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Brussels, 24 November 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 317 decisions, including 21 complaints taking Member States before the European Union's Court of Justice, and 2 decisions related to failure to respect a previous Court ruling, with financial penalties.
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.
Budget (Portugal): The Commission has decided today to refer Portugal to the EU Court of Justice because of its failure to make an overdue payment to the EU budget. The payment, which Portuguese authorities failed to collect and transfer to the EU, was linked to surplus sugar stocks on a local producer. See IP/10/1567
Environment (Cyprus/Italy/Portugal/Spain): The Commission is urging Cyprus, Italy, Portugal and Spain to comply with EU air quality limit values for airborne particles known as PM10. These Member States have so far failed to effectively tackle excess emissions of PM10. According to the Directive, Member States should have transposed the legislation into national law before June 2010. See IP/10/1586
Environment (Estonia): The Commission is taking Estonia to the European Court of Justice for its incomplete transposition of a law designed to prevent industrial pollution for several years. The Commission signalled its concerns in 2008, but shortcomings remain. Issues include the incomplete transposition of several definitions, gaps in obligations concerning applications for permits, and problems with access to justice provisions. See IP/10/1579
Environment (Estonia/Poland): The Commission is referring Estonia and Poland to the European Court of Justice for failing to bring EU environmental legislation into force. These Member States have not yet adopted legislation on spatial data infrastructure at national level, despite reasoned opinions issued to all three countries under ongoing infringement proceedings The legislation was due by May 2009. See IP/10/1566
Environment (Poland): The Commission is taking Poland to the European Court of Justice for its insufficient transposition of nature protection legislation. The Commission has particular concerns about the provisions in Poland's national legislation for derogations from the strict protection offered by the Habitats Directive. The Commission has concerns about the Polish provisions for derogations from the strict system of protection offered by the Directive. See IP/10/1584
Environment (Poland): The Commission is referring Poland to the European Court of Justice for failing to comply with EU environmental legislation in the area of flood prevention. Poland has not notified the Commission that the legislation has been adopted, despite a reasoned opinion issued in June this year under ongoing infringement proceedings. The legislation should have been in place by November 2009. See IP/10/1568
Taxation (Belgium): The Commission has today referred Belgium to the EU's Court of Justice for only allowing tax relief on pension savings paid to Belgian institutions or, in the case of collective pension savings, only those invested in Belgian funds. The Commission considers these measures to contravene EU rules on the freedom to provide services and the free movement of capital as laid down in Articles 56 and 63 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFUE). The Commission had sent a reasoned opinion to Belgium in March 2010. See IP/10/1559
Taxation (Denmark/ The Netherlands/Spain): The Commission has today decided to refer Denmark, The Netherlands and Spain to the EU's Court of Justice for their provisions which impose an exit tax on businesses which cease to be tax residents in these countries. The Commission considers these provisions to be incompatible with the freedom of establishment as laid down in Article 49 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFUE). The Commission had sent a reasoned opinion to these three countries in March 2010. See IP/10/1565
Taxation (France): La Commission européenne a décidé aujourd'hui de traduire la France devant la Cour de justice de l'Union européenne pour non respect des dispositions de la directive relative à la taxation des produits énergétiques et de l'électricité. Comme la France n'a pas donné suite de manière adéquate à l'avis motivé adressé par la Commission mars 2010, la Commission a décidé de porter l'affaire devant la Cour de Justice de l'Union européenne. See IP/10/1575
Taxation (Ireland): The Commission has today decided to refer Ireland to the EU's Court of Justice over its application of a 4.8% reduced VAT rate for supplies of horses and greyhounds. This reduced rate is not in line with the provisions of the VAT Directive, and could cause a distortion of competition within the EU. The Commission had sent a reasoned opinion to Ireland in June 2010. See IP/10/1576
Taxation (Spain): The Commission has decided to refer Spain to the EU's Court of Justice over its tax provisions on the appointment of fiscal representatives. The Commission considers that these rules, which require certain non-resident taxpayers to appoint a fiscal representative in Spain, result in discriminatory treatment and are contrary to the freedom to provide services as laid down in Article 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFUE). See IP/10/1569
Medicinal products for animals (France): The Commission has today referred France to the European Court of Justice for not complying with EU law on harmonised authorisation procedures for veterinary medicinal products. The breach the Commission asks the Court to investigate is France's refusal to process applications for marketing authorisation for two veterinary medicinal products. See IP/10/1593
Rail package (Austria/France/Portugal): The Commission has today welcomed the improvements made by Austria, France and Portugal to their national rail legislation, and therefore reduced the scope of the infringement cases against them. Nevertheless, other substantive issues remain unresolved in all three countries and so the Commission will continue to pursue the cases before the EU's Court. Austria, France and Portugal were among the thirteen Member States that the Commission, back in June 2010, referred to the EU's Court of Justice for not implementing correctly the Directives of the "first railway package" on opening the EU's rail market to competition. See IP/10/1592
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.
Public procurement (Greece): The Commission has referred Greece back to the EU's Court of Justice because of its failure to apply EU rules on public procurement as regards contracts for supplies of medical equipment to hospitals. In the Commission's view, Greece continues to infringe EU law and has not complied with a Court judgment of 19th March 2009. The Court ruled that Greece had failed to fulfil its obligations under EU rules on common safety standards for products as well as on public procurement by rejecting offers from suppliers of medical equipment bearing the CE marking. As Greece has still not complied with the Court judgment, the Commission has now decided to refer the case back to the Court again and will ask the Court to impose financial penalties on Greece of 7.173,6 euros per day from the date of the original Court ruling until the second Court ruling, as well as 43.724,8 euros per day from the date of the second Court ruling until Greece finally complies with EU rules. See IP/10/1552
State aid (Spain): The Commission has decided to refer Spain to the European Court of Justice for failure to implement a Court ruling of December 2006, which declared that Spain had failed to recover incompatible state aid granted by certain Basque Provinces, as ordered by Commission decisions of July 2001. Although almost four years have elapsed since the judgment, Spain has yet to complete the recovery procedure. As this is a referral to the Court for failure to respect a previous Court ruling, the Commission has asked the Court to impose a daily penalty payment of 236.044,8 euros for each day after the second Court ruling until the infringement ends and a lump sum of 25.817,4 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 amounts are recovered rapidly from the beneficiaries. See IP/10/1544
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: