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Brussels, 28 October 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 216 decisions, including 9 complaints taking Member States before the EU's Court of Justice, and 2 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. Around 95% of infringement cases are resolved before they reach the Court.
Data protection (Austria): The Commission has decided to refer Austria to the Court of Justice regarding the lack of an independent data protection authority. The Commission considers that provisions setting up the Austrian data protection authority do not conform to EU rules, which require Member States to establish a completely independent supervisory body to monitor the application of the 1995 Data Protection Directive. See IP/10/1430
Land transport (Austria/Ireland): The Commission has decided to refer Austria and Ireland to the EU's Court of Justice over their failure to fulfil their obligations to implement Directive on the inland transport of dangerous goods in their national legislation. The directive should have been fully implemented by June 2009. Failure to implement the directive can put citizens and the environment at risk and create distortions of competition between operators in different Member States. See IP/10/1422
Free movement of goods (Belgium): The Commission has decided to take Belgium to the EU Court of Justice over its rules relating to the registration of used cars imported from another Member State, notably the requirement to present a certificate of conformity for an imported vehicle and failure to recognise the validity of roadworthiness tests undertaken in other Member States. Under Directive on the registration documents for vehicles, the registration of a used car should be possible upon presentation of a valid harmonised registration certificate issued in another Member State. See IP/10/1431
Public procurement (Czech Republic): The European Commission has referred the Czech Republic to the EU's Court of Justice for not complying with its obligation under EU law to award public supply contracts on the basis of public tenders. The Commission is concerned that the Czech Republic has breached EU public procurement rules by not opening up a public contract for four military transport aircraft to EU-wide competition. See IP/10/1438
Free movement of goods (Finland): The Commission has decided to take Finland to the EU Court of Justice for failing to implement into national law Directive, which sets up a system for identification and traceability of explosives for civil uses. The Directive, which was due to be implemented into national law by April 2009 and applied by April 2012, will allow explosives to be identified and traced from their production site to the final user. See IP/10/1432
Environment (France): The Commission is asking France to comply with EU environmental legislation in the area of flood prevention and risk management. Member State has failed to inform the Commission about the transposition of this legislation, which should have been in place by November 2009. The Commission has concluded that France's flooding legislation contains a number of shortcomings. See IP/10/1423
Environment (Malta): The Commission is referring Malta to the European Court of Justice for failing to bring EU environmental legislation into force. Under EU law, strategic noise maps had to be drawn up by June 2007. Malta does not yet have ambient noise maps at a national level, despite several letters from the Commission issued under ongoing infringement proceedings. See IP/10/1416
Environment (Sweden): The Commission is referring Sweden to the European Court of Justice over industrial installations that are operating with permits that are now out of date. The permits of at least 26 installations have not yet been reconsidered or updated. Under European law, the permits should have been issued by October 2007. Permits are only issued if a number of environmental criteria are met. See IP/10/1412
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 (Italy): The Commission has decided to refer Italy to the Court of Justice for failure to implement a European Court of Justice decision ordering the recovery of illegal and incompatible state aid from utilities with a majority public capital holding. Although the relevant Court judgement dates back to 2006 and in spite of the progress recently made in the recovery, the Italian authorities have still not notified the Commission that the recovery has been successfully completed. 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 of 65.280 euros for each day after the second Court ruling until the infringement ends and a lump sum of 7.140 euros per day for the period between the 2006 Court judgement and the second Court ruling. These payments would act as an incentive to ensure that the illegal aid was recovered rapidly from the beneficiaries. See IP/10/1401
Environment (Italy): The Commission is referring Italy to the European Court of Justice for failing to implement a Court ruling from 2004 concerning landfills near Milan. The landfills in question are known to contain some hazardous waste, and are a threat to local water and air. Six years after the Court ruling, one landfill has been removed, but two others concerned by the ruling have not yet been cleaned up. With today's decision, the Commission is asking the Court to impose fines composed of a daily penalty payment of 195.840 euros from the date of the second Court ruling until compliance with the state aid decision, and a lump sum corresponding to 21.420 euros per day from the date of the first Court ruling until the second Court ruling. See IP/10/1402
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: