some fields the situation is stalling or even worsening.
The effective application of the law is essential in order to guarantee that citizens and businesses enjoy the benefits of EU law. Any rule, no matter how carefully drafted and prepared, is only as effective as its implementation In driving forward its policy priorities, the Commission therefore pays attention not only to proposing new legislation, but also to ensuring that it is properly applied and enforced. For instance, in 2017, the Commission acted firmly in enforcing rules in the areas of data protection, migration, consumer protection, the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing or air quality.
At the same time, the cooperation between the Commission and the Member States in close partnership remains key in implementing EU law and in addressing any problems that may occur. Throughout the year, the Commission assisted Member States in their preparation for the entry into force of the General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679).
Annual Report on Monitoring the application of EU law in 2017
The Annual Report for 2017 shows a slight decrease (by 5.91%) of open infringement cases compared to the previous year. Thus after reaching a five-year peak in 2016, the number of cases started to level off in 2017 (see Chart 1). However, each failure to correctly apply EU law denies citizens and businesses the rights and the benefits they enjoy under European law. In the area of environment, for example, the full transposition and implementation of the Directive on reducing the use of plastic bags is essential to address citizens' growing concerns about plastics.
The Chart 2 (below) provides an overview of the situation for each Member State. For late transposition cases, Belgium, Cyprus, and Portugal had the highest amount of open cases, whereas the fewest were open in Italy, Denmark, and Hungary. Spain, Italy and Germany had the highest number of cases pending for incorrect transposition and/or wrong application of EU law, while Denmark had the lowest total number of open cases last year.
The policy areas in which most infringement cases were opened in 2017 were mobility and transport, environment as well as financial stability, services and capital markets (see the Chart 3).
Combating late transposition of directives
For citizens and businesses to reap the benefits of EU law, it is crucial that Member States transpose European directives into their national legal order within the deadlines they had committed to.
In 2017, the number of new infringement procedures relating to late transposition decreased sharply by 34% (from 847 cases in 2016 to 558 in 2017) and is closer to 2015 level (543 cases). The Commission launched new infringement procedures against a majority of Member States for failure to transpose the Directives on the use of plastic bags, on waste and on the roadworthiness of vehicles.
To facilitate timely and correct transposition, the Commission continued to assist Member States by preparing implementation plans, dedicated websites and guidance documents, and by exchanging best practice in expert groups' meetings. For example, ahead of the entry into force of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 25 May 2018, the Commission published already in January 2018 detailed guidance to help Member States apply the new rules in time.
Last year, the Commission referred five Member States to the Court of Justice of the EU requesting that financial penalties be applied: two cases against Belgium, two cases against Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain (one case each).
Single Market Scoreboard 2018
The Single Market Scoreboard gives a detailed and accurate overview of the state of the implementation of the EU Single Market rules in the European Economic Area (EEA) in 2017. It evaluates how the EU and EEA Member States apply these rules and identifies the shortcomings where the countries and the Commission should step up their efforts.
Depending on their performance in 2017, Member States were given 152 green, 135 yellow and 49 red cards. The cards indicate in what areas they performed excellent (green), average (yellow) or below average (red).
The overview (see Chart 4 below) shows that Member States have improved in the recognition of professional qualification, the transposition of the Single Market-related rules and the development of tools supporting the good functioning of the Single Market on the ground (Your Europe, e-Certis, and EURES). But compared to the previous edition of the Scoreboard, Member States have also received more red cards in the areas of openness to cross-border trade in goods and services, fairness of public procurement systems and the number of infringement proceedings.
In general, the best performing countries were Finland, Denmark and Slovakia, while the highest number of red cards was given to the Czech Republic, Ireland and Greece.
The Commission reacts to citizens' complaints
Citizens, businesses, NGOs and other stakeholders can report suspected breaches of EU law through an online complaint form accessible via the Europa portal Your rights. In 2017, the majority of complaints concerned justice and consumer rights, employment, EU Single Market, industry and SMEs matters. As part of the complaint form, SOLVIT can help citizens and businesses solve their problems with a public authority in another EU country.
Since 1984, following a request made by the European Parliament, the Commission presents an Annual Report on monitoring the application of EU law during the preceding year. The European Parliament then adopts a resolution on the Commission's report.
As a matter of priority, the Commission targets problems where its enforcement action can make a real difference and provide real added value to individuals and businesses. In the division of responsibilities between the European institutions, the European Commission has general responsibility to initiate the legislative process. The Council and the European Parliament decide on the Commission's proposals. The Member States are responsible for the timely and correct application, implementation and enforcement of EU law in the national legal order. The Commission closes this circle: once its proposals are adopted as EU law, it monitors whether the Member States are applying this law correctly and takes action if they are not. The Commission should therefore act firmly and quickly when infringements obstruct the achievement of EU policy objectives. In this vein, the Commission recently set out its more strategic approach to enforcement in terms of handling infringements, in line with its commitment to be "bigger and more ambitious on big things, and smaller and more modest on small things".
The annual Single Market Scoreboard evaluates how Member States:
- implement EU rules;
- create open and integrated markets (e.g. public procurement, trade in goods and services);
- handle administrative issues concerning foreign workers (e.g. professional qualifications);
This year marks 25th anniversary of the EU Single Market. The anniversary edition of the Single Market Scoreboard evaluates performance in four policy areas, two areas regarding market openness and integration, and 13 governance tools.
For More Information
a) Annual Report on Monitoring the application of EU law in 2017:
- On the general EU infringement procedure, see a full MEMO of 17/01/2012.
b) Single Market Scoreboard (edition 2018):
 Commission vs Belgium (C-543/17). The Commission referred Belgium to the Court for failing to fully implement the Directive on measures to reduce the cost of deploying high-speed electronic communications networks. It proposed a daily penalty of € 54 639.36. In a second case (Commission vs Belgium, C-564/17), the Commission referred Belgium to the Court for failing to fully implement the Single Permit Directive. It proposed a daily penalty of € 70 828.80.
 Commission v Croatia (C-381/17). The Commission referred Croatia to the Court for failing to fully implement the Mortgage Credit Directive. It proposed a daily penalty of € 9 865.40. In a second case (Commission vs Croatia, C-415/17), the Commission referred Croatia to the Court for failing to fully implement the Directive on statutory audits of annual accounts and consolidated accounts. It proposed a daily penalty of € 9 275.20.
 Commission vs Slovakia (C-605/17). The Commission referred Slovakia to the Court for failing to fully implement the Directive on measures to reduce the cost of deploying high-speed electronic communications networks. It proposed a daily penalty of € 10 036.80.
 Commission vs Slovenia (C-594/17). The Commission referred Slovenia to the Court for failing to fully implement Council Directive on requirements for budgetary frameworks of the Member States. It proposed a daily penalty of € 7 099.20.