Brussels, 30 September 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 today 524 decisions, including 12 complaints taking Member States before the EU's Court of Justice, and 1 decision 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. Around 95% of infringement cases are resolved before they reach the Court.
Payment services (Poland): In order to ensure that EU citizens and businesses fully benefit from the Internal Market, the Commission has decided to refer Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to implement the Payment Services Directive (PSD) into its national law. See IP/10/1249.
Public procurement (Germany): The Commission has decided to refer Germany to the Court of Justice of the EU over the direct award of a public contract for renovation services in the municipality of Niedernhausen. The Commission is concerned that Germany has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU public procurement rules. These rules are there to ensure fair competition for public contracts, thereby creating more business opportunities for European companies while ensuring best value for public money. See IP/10/1245.
Public procurement (Hungary): The European Commission has today acted to ensure fair access to public contracts by deciding to refer Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU in two separate cases. In the first case, the Commission considers that the Hungarian Government central purchasing body breached EU public procurement rules during the award procedure of a framework agreement concerning office supplies. In the second case, the Commission takes the view that Hungary has wrongly implemented EU public procurement rules in its national legislation, in this way restricting access for business to public contracts. EU public procurement rules exist to ensure fair competition for public contracts, thereby creating more business opportunities for European companies while ensuring best value for public money. See IP/10/1240.
Public procurement (Greece): The European Commission has decided to refer Greece to the Court of Justice of the EU over the direct award of public service contracts for cadastral mapping and planning services by the municipalities of Vasilika, Kassandra, Egnatia and Arethousa. The Commission considers that Greece has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU public procurement rules. The aim of these rules is to ensure fair and transparent competition for public contracts in Europe, thereby creating opportunities for European companies while ensuring best value for public money. See IP/10/1242
Environment (Austria / Sweden): The European Commission is referring Austria and Sweden to the European Court of Justice for failing to bring EU environmental legislation into force. The two Member States have not yet adopted legislation on spatial data infrastructure at national level despite earlier action by the Commission. See IP/10/1241.
Home (Austria): The European Commission has decided to initiate procedures against Austria for failing to correctly transpose EU rules on conditions of admission of third-country students, in particular with regards to provisions allowing students to work with remuneration. See IP/10/1230
Education (Austria): The Commission to bring Austria before Court of Justice for not extending to EU students the reduced fares for public transport that are granted to Austrian students. See IP/10/1227
Energie (Poland): The Commission has decided to refer Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to comply with European rules on the granting of authorisations with regard to hydrocarbon resources. The rules in question are intended to contribute towards better integration of the internal energy market, reduce costs and strengthen economic competitiveness. See IP/10/1216
Digital Agenda (United Kingdom): The European Commission has decided to refer the United Kingdom to the EU's Court of Justice for not fully implementing EU rules on the confidentiality of electronic communications such as e-mail or internet browsing. Specifically, the Commission considers that UK law does not comply with EU rules on consent to interception and on enforcement by supervisory authorities. See IP10/1215
Agriculture (Czech Republic): The European Commission has decided to refer the Czech Republic to the Court of Justice for failure to amend its dairy product legislation. The Commission considers that the Czech dairy product's sales designation "Pomazánkové máslo" (EN butter spread) has to be changed since the product's milk-fat content does not meet the requirements set out in EU legislation to be called butter (“máslo” in Czech).See IP/10/1224
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.
State aid (Spain) : The European Commission has decided to refer Spain to the Court of Justice for failure to implement a previous Court ruling, which confirmed a Commission decision finding that aid granted to the Magefesa group was illegal and had to be recovered. Although over eight years have elapsed since the 2002 Court judgement, Spain has yet to complete the recovery procedure as regards Magefesa's Indosa subsidiary and the latter's own subsidiary CMD. Given that this is a referral to Court for failure to respect a previous Court ruling, the Commission has decided to ask the Court to impose a daily penalty payment and a lump sum. These payments would act as an incentive to ensure that the illegal aid were recovered rapidly from Magefesa's subsidiaries. See IP/10/1214
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: