Overview by policy area
In its monthly package of infringement decisions, the European Commission ('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, aim to ensure the proper application of EU law for the benefit of citizens and businesses.
The key decisions taken by the Commission are presented below and grouped by policy area. The Commission is also closing 65 cases in which the issues with the Member States concerned have been solved without the Commission needing to pursue the procedure further.
In addition, today, the Commission decided to send a number of letters of formal notices. You will find the details in Part 2: MEMO/17/1281.
1. Education, Youth, Sport and Culture
(For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt - tel.: +32 229 67083, Joseph Waldstein – tel.: +32 229 56184)
Free movement of students: Commission closes infringement case against AUSTRIA
Commission endorses Austria's quota system for medical studies as necessary to protect the Austrian health care system, but asks Austria to end the quota imposed on dental studies. Today, the European Commission decided to close its longstanding infringement procedure against Austria regarding restrictions on access to medical and dental studies for students from other Member States, allowing Austria to maintain quotas for medical studies but not for dental studies.Based on the data provided by the Austrian authorities, the Commission has concluded that the quota system in place for medical studies is justified and proportionate in order to protect the Austrian public health system and can be maintained. The Commission, nevertheless, calls on Austria to continue monitoring the situation closely and to report to the Commission every five years on the necessity for maintaining the restrictions.On the other hand, the Commission concluded that the restrictions in place for dental studies were not justified as no shortage of dentists is likely in Austria. The infringement procedure is, therefore, closed with the proviso that these restrictions be removed in time for the 2019/2020 academic year. If these restrictions are not removed by then, the Commission reserves the right to pursue the infringement procedure.For more information, please refer to the full press release.
(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
Waste: Commission refers ITALY to Court over failure to rehabilitate or close down 44 landfills
The Commission is taking Italy to the Court of Justice of the EU for its failure to rehabilitate or close down 44 landfills, which represent a serious risk for human health and the environment. Despite earlier warnings from the Commission, Italy has failed to take measures to rehabilitate or close down 44 non-compliant landfills, as required by article 14 of the Landfill Directive (Council Directive 1999/31/EC). Like other Member States, Italy was obliged, by 16 July 2009, to either rehabilitate landfills that had been granted a permit or which were already in operation before 16 July 2001 ("existing landfills"), bringing them to the safety standards set out in this Directive, or to close them. Due to insufficient progress in addressing the issue, the Commission sent an additional reasoned opinion in June 2015, urging Italy to adequately treat 50 sites, which still posed a threat to human health and the environment. In spite of some progress made, the necessary measures to upgrade or close 44 landfills have still not been completed by May 2017. In an effort to speed up the process, the Commission is taking Italy to the Court of Justice of the EU. For more information, please refer to the full press release.
Urban waste water: Commission sends last warning to ITALY to ensure urban waste water is adequately collected and treated
The Commission decided today to send an additional reasoned opinion to Italy for its failure to ensure that all agglomerations with more than 2 000 inhabitants have adequate collection and treatment systems for urban waste water as requested by the EU rules (Council Directive 91/271/EEC). The Commission considers that 758 agglomerations in 18 different regions/autonomous provinces covering more than 18 million people (Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Liguria, Lombardia, Marche, Piemonte, Puglia, Sardegna, Sicilia, Toscana, Trento, Umbria, Valle d'Aosta and Veneto) are in breach of several provisions of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (Council Directive 91/271/EEC). Also, the requirements to reduce the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen entering treatment plants are not fulfilled in 32 sensitive areas. This additional reasoned opinion is as an opportunity for Italy to submit updated information on progress made in all agglomerations and sensitive areas for which the country has acknowledged non-compliance, and to submit further clarifications on all cases which it declared compliant, but where the evidence gathered by the Commission indicates the opposite. Italy has not complied for more than 10 years now. This poses significant risks to human health and the environment in a large number of agglomerations. Italy's general and persistent breach of the Urban Waste Water Directive is confirmed by two other cases where the Court ruled against the country in 2012 and 2014 and which cover 80 and 24 agglomerations respectively. In December 2016 the Commission decided to refer Italy back to the Court proposing financial penalties in the case covering 80 agglomerations with a population equivalent of more than 15 000 inhabitants. Italy now has two months to remedy the situation; otherwise, the case may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.
3. Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union
(For more information: Vanessa Mock – tel.: +32 229 56194, Letizia Lupini - tel.: +32 229 51958)
Financial services: Commission requests 5 Member States to implement EU rules in the area of insurance
The Commission has requested Latvia, Hungary, Poland and Portugal to fully transpose the Solvency II Directive (Directive 2009/138/EC) and the Omnibus II Directive (Directive 2014/51/EU), and Cyprus to fully transpose the Omnibus II Directive into their national legislation. These Directives replace the 14 insurance and reinsurance Directives that were previously known as "Solvency I". They introduced a sound and robust prudential framework for insurance firms in the EU, including quantitative, governance and reporting rules, to facilitate the development of a single market in insurance services. These new insurance rules aim to ensure the financial soundness of insurance companies so that they can cover risks in difficult periods. These Directives became fully applicable on 1 January 2016 and the deadline for their implementation in national law was 31 March 2015. However, the above listed Member States failed to notify the Commission of all measures necessary to fully implement these rules into their national law. The Commission's requests take the form of reasoned opinion and come after letters of formal notice, which were sent to these Member States in May 2015. They replied to these letters, however, the Commission is of the view that transposition of the Directives is not yet complete in these Member States. If the Member States concerned do not act within the next two months, they may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.
4. Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs
(For more information: Lucia Caudet – tel.: +32 229 56182, Mirna Talko – tel.: +32 229 87278)
A referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union
Motorway concessions: Commission refers ITALY to the Court of Justice of the EU
The Commission has today decided to take Italy to the Court of Justice of the EU on the grounds that it has breached EU law by awarding an extension of a motorway concession contract without a prior call for tenders. The Italian authorities granted an 18-year-long extension of a concession contract to the Società Autostrada Tirrenica p.A. (SAT S.p.A) company that is currently in charge of building and managing the A12 motorway Civitavecchia-Livorno. The contract was extended without a prior call for tenders. The Commission considers that Italy has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU public procurement rules, especially Directive 2004/18/EC. EU Public Procurement rules aim to ensure that all economic operators have a fair chance to participate in a call for tender and to win a contract. According to the rules, a new concession can only be awarded after a competitive tendering procedure except in special cases specifically regulated by EU law. A time extension is equivalent to a new concession, so extending the expiry date of a motorway concession contract without a prior call for tenders is not in line with EU law as other potentially interested undertakings cannot bid. The Commission previously raised its concerns in a reasoned opinion in October 2014, urging Italy to remedy the breach of EU law. Following close discussions with the Italian authorities and given the measures they proposed would not remedy the breach of EU legislation, the Commission has decided to refer Italy to the Court of Justice. For more information, please refer to the full press release.
A letter of formal notice
Car emissions: Commission opens infringement procedure against ITALY for breach of EU rules on car type approval
The Commission decided today to launch an infringement procedure against Italy for failure to fulfil its obligations under EU vehicle type-approval legislation with regards to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Under current EU law, national authorities are responsible for checking that a car type meets all EU standards before individual cars can be sold on the Single Market. When a car manufacturer breaches the legal requirements, national authorities must take corrective action (such as ordering a recall) and apply effective, dissuasive and proportionate penalties laid out in national legislation. The Commission is closely monitoring the enforcement of these rules by Member States and has already opened infringements against the Member States that issued type approvals for Volkswagen Group in the EU for not applying their national provisions on penalties despite the company's use of illegal defeat device software. The current case relates to information brought to the Commission's attention in the context of a request from the German Transport Ministry in September 2016 to mediate between the German and Italian authorities on a dissent on NOx emissions concerning vehicles of a type approved by Italy. In the course of the mediation process, the Commission carefully assessed the NOx emissions test results provided by the German type approval authority (Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt), as well as the extensive technical information provided by Italy on the emission control strategies employed by FCA in the car type in question. EU type approval legislation bans defeat devices such as software, timers or thermal windows which lead to higher NOx emissions outside of the test cycle, unless they can be justified by the need to protect the engine against damage or accident, or for the safe operation of the vehicle. As the Commission has pointed out repeatedly, the exception to the prohibition is precisely that: an exception that must be interpreted strictly. The Commission is now formally asking Italy to respond to its concerns that the manufacturer has not sufficiently justified the technical necessity – and thus the legality – of the defeat device used, and to clarify whether Italy has failed to meet its obligation to adopt corrective measures regarding the FCA type in question and to impose penalties on the car manufacturer. Italy now has two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion. For more information, please refer to the full press release.
Pyrotechnics: Commission urges GERMANY to transpose the new rules
The Commission decided today to send two reasoned opinions to Germany requesting it to transpose the Pyrotechnics Directive (Directive 2013/29/EU) and the Implementing Directive setting up a system for the traceability of pyrotechnics (Commission Implementing Directive 2014/58/EU). The Pyrotechnics Directive establishes the essential safety requirements to be met before making pyrotechnic articles, including fireworks, available on the EU market; the Implementing Directive ensures the traceability of pyrotechnic articles and their labelling through a registration number based on a uniform numbering system and the registers kept by notified bodies. Both Directives set clear rules for conformity assessment bodies. The Directives should have been transposed into national legislation by 30 June 2015 and by 30 April 2015 respectively. Germany has not yet communicated the transposition provisions to the Commission. The German authorities now have two months to notify the Commission of the transposition of the Directives; otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer it to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Single market: Commission requests IRELAND and PORTUGAL to transpose new rules on equipment for potentially explosive atmospheres
The Commission decided today to send reasoned opinions to Ireland and Portugal requesting them to transpose the EU rules on the harmonisation of laws relating to equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres (ATEX, Directive 2014/34/EU). A potentially explosive atmosphere exists when a mixture of air gases, vapours, mists, or dusts combine in a way that can ignite under certain operating conditions. The so-called ATEX Directive defines the essential health and safety requirements and conformity assessment procedures to be applied before such products are placed on the EU internal market. Member States should have fully transposed the Directive into their national legislation by 19 April 2016. Ireland and Portugal have not yet communicated to the Commission the transposition of this Directive into national law. The two Member States now have two months to notify the Commission of the full transposition of the Directive; otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer them to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Single market: Commission calls on the UNITED KINGDOM to transpose new rules on recreational boats and their engines
The Commission decided today to send a reasoned opinion to the United Kingdom requesting it to transpose the Directive on recreational craft and personal watercraft (Directive 2013/53/EU). The Directive addresses the construction, safety, and other requirements of recreational boats and jet skis intended for sport or leisure. Member States should have fully transposed the Directive into their national legislation by 18 January 2016. The United Kingdom has not yet communicated the complete transposition of this Directive into their national laws to the Commission. The United Kingdom now has two months to notify the Commission of the full transposition of the Directives; otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer it to the Court of Justice of the EU.
5. Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship
(For more information: Tove Ernst – tel.: +32 229 86764, Katarzyna Kolanko - tel.: +32 229 63444)
A letter of formal notice
Asylum: Commission follows up on infringement procedure against Hungary concerning its asylum law
The European Commission has today decided to move forward on the infringement procedure against Hungary concerning its asylum legislation by sending a complementary letter of formal notice. Following a series of exchanges both at political and technical level with the Hungarian authorities over the past weeks, the letter sets out concerns raised by the amendments to the Hungarian asylum law introduced in March this year and comes as a follow-up to an infringement procedure initiated by the Commission in December 2015. The Commission considers that of the five issues identified in the letter of formal notice from 2015, three remain to be addressed, in particular in the area of asylum procedures. In addition, the letter outlines new incompatibilities of the Hungarian asylum law, as recently modified by the amendments of 2017. The incompatibilities focus mainly on three areas: asylum procedures, rules on return and reception conditions. The Commission considers that the Hungarian legislation does not comply with EU law, in particular Directive 2013/32/EU on Asylum Procedures, Directive 2008/115/EC on Return, Directive 2013/33/EU on Reception Conditions and several provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. As regards the asylum procedures, the Hungarian law does not allow for applications to be submitted outside of special transit zones at the borders, and restricts access to these zones, thus failing to provide an effective access to asylum procedures within its territory. The border procedures are not in accordance with the conditions of EU law and the special guarantees for vulnerable individuals not respected. The reduced time for appeals violates the fundamental right to an effective remedy. The Hungarian asylum law also falls short of the EU rules onreturn of illegally staying third country nationals. The Commission is concerned that Hungary is currently returning migrants (including asylum seekers) who cross the border irregularly to Serbia without following the procedures and conditions of EU law on return and asylum. Individual return decisions are not being issued by Hungary as required. Finally, the Commission believes that the systematic and indefinite confinement of asylum seekers, including minors over 14, in closed facilities in the transit zone without respecting required procedural safeguards, such as the right to appeal, leads to systematic detentions, which are in breach of the EU law on reception conditions and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. The Hungarian law fails to provide the required material reception conditions for asylum applicants, thus violating the EU rules in this respect. As a consequence, the Commission has today followed up on its initial letter of formal notice, giving the Hungarian authorities two months to respond. At the same time, the Commission will continue bilateral contacts, at the political and technical level, to support and assist the Hungarian authorities in addressing the outstanding issues. For more information, please refer to the full press release.
Security: Commission urges Member States to improve information sharing to combat terrorism and serious crime
Today, the Commission decided to send reasoned opinions to Croatia, Ireland and Italy for failing to fully implement the Prüm Decisions (Council Decisions2008/615/JHA and 2008/616/JHA), an important element of the 2015 European Agenda on Security. These Decisions are a crucial tool to fight terrorism and cross-border crime more effectively and allow Member States to quickly exchange information on DNA, fingerprints and national vehicle registration data. Member States had to fully implement the Prüm Decisions until August 2011. The 3 Member States, which received letters of formal notice in September 2016, have still not ensured automated data exchanges in all three data categories: DNA, fingerprints and national vehicle registration data. The Commission requested today these Member States quickly finalise the necessary work to comply with their legal obligations. The Member States now have two months to reply, after which the Commission may decide to refer cases to the Court of Justice of the EU.
6. Mobility and Transport
(For more information: Enrico Brivio – tel.: +32 229 56172, Alexis Perier - tel.: +32 229 69143)
Sustainable transport: Commission urges 8 Member States to transpose rules on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure.
The Commission has asked Cyprus, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal and Slovenia to fully transpose EU rules on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure (Directive 2014/94/EU). The main purpose of the Directive is to establish a common framework for the large-scale roll-out of alternative fuels infrastructure in Europe. This is essential to reduce transport oil-dependence, mitigate its environmental impact and, thereby, deliver on the Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility adopted by the Commission on 20 June 2016. Directive 2014/94/EU sets out minimum requirements for the building-up of alternative fuels infrastructure, including recharging points for electric vehicles and refuelling points for natural gas and hydrogen. It had to be implemented by 18 November 2016 at the latest. However, these Member States have not yet notified the Commission of measures transposing the Directive into national law. The 8 Member States now have two months to notify the Commission of such measures; otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Maritime safety: Commission calls on AUSTRIA, CYPRUS, PORTUGAL and ROMANIA to transpose rules on port reception facilities for ship-generated waste and cargo residues
The Commission has requested Austria, Cyprus, Portugal and Romania to fully transpose EU law on port reception facilities for ship-generated waste and cargo residues (Commission Directive (EU) 2015/2087). This Directive amended the EU rules (Directive 2000/59/EC) that require ships to notify a number of information before entry into port, such as the volumes and types of waste to be delivered and storage capacity on-board. It also added the requirement to notify information on what has actually been delivered to port reception facilities in the last port of call. The Commission Directive was adopted in order ensure consistency with measures adopted at the level of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and to avoid uncertainty amongst port users and authorities. It had to transposed into national law by 9 December 2016 at the latest, but to date Austria, Cyprus, Portugal and Romania have failed to do so. The 4 Member States have been given two months to remedy the situation; otherwise, Commission may decide to refer them to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Ports: Commission closes the infringement case on the organisation of port labour law in BELGIUM
The Commission today decided to close infringement proceedings against Belgium concerning the organisation of labour at Belgian ports. In March 2014, the Commission expressed concerns that the Belgian system ran contrary to the freedom of establishment enshrined in Article 49 TFEU by restricting the establishment of port operators. Such restrictions included the existence of an exclusive "pool regime" for the recruitment of dockers, restrictions concerning the type of work contract and the composition of teams of workers. Since then, and as a result of active dialogue with the Commission, the Belgian authorities have adopted a number of reforms addressing the restrictions and which will gradually phase out the restrictive regime. The new regime should contribute to the competitiveness of Belgian ports, while offering an adequate level of protection to dock workers. The Commission has therefore decided to close the case. As usually, the Commission will monitor the correct implementation and application of the law.
Road charging: Commission closes infringement proceedings against GERMANY
The Commission today decided to close the infringement procedure initiated in June 2015 against Germany regarding the introduction of a road charge for passenger cars ("Pkw Maut"). Following the adoption by Germany in March of an amended law on the road charging scheme, the Commission has come to the conclusion that Germany has addressed its concerns by removing any discrimination based on nationality. The Commission has therefore decided to close the case. As always, the Commission will now continue to monitor the correct implementation and application of the law.
7. Taxation and Customs Union
(For more information: Vanessa Mock – tel.: +32 229 56194, Patrick Mc Cullough – tel.: +32 229 87183)
Free movement of capital: Commission requests FRANCE to abolish withholding tax imposed on non-resident companies in deficit
The Commission has requested that France abolish a withholding tax that applies to dividends received in France by companies based in other EU or European Economic Area (EEA) Member States. By applying a withholding tax on such dividends, the French authorities are failing to fulfil their obligations regarding free movement of capital (Article 63 TFEU and Article 40 of the EEA Agreement). The withholding tax leads to immediate taxation, without the possibility of a refund of the dividends paid to an EU and EEA company in the following situations: first, when the company is in structural deficit, even though French companies do not pay this tax in comparable situations; second, when the company is in a temporary loss-making phase, even though French companies facing the same difficulties are subject to taxation only when the firm regains its surplus. An amendment of the legislation adopted by France at the end of 2015 applies only to non-resident companies facing both deficit and liquidation. If the French authorities fail to respond to this reasoned opinion within two months, the case may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.