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Brussels, 27 January 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 225 decisions, including 10 complaints taking Member States before the European Union's Court of Justice. In this package no decisions related to failure to respect a previous Court ruling, with financial penalties, have been adopted.
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.
Taxation (Czech Republic/ Finland/ France/ Greece/ Italy/ Poland/ Portugal/ Spain): The Commission has decided to refer the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain to the EU's Court of Justice for failing to properly implement EU VAT rules for travel agents. The Directive contains special provisions (the so-called “special margin scheme”) for travel agents when they sell travel packages to travellers. However, the Member States being referred to Court on this matter have implemented these special provisions incorrectly, leading to distortions in competition between travel agents. See IP/11/76
Distance marketing of financial services (Sweden): The Commission has decided to refer Sweden to the EU Court of Justice for inadequate transposition of the Directive concerning the distance marketing of consumer financial services into their national law. The Commission considers that Sweden has failed to sufficiently protect consumers' rights in transposing the Directive. See IP/11/98
Environment (Greece): The Commission is referring Greece to the European Court of Justice for its failure to protect Lake Koroneia, an internationally important wetland in the region of Thessaloniki. The lake has been seriously affected by pollution and illegal water extraction, with serious consequences for local fauna and flora. Although a comprehensive plan is in place to rehabilitate the lake, with many actions partly financed by EU funds, progress has been slow. See IP/11/89
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.
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: