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Brussels, 19 May 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 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 320 decisions, including 6 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 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.
Animal health (France): The European Commission has decided to refer France to the Court of Justice of the European Union because it has not withdrawn national measures obstructing the trade of sheep and goat milk and products derived from such milk. France refuses to apply European regulation arguing that EU measures on scrapie control were not complete and thus it had to adopt its own national rules. See IP/11/601
Taxation (France): The Commission has decided to refer France to the EU's Court of Justice for discriminatory taxation of foreign pension and investment funds in breach of EU rules on free movement of capital. In particular, France does not grant a withholding tax exemption on dividends distributed by French companies to pension and investment funds established in the EU and in the European Economic Area (EEA) whereas it grants such an exemption if the pension and investment funds are established in France. See IP/11/603
Taxation (Spain): The European Commission has decided to refer Spain to the EU's Court of Justice concerning its illegal application of a reduced rate of value added tax (VAT) to general medical equipment, appliances to alleviate animals' physical disabilities and substances used in the production of medicines. These goods do not qualify for a reduced VAT according to the rules laid down in the VAT Directive, and the application of a reduced VAT rate may distort competition within the EU. See IP/11/605
Environment (France): The Commission is taking France to court for failing to comply with EU air quality limit values for airborne particles known as PM10. France has so far failed to effectively tackle excess emissions of these particles in several zones across the country. See IP/11/596
Environment (Czech Republic): The Commission is referring the Czech Republic to the EU Court of Justice over its failure to meet the European requirements on biocidal products. Despite earlier warnings the Czech Republic has not added acrolein, a substance used in certain biocidal products, to its national list of active substances that are covered by biocides legislation. See IP/11/591
Environment (Ireland): The Commission is referring Ireland to the EU Court of Justice over industrial installations operating with outdated permits. Under European law, new permits should have been issued by October 2007. However the permits of at least 17 Irish livestock installations have not yet been reconsidered or updated. See IP/11/593
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.
Environment (Ireland): A year and a half after a previous Court ruling, Ireland has still not adopted the necessary measures to ensure that septic tanks go through adequate checks and inspections in order to protect human health and the environment. The Commission is therefore referring Ireland back to the EU Court of Justice and asking the Court to impose a lump-sum fine of €2,7 million and a daily penalty payment of €26 173. See IP/11/592
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: