In its monthly package of infringement decisions, the European Commission is pursuing legal action against Member States for failing to comply with their obligations under EU law. These decisions, covering various sectors and EU policy areas (see Annex I and II), aim to ensure proper application of EU law for the benefit of citizens and businesses.
The key decisions taken by the Commission (including a letter of formal notice, 20 reasoned opinions and 8 referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union) are presented below and grouped by policy area. The Commission is also closing 86 cases where the issues with the Member States concerned have been solved without the Commission needing to pursue the procedure further.
1. Agriculture and Rural Development
(For more information: Daniel Rosario - tel.: +32 229 56185, Clémence Robin – tel.: +32 229 52509)
A Reasoned opinion
Agriculture: Commission invites GREECE to comply with the common organisation of agriculture market in the wine sector
The European Commission requests Greece to comply with the common organisation of agricultural market (CMO) rules in the wine sector and the freedoms of association, of profession and business, established in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Individual wine growers on the island of Samos, Greece, are currently obliged to be members of local cooperatives which in turn have to deliver their entire must and grapes production to the Union of Vinicultural Cooperatives of Samos (EOSS; Samos UVC), which has the exclusive right of producing and marketing Samian wine. The individual wine growers are also prevented from being registered as producers of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) wine. The Commission takes the view that the obligation to deliver all their production of must or grapes to a producer organisation amounts in reality to a prohibition placed on the individual producer to produce wine himself or herself. The Greek authorities also violate Article 103 (1) of the CMO Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013) whereby "a protected designation of origin and a protected geographical indication may be used by any operator marketing a wine which has been produced in conformity with the corresponding product specification". Following the reception of a detailed complaint, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice on 26 February 2016 to which the Greek authorities replied on 27 April 2016. However, the Commission considers the reply does not respond adequately to the concerns raised and so is now sending a reasoned opinion. Greece has two months to take the necessary measures to remedy the situation, otherwise the Commission may decide to refer Greece to the Court of Justice of the EU.
(For more information: Ricardo Cardoso - tel.: +32 229 80100, Yizhou Ren – tel.: +32 229 94889)
A referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union
State aid: Commission refers GREECE to Court for failure to recover incompatible state aid from Hellenic Shipyards
The European Commission has decided to refer Greece back to the Court of Justice, because it failed to comply with a 2008 Commission decision ordering the recovery of incompatible state aid to Hellenic Shipyards. This follows a 2012 ruling by the Court condemning Greece for its failure to implement the decision. The Commission has now requested the Court of Justice to impose on Greece a lump sum penalty of about €6 million. The Commission has also requested that the Court impose a daily penalty of €34,974 from the day of its judgment until the date Greece has taken all the necessary steps to execute the Commission's 2008 decision. For more information, please refer to the fullpress release.
3. Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
(For more information: Christian Wigand - tel.: +32 229 62253, Sara Soumillion - tel.: +32 229 67094)
A referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union
Health and safety: Commission refers LUXEMBOURG to the Court of Justice of the EU over failure to transpose Packaging & Labelling Directive into national law
The European Commission is referring Luxembourg to the Court of Justice of the EU over the failure to notify the transposition of the Directive on classification, labelling and packaging (CLP) of substances and mixtures (Directive 2014/27/EU) into its national legislation, more than one year after its deadline. The CLP Directive has replaced several internal market directives on the classification, labelling and packaging of chemical substances, aligning them with the CLP Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008). The CLP Regulation is an EU regulation which entered into force on 20 January 2009 and aligns the Union system of classification, labelling and packaging of chemical substances and mixtures to the United Nations Globally Harmonised System (GHS). Member States' laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the CLP Directive had to enter into force by 1 June 2015 and the Commission had to be informed immediately. Although the Commission sent a letter of formal notice and two Reasoned Opinions asking Luxembourg to clarify the situation, details on the next steps in the national legislative procedure to transpose the Directive remain unclear. Therefore, on the basis of the procedure set out in Article 260(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the Commission will request the Court of Justice to impose a daily penalty payment of €8,710 on Luxembourg until the Directive is fully transposed into national legislation. For more information, please refer to the fullpress release.
(For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen - tel.: +32 229 56186, Nicole Bockstaller – tel.: +32 229 52589)
Energy efficiency: BULGARIA requested to comply with EU provisions reducing the energy consumption of buildings
The European Commission has sent a reasoned opinion to Bulgaria to request the correct transposition of all the requirements of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (Directive 2010/31/EU) into national law. Under this Directive, Member States are required to establish and apply minimum energy performance requirements for new and existing buildings, to ensure the certification of buildings' energy performance as well as to ensure that regular inspections of heating and air conditioning systems take place. A detailed examination of the national legislation transposing the Directive revealed that Bulgaria failed to ensure that energy performance certificates are always issued and handed to the prospective buyer or tenant for buildings or building units which are sold, constructed or rented out. Furthermore, the national legislation contains exemptions from the energy performance requirements, which are not foreseen in this Directive, and inconsistencies with regard to the inspection frequency requirements for heating systems. Therefore, the Commission asks the Bulgarian authorities to ensure that all the requirements of the Buildings Directive are fully met. Bulgaria has two months now to notify the European Commission of measures taken to remedy this situation; otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer it to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Internal energy market: Commission urges FRANCE to fully comply with the Third Energy Package
The European Commission has formally called on France to ensure the correct implementation and application of the Electricity Directive (Directive 2009/72/EC). The Directive is part of the Third Energy Package and contains key provisions to allow energy markets to function properly, including rules on the unbundling of transmission system operators from energy suppliers and producers, on strengthening the independence and the powers of national regulators and on the improved functioning of retail markets to the benefit of consumers. The Commission found that the French legislation prevents undertakings other than the national incumbent system operator for electricity from building and operating interconnectors to other EU Member States. A letter of formal notice was sent to France in February 2015. Since compliance with EU law is not in place yet, the Commission is now sending a reasoned opinion. The Member State has two months to inform the Commission of the measures taken to remedy the situation; otherwise, the European Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.
(For more information: Enrico Brivio – tel.: +32 229 56172, Iris Petsa – tel.: +32 229 93321)
Referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union
Commission refers BULGARIA to Court over failure to sufficiently protect endangered bird species
The European Commission is taking Bulgaria to the Court of Justice of the EU over its failure to protect unique habitats and important bird species in the Rila Mountains. The Bulgarian authorities have failed to widen the zone classified as a special protection area in order to provide adequate protection to endangered species of wild birds. Rila, the highest mountain range of Bulgaria and the Balkan Peninsula, is among the most valuable areas in Bulgaria and in the EU for the conservation of 20 vulnerable bird species. Under the EU legislation on the conservation of wild birds (Directive 2009/147/EC), Member States are obliged to designate special protection areas for the conservation of species in danger of extinction, those vulnerable to specific changes in their habitat, or those considered rare or requiring particular attention. Bulgaria has so far properly classified 72% of the zone as a special protection area. However, this does not cover significant parts of the habitats of 17 endangered bird species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive, thus putting at risk the conservation of species such as Tengmalm's [Boreal's] owl (Aegolius funereus) and the Eurasian pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum), as well as the white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos), the three-toed woodpecker (Picoudes tridactilus), the hazel grouse (Bonasa bonasia) and the black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius). Despite the Commission's reasoned opinion sent in October 2014 about the need to extend protection areas in the Rila Mountains, Bulgaria has not complied with this obligation. The Commission is, therefore, referring this case to the Court of Justice of the EU. For more information, please refer to the fullpress release.
Commission refers the CZECH REPUBLIC to Court over a shipment of toxic waste to Poland
The European Commission is referring the Czech Republic to the Court of Justice of the EU for its failure to take back 20,000 tonnes of hazardous waste, which was shipped to Katowice, Poland, by a Czech operator in late 2010 and in early 2011. The case forms part of a dispute involving two Member States, Poland and the Czech Republic, on the classification of a waste shipment. The Polish authorities refused to accept the shipment on the grounds that it was shipped in breach of the Waste Shipments Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006). The waste shipped should have been subject to the procedure of prior written notification and consent. As it had taken place without this notification, the shipment in question is considered to be an 'illegal shipment', and the Czech authorities should take the necessary measures to repatriate the shipment. The Czech Republic would have breached EU rules by not taking the required measures. The Czech authorities, however, refused to take the shipment back by arguing that the material in question – a mixture of acid tar from petroleum refining, coal dust and calcium oxide – was not waste but a product registered in accordance with the REACH Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006). Following a complaint, the Commission has stepped in to resolve the dispute between the two Member States. A reasoned opinion was sent to the Czech Republic in November 2015, rejecting the Czech arguments for classifying the shipment as a product and urging it to take it back. As the Czech authorities still refuse to take the waste back, the Commission has now referred the case to the Court of Justice of the EU. For more information, please refer to the fullpress release.
Information about environment: Commission requests FINLAND to enact EU rules on access to environmental information
The European Commission is urging Finland to bring its national legislation into full conformity with EU rules on citizens' access to any information in written, visual, aural, electronic or any other material form about the environment, an obligation due to be fulfilled by 14 February 2005. The Directive on public access to environmental information (Directive 2003/4/EC) gives citizens the right to know what the state of the environment is, enabling them to participate in decision-making that will affect their health and quality of life. The case concerns the fact that forest-related environmental information, which is contained in the Forest Database managed by the Finnish Forest Centre, cannot be accessed by the public without having to justify a request for information. However, under this Directive, environmental information should be publicly accessible without having to justify such a request. Although the Finnish authorities agreed to amend its legislation, there has been a significant delay in the adoption of the amendment. The Commission has, therefore, decided to send Finland a reasoned opinion. If Finland fails to act within two months, the case may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Waste: Commission calls on CROATIA to enact EU rules on waste
The Commission is requesting Croatia to bring its national law into full conformity with EU rules on waste. The Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC) aims to minimise the negative effects of the generation and management of waste on human health and the environment. The Directive also seeks to reduce the use of resources and focuses on prevention, reuse and recycling, thereby contributing to a more circular economy. After identifying a number of shortcomings in Croatia's transposition of the Directive, the Commission sent the Croatian authorities a letter of formal notice in October 2015. A number of non-conformities in enactment still remain, such as provisions on the scope of the Directive, requirements on waste management permits, the content of the waste management plan and waste prevention programme, and detailed rules on inspections. Therefore, the Commission is now sending a reasoned opinion. Croatia has two months to inform the Commission of the measures taken to address the shortcomings; otherwise, the case may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.
6. Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs
(For more information: Lucia Caudet – tel.: +32 229 56182, Maria Sarantopoulou – tel.: +32 229 13740)
A referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union
Freedom to provide services: Commission refers AUSTRIA to Court of Justice of the EU over restrictions on foreign ski instructors
The European Commission has decided to take Austria to the Court of Justice of the EU due to the restrictions some Austrian provinces impose on ski instructors coming from other EU countries. While the Commission agrees that the ski instructor profession requires adequate training and qualifications, it has concluded that some of the requirements in Austria discriminate against non-Austrian ski instructors without justification. In the Austrian region of Tyrol, legislation prevents foreign ski instructors from accepting clients already present in Austria, thus limiting their right to provide services to clients they accompany from the country where the respective ski school or ski instructor is established. This restriction puts foreign instructors at a disadvantage compared with Tyrolean ski instructors entitled to accept clients without any restrictions. Such requirements are contrary to EU law and do not respect the freedom to provide services as set out in Article 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The Commission also considers the regional legislation on ski schools in the province of Styria to be incompatible with EU rules on the free movement of workers, freedom of establishment and freedom to provide services as set out in Articles 45, 49 and 56 of TFEU respectively, and with EU case law. Styria does not recognise certain alpine ski instructor qualifications held by foreign instructors (such as Telemark, adaptive or Nordic skiing). The Commission previously raised its concerns in a reasoned opinion in July 2014 and in an additional reasoned opinion in June 2015. As Austria has not adequately addressed these concerns and has not taken measures to remedy the situation, the Commission has decided to refer the Austrian authorities to the Court of Justice of the EU. For more information, please refer to the fullpress release.
Return of unlawfully removed cultural goods: Commission urges Member States to transpose new rules
The European Commission requested today in a reasoned opinion 8 Member States to transpose Directive 2014/60/EU regarding cultural objects, classified or defined by a Member State, which are unlawfully removed from the territory of an EU Member State. Illegal trafficking of cultural goods is a problem affecting all EU countries. The new Directive, which is a recast of Directive 93/7/EEC, aims to reconcile the fundamental principle of the free movement of goods with the protection of national treasures. It helps tackle the illegal outflow of cultural goods and makes it easier for EU countries to claim back the national treasures that are often important to their national identity. The Directive should have been transposed into national legislation by 19 December 2015. Cyprus, Finland, France, Spain, Lithuania, Poland, Portugaland Romania have not yet communicated the complete transposition of this Directive into national law to the Commission. These Member States now have two months to notify the Commission of the full transposition of the Directive; otherwise, the European Commission may decide to refer them to the Court of Justice of the EU.
7. Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality
(For more information: Christian Wigand – tel.: +32 229 62253, Melanie Voin - tel.: +32 229 58659)
A reasoned opinion
Increased protection for victims of domestic violence: Commission urges BELGIUM to recognise protection orders from other EU countries
The Commission has called on Belgium to implement EU rules on the recognition of protection orders issued in other Member States. In the EU, an estimated one in three women faces violence at some point in their lives. Since January 2015, according to EU rules, victims and potential victims of crime, who already benefit in their home country from a protection order prohibiting or limiting the aggressor's contact with them, can rely on this protection when travelling or moving to other EU Member States, without having to go through complex procedures to get their protection recognised in other EU Member States. The Directive on the European protection order (Directive 2011/99/EU)had to be translated into national law by 11 January 2015. So far, Belgium has not notified its national rules implementing this EU law to the European Commission. As a result, the Commission is officially urging the Belgianauthorities to take actions, both at national and regional levels. The Commission has, therefore, decided to send Belgium a reasoned opinion. If the Belgian authorities fail to act within two months, the case may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.
8. Mobility and Transport
(For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen – tel.: +32 229 56186, Alexis Perier - tel.: +32 229 69143)
Referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union
Rail transport: Commission refers GREECE, LUXEMBOURG and ROMANIA to the Court of Justice of the EU for failure to transpose the Directive on a single European railway area
Today, the European Commission decided to refer Greece, Luxembourg and Romania to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to transpose into national law Directive 2012/34/EU establishing a single European railway area. The Directive aims at strengthening the role of national rail regulatory bodies, in particular as regards their competence for rail facilities, such as terminals and stations. It requires Member States to base their relations with infrastructure managers on multi-annual contracts setting out mutual obligations as regards the structure of payment and the infrastructure service quality to be provided to railway undertakings. This Directive also contains requirements for financial transparency so that railway undertakings and infrastructure managers keep and publish separate accounts and control financial flows. Member States had to bring into force the measures necessary to comply with the Directive by 16 June 2015. As Greece, Luxembourg and Romania failed to do so, the Commission sent these Member States a letter of formal notice in July 2015 followed by a reasoned opinion in February 2016. Given that national transposition measures have not yet been adopted, the Commission has decided to refer these Member States to the Court of Justice of the EU. On the basis of the procedure set out in Article 260(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the Commission will request the Court of Justice to impose a daily penalty payment on Greece, Luxembourg and Romania until the law is fully transposed into national legislation. The Commission proposes daily penalty payments of €30 310,80 for Greece, €8 710,00 for Luxembourg and €29 091,40 for Romania. For more information, please refer to the fullpress release.
Airports: Commission requests BULGARIA to ensure separation of accounts of Sofia Airport managing body
The European Commission has requested Bulgaria to ensure the separation of accounts of Sofia Airport's managing body, in line with Directive 96/67/EC on groundhandling services at EU airports. In addition to being the managing body of Sofia Airport, it performs a series of supporting activities at that airport and in particular is a licensed groundhandling operator. These services include areas such as maintenance, fuel and freight handling as well as check-in, catering, baggage handling and transport within the airport itself. Article 4 of Directive 96/67/EC provides that in case the managing body of an airport also provides groundhandling services, it must rigorously separate the accounts of its groundhandling activities from the accounts of its other activities and there may be no financial flows between the activities. This needs to be checked by an independent examiner. The purpose of the separation of accounts and prohibition of financial flows is to avoid cross subsidisation of the groundhandling activities of the airport's managing body. This shall ensure a level playing field for the provision of groundhandling services between the managing body of the airport and independent groundhandling service providers. Bulgaria now has two months to notify the Commission of measures taken to bring national legislation in line with EU law; otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the Bulgarian authorities to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Maritime transport: Commission requests PORTUGAL to report on its monitoring activities
The Commission has requested Portugal to report on the results of monitoring activities carried out by its maritime authority. Directive 2009/15/EC sets out measures on Member States' relationship with organisations entrusted with the inspection, survey and certification of ships, in order to ensure compliance with the international conventions on safety at sea and the prevention of marine pollution. The Directive provides that each Member State shall monitor the recognised organisations acting on its behalf, to ensure that they effectively carry out the entrusted functions. In this regard, each Member State must provide other Member States and the Commission every two years with a report on the results of such monitoring activities. To date, Portugal has failed to submit such reports to the Commission. Since ship inspection, survey and certification is crucial for maritime safety and for the prevention of marine pollution, the Commission has decided to issue a reasoned opinion to Portugal. The Portuguese authorities have two months to notify the Commission of the measures taken to implement fully the reporting and associated oversight obligation under the Directive. The Commission may otherwise decide to refer Portugal to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Transport: Commission calls on SLOVENIA to correctly implement EU rules on driving licences
The European Commission calls on Slovenia to correctly transpose and implement the European rules on driving licences, as contained in Directive 2006/126/EC. The Commission has identified a number of shortcomings in the transposition of the Directive. They include the failure to correctly define several categories of driving licences, specifically to ensure that the categories define the maximum number of passengers for certain vehicles, and the failure to issue only harmonised driving entitlements which are provided by Directive 2006/126/EC. The Commission also requested the Slovenian authorities to correctly transpose the rules on the exchange of licences by imposing additional medical requirements. Slovenia is expected to transpose rules on the recognition of driving licences which are restricted in another Member State, as well as the rules on normal residence. Slovenia now has two months to respond, after which the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Road transport: Commission requested LUXEMBOURG to implement EU legislation on electronic tolling
Today, the European Commission requested Luxembourg to bring its national rules in line with Commission Decision 2009/750/EC on the definition of the European Electronic Toll Service (EETS) and its technical elements. EETS will allow users to drive through the electronic toll systems set up throughout Europe using a single on-board unit and signing a single contract with the EETS provider, thus reducing administrative and operative costs for road hauliers. In accordance with the EETS legislative framework, Member States have to lay down a procedure for the registration of EETS providers in their territory, as well as to set up a national register of EETS providers. Since Luxembourg has not yet put in place the necessary measures for the effective establishment of EETS providers, the Commission decided today to send the Luxembourgish authorities a reasoned opinion. Luxembourg has two months to address the concerns raised by the Commission; otherwise, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU.
9. Health and Food Safety
(For more information: Enrico Brivio – tel.: +32 229 56172, Iris Petsa – tel.: +32 229 93321)
A supplementary letter of formal notice
Commission asks Italy to fully implement decision to stop progression of xylella fastidiosa
Following the outbreak of Xylella fastidiosa, one of the most dangerous plant bacterium worldwide, causing a variety of diseases, with huge economic impact for agriculture, in Italy, the Commission has asked Italy to fully implement the Decision(EU) 2015/789 and stop the progression of xylella in the Apulia region, as well as the rest of the Italian territory and the Union as whole. A supplementary letter of formal notice was sent to Italy in relation to their obligations regarding eradication, containment and survey measures. The supplementary letter of formal notice was sent to take account of a new Commission Decision 2016/764 (Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2016/764) of May 2016 which amended Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2015/789in order to ensure effective protection of the rest of the Union territory by enlarging the containment area. The Italian authorities have a month to reply.
10. Taxation and Customs Union
(For more information: Vanessa Mock – tel.: +32 229 56194, Patrick Mc Cullough – tel.: +32 229 87183)
Taxation: The Commission requests AUSTRIA to amend its rules on the VAT treatment of resale rights of works of art
The Commission has requested Austria to change its rules on the value-added tax (VAT) treatment of resale rights on works of art. Resale rights – which give rise to what are commonly known as 'royalties' - constitute an intellectual property right which allows an artist to receive a percentage of the sale price of a work of art when it is resold. In Austria, VAT is charged on the resale of works of art. As there is no contractual relationship of any kind between the buyer and the artist, the Commission considers that such a provision is an infringement of Article 2 of the VAT Directive (Council Directive 2006/112/EC). This is also in line with a judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU (C-16/93, Tolsma) which held that there must be a legal relationship between the provider of a service and the recipient for that service to be taxable. A letter of formal notice was sent to Austria on 17 October 2014. The request takes the form of a reasoned opinion. If there is no satisfactory reaction to the reasoned opinion within two months, the Commission may decide to refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Taxation: The Commission calls on AUSTRIA to amend certain rules requiring non-resident taxpayers to appoint fiscal representatives
The Commission has called on Austria to change its rules which require non-resident taxpayers to appoint representatives to administer their tax affairs on their behalf. Persons resident in Austria do not have to comply with this legislation. The Commission considers that these rules result in discriminatory treatment on the grounds of nationality and are contrary to the right to free movement of goods, capital, services and people as laid down in Articles 18, 21, 45, 56 and 63 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Articles 4, 28, 36 and 40 of the Agreement of the European Economic Area (EEA Agreement). A letter of formal notice was sent to Austria on 31 March 2014. The request takes the form of a reasoned opinion. If there is no satisfactory reaction to the reasoned opinion within two months, the Commission may decide to refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU.