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memo/11/162

Brussels, 14 March 2011

EU law: Commission acts to ensure that European legislation is fully and properly implemented

Infringement package: overview of press releases

In its monthly package of infringement decisions, the European Commission is pursuing legal action against 26 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 178 decisions, including 5 complaints taking Member States before the European Union's Court of Justice. In this package, 1 decision relates to failure to respect a previous Court ruling and might imply financial penalties.

Failure to respect deadlines for implementing Directives

The Commission has also adopted 2 decisions to request Member States to adopt implementing measures for Directives where the deadline has already passed and warned Member States that if they fail to do so they may not only be referred to the Court but also that the Commission intends to request the Court to impose a financial penalty on the Member State concerned. Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the Commission may now request the Court, the first time the case is referred to the Court, to impose financial penalties in cases where Member States have failed to implement Directives within the deadline agreed by the EU's Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.

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.

GMO controls (Poland): The Commission has decided to refer Poland to the EU Court of Justice for incorrect implementation of the European directive that concerns activities related to genetically modified micro-organisms. The Commission considers that Poland has failed to meet the Directive's requirements take all adequate measures to limit possible risk to human health and the environment, which might arise from such activities. See IP/11/293

GM feed ban (Poland): The Commission has decided to refer Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to fulfil its obligations under EU law by prohibiting the production, the placing on the market and the use of genetically modified feed. The Commission considers that by maintaining this ban Poland is not applying correctly the European regulation on genetically modified food and feed, which establishes a single authorisation procedure. See IP/11/292

Environment (France): The Commission is taking France to the European Court of Justice for failing to comply with EU rules on industrial emissions. Four years after the deadline, France is still failing to ensure that a number of industrial installations meet the requirements of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive designed to prevent industrial pollution. See IP/11/305

Digital Agenda (France / Spain): The Commission has decided to refer France and Spain to the EU's Court of Justice because they continue to impose specific charges on the turnover of telecoms operators in breach of EU law. In both France and Spain, these charges were introduced when they decided to end paid advertising on public television. The Commission considers the 'telecoms taxes' in France and Spain to be incompatible with EU telecoms rules, which require specific charges on telecoms operators to be directly related to covering the costs of regulating the telecoms sector. See IP/11/309

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.

Financial Services (Czech Republic): The Commission has decided to refer the Czech Republic to the Court of Justice for failure to respect a previous EU Court ruling on occupational pension funds, where Czech law still fails to fully comply with EU pension fund rules. The Court ruled in January 2010 that the Czech Republic had failed to fully implement EU law into national law before the 2005 deadline. The Commission sent a letter of formal notice to the Czech Republic in October 2010, requesting the Czech authorities to comply with the judgment. However, the legislation in question has still not been amended to bring it into conformity with EU law. The Commission has decided to ask the Court to impose on the Czech Republic a daily penalty payment of €22 364 for each day after the second Court ruling until the infringement ends and to impose a lump sum €5 644 per day for the period between the 2010 Court judgement and the second Court ruling. See IP/11/290

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).

In the specific case of Member States that have failed to implement Directives within the deadline agreed by the EU's Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, the Commission may request the Court to impose to impose a financial penalty on the Member State concerned the first time the Court rules on such a case, rather than when it is referred back for a second time. This possibility, introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, is laid down in Article 260 (3) of the TFEU.

For current statistics on infringements in general, see:

http://ec.europa.eu/community_law/infringements/infringements_en.htm


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