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February infringements package: main decisions

Commission Européenne - MEMO/14/116   20/02/2014

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European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 20 February 2014

February infringements package: main decisions

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In its monthly package of infringement decisions, the European Commission is pursuing legal action against Member States for failing to comply properly with their obligations under EU law. These decisions covering many sectors aim to ensure proper application of EU law for the benefit of citizens and businesses.

The Commission has today taken 121 decisions, including 18 reasoned opinions and 8 referrals to the European Union's Court of Justice. Below is a summary of the main decisions. For more information on infringements procedure, see MEMO/12/12.

  1. Referrals to the Court of Justice

  1. Internal energy market: Commission refers Ireland to Court for failing to transpose EU rules

The European Commission is referring Ireland to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to fully transpose the EU internal energy market rules. To date, Ireland has only partially transposed the Electricity Directive (2009/72/EC). The aim of the Directive is to ensure that electricity is generated, transported and sold in competitive markets which create a level-playing field for all market players. Open and competitive markets will provide citizens and businesses with secure and sustainable energy supplies at lowest possible cost. The Electricity Directive should have been transposed by the Member States by 3 March 2011.

The Commission proposes a daily penalty of € 20.538. The penalty proposed takes into account the duration and the gravity of the infringement. In the case of an affirmative judgement of the Court, the daily penalty is to be paid from the date of the judgment to the transposition date.

(for more information: IP/14/155 - S. Berger - Tel. +32 229 2792 - Mobile +32 460 792 792)

  1. Security of supply: Commission is referring Cyprus to the Court for failing to transpose the EU rules on minimum oil reserves

The European Commission is referring Cyprus to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to transpose the Oil Stocks Directive. The Directive requires Member States to maintain minimum stocks of crude oil and petroleum products to ensure security of oil supply in case of possible disruptions. The Directive had to be transposed by the Member States by 31 December 2012.

The Commission is also examining the transposition situation in other Member States which have not informed us about the full transposition of the law. Therefore, today's Commission action might be complemented by further referrals to the Court over the next months.

(for more information: IP/14/156 - S. Berger - Tel. +32 229 2792 - Mobile +32 460 792 792)

  1. Environment: Commission takes Denmark to Court over water management problems

The European Commission is taking Denmark to Court for a failure to present plans for managing its river basins. These plans are essential to put the measures in place to achieve the objective of 'good status' for Danish waters by 2015 and should have been adopted before December 2009. Delayed plans could mean a failure to deliver the water quality required. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is referring the cases to the EU Court of Justice.

(for more information: IP/14/157 - J. Hennon - Tel. +32 229 53593 - Mobile +32 498 95 3593)

  1. Environment: European Commission takes Estonia to Court over Access to environmental Information

The European Commission is taking Estonia to Court over shortcomings in its legislation on access to information regarding the environment. Under EU legislation, Member States have to ensure that citizens have easy access to information on the environment when it is held by public authorities. After assessing Estonia's legislation in this area, the Commission concluded that it contained shortcomings, and despite several warnings, no action has been taken to improve the legislation. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is therefore taking Estonia to the EU Court of Justice.

(for more information: IP/14/158 - J. Hennon - Tel. +32 229 53593 - Mobile +32 498 95 3593)

  1. Working time: Commission refers Italy to Court for not respecting EU rules in public health services

The European Commission has decided to refer Italy to the EU's Court of Justice for failing to apply correctly the Working Time Directive to doctors in public health services. Currently, Italian law deprives these doctors of their right to a limit on weekly working hours and to minimum daily rest periods.

After receiving several complaints, the Commission requested Italy to take the necessary measures to ensure that national law comply with the Directive in a 'reasoned opinion' sent in May 2013 (MEMO/13/470).

(for more information: IP/14/159 - J. Todd - Tel. +32 229 94107 - Mobile +32 498 99 4107)

  1. Labour law: Commission refers Luxembourg to Court over protection of fixed-term staff

The European Commission has decided to refer Luxembourg to the EU's Court of Justice for breaching its obligations under the Fixed-Term Work Directive (1999/70/EC) to effectively protect certain fixed-term workers.

The Commission became aware of these problems following an assessment of the implementation of Directive 1999/70/EC. The Commission sent a 'reasoned opinion' to Luxembourg under EU infringement procedures in April 2013 (MEMO/13/375) but Luxembourg failed to inform the Commission of measures taken to ensure compliance.

(for more information: IP/14/160 - J. Todd - Tel. +32 229 94107 - Mobile +32 498 99 4107)

  1. Commission takes Luxembourg to Court over VAT on independent groups of persons

The European Commission has decided to take Luxembourg to the EU's Court of Justice because of the country’s VAT arrangements applicable to independent groups of persons.

Under European law, in order to be exempt from VAT the services provided by an independent group to its members must be directly required for their non-taxable or exempt activities. The Luxembourg rule providing for a ceiling for taxed operations does not, therefore, fulfil this condition.

The European Commission therefore considers that this arrangement is incompatible with EU VAT rules. It is also likely to give rise to distortions of competition.

(for more information: IP/14/161 - E. Traynor - Tel. +32 229 21548 - Mobile +32 498 98 3871)

  1. Reasoned opinions

  1. Commission urges Austria and Spain towards more transparency in its financing for rail

The European Commission is concerned that Austria and Spain should ensure full transparency on the separation of accounts in rail, as it is required by Directive 2012/34/EU. One of the main purposes of the EU rules is to ensure transparency in the use of public funds for public transport services, so that transport service providers may compete on an equal footing to the benefit of end users.

To date, contrary to EU provisions, these two countries do not ensure full transparency in the presentation of the accounts of railway undertakings mainly as far as public funds paid for services under public service obligations are concerned. Keeping transparent accounts is the only way to identify how public money is spent and whether it is used for other purposes then the ones foreseen. Indeed, the current arrangements in Austria and Spain do not exclude that public funds paid as public service obligations dedicated to passenger transport services are used to cross subsidise other transport services.

Since this is contrary to existing EU rules, which aim at establishing an efficient, non-distorted and competitive EU internal market for rail, the Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Austria and Spain. In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer them to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

(for more information: H. Kearns - Tel. +32 229 87638 - Mobile +32 498 98 7638)

  1. Environment: Commission asks Belgium to act on air pollution

The European Commission is concerned that Belgium is failing to protect citizens from fine dust (PM10) pollution. These tiny particles originate in emissions from industry, traffic and domestic heating, and they can cause asthma, cardiovascular problems, lung cancer and premature death. Under EU law, Member States have to limit citizens' exposure to these particles. Citizens in Brussels, Ghent port zone, Antwerp (including the port zone), Flanders and Liege have been exposed to unhealthy levels of PM 10 since 2005. The Commission believes that Belgium has not taken measures that should have been in place since 2005 to protect citizens' health, and is asking Belgium to take forward-looking, speedy and effective action to keep the period of non-compliance as short as possible. Today's action, technically an additional reasoned opinion, follows an additional letter of formal notice sent in November 2012 (see IP/13/47). If Belgium fails to act, the Commission may take the matter to the EU Court of Justice.

(for more information: J. Hennon - Tel. +32 229 53593 - Mobile +32 498 95 3593)

  1. Health and Safety: Commission requests Cyprus to implement Directive on prevention of sharp injuries in the hospital and healthcare sector

The Commission has requested Cyprus to implement into national law the EU Directive on prevention of injuries from sharp medical instruments in the hospital and healthcare sector (2010/32/EU). The Directive implements the Framework agreement on prevention of sharp injuries which was concluded by the European Hospital and Healthcare Employers' Association (HOSPEEM) and the European Public Services Union (EPSU). Its aim is to achieve the safest possible working environment for healthcare and hospital workers, by a combination of planning, awareness-raising, information, training, prevention and monitoring measures. The Commission's request takes the form of a 'reasoned opinion' under EU infringement procedures. Cyprus now has two months to notify the Commission of measures taken to comply with the Directive. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Cyprus to the EU's Court of Justice.

(for more information: J. Todd - Tel. +32 229 94107 - Mobile +32 498 99 4107)

  1. Environment: Commission asks Cyprus to enact EU rules on the storage of metallic mercury considered as waste

The European Commission is urging Cyprus to send details about how EU legislation on the storage of metallic mercury considered as waste is being enacted in their domestic law. After Cyprus missed the original deadline of 15 March 2013, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice giving Cyprus two months to reply. As no reply has been received, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion. If Cyprus fails to act within two months, the case may be referred to the EU Court of Justice.

(for more information: J. Hennon - Tel. +32 229 53593 - Mobile +32 498 95 3593)

  1. Schengen: Commission asks Czech Republic to bring its national law on carriers’ liability in line with EU rules

The Commission has today formally requested the Czech Republic to amend its legislation to ensure that penalties are not imposed on carriers when transporting foreign nationals without the relevant travel documents on intra-Schengen flights.

The Commission has issued a reasoned opinion asking the Czech Republic to review its national legislation in this area. If the Czech Republic does not inform the Commission within two months of measures taken to ensure full compliance with their obligations under the Directive, the Commission may decide to refer the country to the European Court of Justice.

According to EU law (Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 as well as Council Directive 2001/51/EC), carriers are liable that persons whom they bring into the territory of the Member States are in possession of the necessary valid travel documents and should be imposed sanctions when transporting insufficiently documented passengers. However, this only relates to situations in which carriers transport third-country nationals into the territory of the European Union. Carriers' liability is therefore not applicable to internal flights within the Schengen Area or to EU citizens. Imposing such rules in the context of intra-Schengen flights means that carriers are obliged to carry out systematic checks on persons crossing the internal borders similar to those that only travellers on international flights are subject.

(for more information: M. Cercone - Tel. +32 229 80963 - Mobile +32 498 98 2349)

  1. Working Time: Commission requests Spain to respect forensic doctors' rights to maximum working hours and minimum rest periods

The European Commission has requested Spain to respect forensic doctors' rights to limits on their working hours and minimum rest periods, as required by the Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC). Under Spanish law, several key rights contained in this Directive, such as a 48-hour limit to average weekly working time calculated over a 4-month reference period and minimum rest after working extra hours, are not guaranteed to forensic doctors. They are regularly required to perform weekly on-call duty in addition to their normal working time and national law does not guarantee that these extra hours are limited to 48 hours a week on average, calculated over the appropriate reference period. Neither does national law ensure that the forensic doctors receive their minimum daily rest during these periods on duty. Under the Directive, Member States are permitted to exclude from the provisions on minimum daily rest activities involving the need for continuity of service, but this is on the condition that the workers concerned are afforded equivalent periods of compensatory rest immediately after the extended working hours, which Spanish national law does not guarantee. The Commission received a complaint about this situation, and sent a letter of formal notice to Spain in September 2012 to express its concerns. The request takes the form of a 'reasoned opinion' under EU infringement procedures. Spain has two months to notify the Commission of measures taken to bring national legislation into line with EU law. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Spain to the EU's Court of Justice.

(for more information: J. Todd - Tel. +32 229 94107 - Mobile +32 498 99 4107)

  1. Maritime security: Commission requests Spain to correctly implement measures to improve the security of its ports

The European Commission has sent a formal request to Spain to ask for the correct application of the Directive on enhancing port security (2005/65/EC) in all Spanish ports concerned by the Directive. The main objective of the Directive is to introduce common measures to enhance port security in the face of threats of security incidents. Many Spanish ports have not yet adopted and implemented the assessments and port security plans that are provided for by the Directive. This Directive, which is a fundamental policy instrument for maritime security, aims to ensure a high and equal level of security for both passengers and cargo in all European ports.

(for more information: H. Kearns - Tel. +32 229 87638 - Mobile +32 498 98 7638)

  1. Health and safety: Commission asks Italy to fully apply minimum requirements for fishermen

The European Commission has requested Italy to apply fully and correctly the Council Directive 93/103/EC on minimum safety and health requirements for work on board fishing vessels, as laid down in Annex II of the Directive. The scope of application of the Italian law implementing the Directive appears substantially narrower than that required by the Directive. In particular, the application of the minimum safety and health requirements listed in the Italian law depends on circumstances such as the features of the workplace, the activity or the risk on board, whereas the requirements listed in the Directive should apply in all circumstances, in so far as permitted by the structural characteristics of the fishing vessel. The Commission's request takes the form of a 'reasoned opinion' under EU infringement procedures. Italy now has two months to notify the Commission of measures taken to comply in full with the Directive. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Italy to the EU's Court of Justice.

(for more information: J. Todd - Tel. +32 229 94107 - Mobile +32 498 99 4107)

  1. Environment: Commission asks Luxembourg to enact EU rules on industrial emissions

The European Commission is urging Luxembourg to send details about how EU legislation on industrial emissions is being enacted in its domestic law. The new Industrial Emissions Directive replaces and updates older rules seeking to prevent, reduce and as far as possible eliminate pollution arising from industrial activities. The Directive had to be enacted in national legislation by 7 January 2013. Luxembourg missed the deadline and was sent a letter of formal notice on 24 July 2013. Luxembourg has replied that draft legislation is being considered but no precise timetable has been provided and as the Directive has still not been enacted, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion. If Luxembourg fails to act within two months, the case may be referred to the EU Court of Justice, where financial penalties may be imposed.

(for more information: J. Hennon - Tel. +32 229 53593 - Mobile +32 498 95 3593)

  1. Capital gains tax: Commission asks Luxembourg to amend its legislation

The Commission has formally asked the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg to abolish the discriminatory tax regime applied to taxpayers who reinvest property income abroad, meaning outside the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg but within the EU/EEA.

Capital gains resulting from the sale of property which are reinvested abroad are taxable immediately, whereas the same capital gains, if reinvested in property in Luxembourg, benefit from a temporary tax deferral. This arrangement applies to natural persons who own property in Luxembourg regardless of whether they are resident in Luxembourg or in another EU/EEA country.

This constitutes an unjustified restriction on the free movement of services and free movement of capital, established respectively by Articles 56 and 63 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and the corresponding Articles 36 and 40 of the EEA Agreement. The EU Court of Justice has already issued a ruling to this effect in its judgment of 26 October 2006 in Case C-345/05, Commission v Portugal.

The Commission’s decision takes the form of a reasoned opinion. If it does not receive a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may decide to take Luxembourg to the EU Court of Justice.

(for more information: E. Traynor - Tel. +32 229 21548 - Mobile +32 498 98 3871)

  1. Environment: Commission urges Portugal to upgrade landfill in Azores

The European Commission is concerned that Portugal is failing to protect its citizens from the effects of bad waste management on the island of Santa Maria (Azores). Despite earlier warnings from the Commission, one local landfill is still operating in breach of EU waste and landfill legislation. Portugal has indicated that it will build a new organic valorisation treatment plant and seal the old landfill, but the Commission is concerned about the slow progress to date. In an effort to urge Portugal to speed up its actions in this area, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion. If Portugal fails to act within two months, the Commission may take the matter to the EU Court of Justice.

(for more information: J. Hennon - Tel. +32 229 53593 - Mobile +32 498 95 3593)

  1. Environment: Commission urges Romania to act on illegal landfills and clean up tailing ponds

The European Commission is concerned that Romania is failing to protect its citizens from the effects of bad waste management. Despite earlier warnings, the latest information available to the Commission shows that 19 Romanian landfills are still operating in breach of EU waste and landfill legislation, representing a serious risk for human health and the environment. In an effort to urge Romania to speed up its actions in this area, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion. A reasoned opinion is also being sent to ask Romania to clean up two tailing ponds from the copper and zinc mining industry in Moldova Noua. The tailing ponds are a major source of toxic dust, which has significant consequences for human health and the environment. The Commission is concerned that Romania has failed to take the necessary measures to control the emissions, and to prevent the sites from being abandoned. The Commission began infringement proceedings on the matter in October 2012. The Romanian authorities have reported on progress, but the task is not yet complete and a serious dust problem persists. A reasoned opinion is being sent, and if Romania fails to act within two months, the Commission may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice

(for more information: J. Hennon - Tel. +32 229 53593 - Mobile +32 498 95 3593)

  1. Single European Rail: Commission requests Romania to impose fair infrastructure charges and ensure the financial sustainability of its infrastructure manager

The European Commission is concerned about the financial equilibrium of the main Romanian infrastructure manager in the years to come. Romania's rail network is one of the largest in the European Union and charges for freight trains are among the highest in Europe. The rail network incurred significant deficits increasing year on year while larger parts of the network were not maintained in good condition. At the same time, the infrastructure manager lacks the incentives to reduce costs and charges. However, the Single European Railway Area Directive requires Member States to ensure the financial equilibrium of the infrastructure manager with effective incentives to reduce costs and charges. What is more, whilst all main rail corridors of Romania are electrified, diesel pulled trains have to contribute to the financing of electric equipment on the track side at the same level as electric trains. Since the EU directive limits charges to the direct costs of the train service, the Commission asks Romania not to impose such charges on diesel trains.

(for more information: H. Kearns - Tel. +32 229 87638 - Mobile +32 498 98 7638)

  1. Slovenia: failure to transpose EU rules on parental leave

The Commission has today issued a reasoned opinion to Slovenia in the second stage of infringement proceedings, for the country’s failure to transpose EU rules on minimum rights to parental leave. The revised Parental Leave Directive (2010/18/EU) had to be implemented in national laws by 8 March 2013. It gives each working parent the right to at least four months leave after the birth or adoption of a child (up from three months under the previous EU rules). The rules offer incentives to fathers to take parental leave (as one month of the leave is not transferable between the parents), but the issue of income of workers during parental leave is left to Member States and/or national social partners to determine. All 27 other EU Member States have now transposed the Directive in national law. Slovenia’s failure to do so means that Slovene parents are unable to enjoy the same conditions for work-life balance as other Europeans.

(for more information: M. Andreeva - Tel. +32 229 91382 - Mobile +32 498 99 1382)

  1. Health and Safety: Commission asks Slovakia to ensure that all workers are covered by protective and preventive services

The European Commission has requested Slovakia to ensure that all employers have the obligation to designate workers to carry out health and safety preventive and protective actions covering all staff. The European Commission has received several complaints indicating that in Slovakia employers are not obliged to put in place these safeguards for workers whose jobs do not entail a considerable health risk. The European Commission considers this to be contrary to the Directive on health and safety at work (89/391/EEC). The request takes the form of a 'reasoned opinion' under EU infringement procedures. Slovakia now has two months to notify the Commission of measures taken to comply with the Directive. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer this Member State to the EU's Court of Justice.

(for more information: J. Todd - Tel. +32 229 94107 - Mobile +32 498 99 4107)

  1. Letter of formal notice

  1. Environment: Commission takes action against UK for persistent air pollution problems

The Commission has launched legal proceedings against the UK for its failure to cut excessive levels of nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas. . Nitrogen dioxide is the main pre-cursor for ground-level ozone causing major respiratory problems and leading to premature death. City-dwellers are particularly exposed, as most nitrogen dioxide originates in traffic fumes. European legislation sets limits on air pollution and the NOx limits should have been achieved by 1 January 2010 unless an extension was granted until 1 January 2015.

(for more information: IP/14/154 - J. Hennon - Tel. +32 229 53593 - Mobile +32 498 95 3593)


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