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Brussels, 29 September2011

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 500 decisions, including 5 decisions to refer Member States to the European Union's Court of Justice. In this package there are no decisions related to failure to respect a previous Court ruling.

Failure to respect deadlines for implementing Directives

The Commission has adopted several 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.

Fiscalité (France). La Commission a décidé de saisir la Cour de justice au sujet de l'exonération de TVA appliquée par la France à certaines opérations concernant les bateaux en violation du droit de l'UE. La directive TVA autorise, dans certaines conditions, l'exonération de TVA pour la livraison de biens destinés à l'avitaillement des bateaux affectés à la navigation en haute mer ainsi que les livraisons, transformations, réparations, entretiens et locations de ces bateaux. Or la législation et la pratique administrative française va au-delà de ce qui est prévu par cette Directive et applique une exonération de TVA aux bateaux assurant un trafic rémunéré de voyageurs ou utilisés pour une activité commerciale, sans exiger qu'ils soient affectés à la navigation en haute mer. See IP/11/1126

Free movement of goods (Poland): The Commission decided to refer Poland to the EU's Court of Justice because it maintains obstacles to the registration of right-hand drive vehicles in Poland. National legislation requires that the steering wheel is placed on the left-hand side of the vehicle. That means that, in practice, new and used cars with right-hand drive cannot be registered. The Commission considers that these restrictions constitute a disproportionate barrier to the import of such vehicles from other EU Member States (e.g. by citizen returning to Poland after having worked in the United Kingdom). In September 2010 the Commission requested the Polish authorities to put an end to these restrictions, but they are still in place. See IP/11/1111

Distance marketing of financial services (Italy): The Commission has decided to refer Italy to the EU's Court of Justice for inadequate transposition of the Directive concerning the distance marketing of consumer financial services into its national law. Italy has not respected the timeline for adopting amendments to its national law and thus failed to adequately protect some consumer rights. This Directive grants consumers, amongst other rights, the right to withdraw from a contract with a service provider within 14 calendar days of its conclusion. It would appear that in Italy a consumer cannot withdraw from a car insurance contract if during these 14 days an accident covered by the insurance has taken place. This is contrary to the Directive. See IP/11/1091

Consumers (Belgium): The Commission has stepped up legal action against Belgium for non-compliance with the Unfair Consumer Practices Directive. This Directive aims to facilitate trade by creating a single set of rules for commercial practices in the EU's Single Market. Despite amending some aspects of their law following action by the Commission, Belgium has not yet brought its national provisions fully in line with EU law. Since Belgium did not comply with the Commission's reasoned opinion sent in March 2011, the Commission has decided to take the matter to the Court of Justice. See IP/11/1096

Environment (Spain): The Commission is taking action against Spain over shortcomings in its transposition of EU water legislation, especially as regards River Basin Management. In Spain's legislation, a number of the obligations contained in these plans only apply to rivers that flow between different regions, and not to rivers that are completely within the territory of one region. The obligations in question cover matters like the conditions for granting exceptions, waters used for the abstraction of drinking water, and the monitoring of the ecological and chemical status of surface waters. Additional legislation will therefore be needed to ensure that Spanish legislation fully complies with the Directive. See IP/11/1105

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:

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