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Single Market: first Scoreboard highlights strengths and weaknesses
Commission Européenne - IP/97/1017 19/11/1997
Brussels, 19 November 1997
Single Market: first Scoreboard highlights strengths and weaknesses
Outstanding Single Market Directives will be implemented across the EU by 1 April 1998 if Member States respect the timetables they have now set themselves, according to the first edition of the Single Market Scoreboard issued today. In addition, the Scoreboard confirms that the vast majority of Member States have put in place structures to allow citizens and business to seek rapid redress when they encounter problems exercising their Single Market rights. However, the Scoreboard also reveals disturbing delays in Member States responses to formal infringement proceedings and that some Member States fail to reply at all. The Scoreboard is a new tool for citizens, economic operators, Member States and the EU institutions to assess the application of Single Market rules, in terms of implementation of Directives, outstanding infringement procedures and progress with applying the Action Plan for the Single Market (see IP/97/478). As announced in the Action Plan, which was endorsed by the Amsterdam European Council, the Scoreboard will be published twice a year, notably for the attention of the EU's Council of Internal Market Ministers and the European Council.
"The effective implementation of Single Market Directives promised by the Member States will make a significant difference to citizens and economic operators, given that at the moment more than 25% are still not in one or more Member States, which means that the Single Market is still far from complete" commented Single Market Commissioner Mario Monti. "However, it will require a major political effort by the Member States to meet the legislative deadlines they have promised to meet, and I will be pursuing infringement cases in all cases where measures are not implemented on time. Concerning infringement procedures, the Scoreboard reveals that many Member States' attitude is unacceptably lax because they fail to respect infringement procedure deadlines or fail to reply at all. It is essential that infringement procedures are accelerated and made more effective."
The Scoreboard has been established because effective application of Single Market rules is essential to the Single Market fulfilling its potential to promote employment, competitiveness and sustainable growth. The crucial importance of effective application of Single Market rules was reflected in the Action Plan and has just been reconfirmed by the business survey conducted for the Commission to accompany the Scoreboard (see MEMO/97/ ). The Scoreboard allows different aspects of the application of Single Market rules to be monitored.
Implementation of Directives
As of 1 November 1997, there were still 359 out of 1339 Single Market Directives not implemented in all Member States, some 25% of the total. The overall rate of non-implementation varies from around 3% in Denmark and in the Netherlands to around 8% in Germany and around 10% in Austria. The sectors where non-implementation in one or more Member States is the greatest problem are transport (60%), public procurement (55.6%) and intellectual and industrial property (50%). Some Member States (France and Spain) are on average around two years or more late in meeting implementation deadlines.
Percentage rate of non-implementation of Single Market rules, 1.11.97
All Directives: Single Market Directives are defined as those measures that contribute most directly to the establishment and functioning of the Single Market. A list is regularly updated and distributed to the Member States. The figures exclude Directives not notified for Gibraltar and the Aland Islands.
Primary Directives: all Single Market Directives excluding those which amend earlier Directives.
However, all Member States have now submitted for the first time detailed timetables for implementing outstanding Single Market Directives, as required by the Action Plan. Although detailed timetables have not been supplied for all of the outstanding Directives (98% in the case of Sweden to just 19% in Italy), the Scoreboard concludes that the bulk of outstanding Single Market Directives would be implemented by 1 April 1998 if the notified legislative timetables are respected. Moreover, if the legislative programmes submitted by the Member States are met in full and on time, the 1 January 1999 target for full transposition of Single Market Directives is within reach. On the other hand, respecting the timetables submitted will require a very substantial acceleration of legislative procedures. Unfortunately, there is still no date set for implementing around 15% of outstanding Directives and some Member States have indicated they will be unable to meet the 1.1.99 deadline for some Directives. Future editions of the Scoreboard will therefore keep track of actual implementation.
Problem-solving and enforcement
The Single Market will not operate effectively until its rules are fully respected and any problems arising are resolved quickly and effectively, which is why both the Action Plan and the Amsterdam European Council emphasised the necessity of more rapid and effective procedures for problem-solving. The Action Plan addresses both formal infringement procedures and informal arrangements for cooperation on enforcement and problem-solving between Member States. The two systems are interdependent, in that successful and rapid bilateral/multilateral resolution of complaints between Member States depends at least to some extent on the perceived threat of efficient infringement procedures.
With a view to reinforcing existing cooperation and ensuring rapid, cost-effective resolution of Single Market problems encountered by citizens and business, the Action Plan required Member States to designate coordination centres, set up contact points in their administrations to which citizens and business may address problems and provide information about their own structures and procedures for enforcing Single Market rules. The Scoreboard reveals that all Member States except Greece (and to a lesser extent Italy and Luxembourg) have notified the required details concerning the contact points. The challenge is now to make sure that citizens and business are aware that these contact points exist (one of the functions of the dialogues with business and with the citizen to be launched in 1998 to raise awareness of Single Market rights) and that Member States work together to resolve problems raised. The situation reported in the Scoreboard concerning enforcement structures and procedures is less encouraging, with only eight Member States having notified the Commission.
Concerning infringement proceedings, the Scoreboard analyses Member States' record on responses to letters of formal notice and reasoned opinions (respectively the first and second stages of formal infringement proceedings under Article 169 of the Treaty). Member States are required to respond to infringement letters within the established deadlines not only by the Action Plan, which they have endorsed, but also by their legal obligation under the EC Treaty to cooperate with the Commission. These deadlines are normally set at two months, but the Scoreboard reveals that the average response time is almost twice that, with some Member States taking 150 days or more (Portugal, Italy and Belgium). Moreover, Member States failed to reply at all to 18% of letters of formal notice and 11% of reasoned opinions.
Average recorded response time (in days) to letters of formal notice and reasoned opinions in 1996
- No reasoned opinions addressed to these countries in 1996
The existence of an infringement procedure does not mean there is a proven breach of Community law only the Court of Justice may rule definitively on the matter. However, an infringement procedure does indicate that the Commission, either on the basis of its own inquiries or following a complaint, considers that there may be a violation. During the period 1.9.96 to 1.9.97, the Commission issued letters of formal notice in 242 cases of incorrect implementation and incorrect application of Single Market rules and reasoned opinions in 68 cases. It also referred Member States to the Court of Justice for alleged breaches of Single Market rules in 27 cases. During the reference period, Italy (40) and France (35) received most letters of formal notice and France (13) and Spain (11) received most reasoned opinions. Belgium (6), France (5) and Germany (4) were the countries referred most often to the Court.
Most infringement cases are resolved before reaching the Court. Of cases related to Single Market rules on which the Court ruled in the period 1.9.96 to 1.9.97, most were against Belgium (9) followed by Italy (7). In the same period, there were 19 infringement cases pending against Member States (including 1 before the Court) for failure to comply with a Court ruling for breach of Single Market rules (5 against Ireland, 4 against Italy).
The full text of the Scoreboard is available on the Internet via the EU's Europa World Wide Web site: