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European Commission - Fact Sheet

February infringements package: key decisions

Brussels, 15 February 2017

February infringements package: key decisions

Overview by policy area

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, aim to ensure the proper application of EU law for the benefit of citizens and businesses.

The key decisions taken by the Commission (including 5 letters of formal notice, 50 reasoned opinions, 7 referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union, and 3 closures) are presented below and grouped by policy area. The Commission is also closing 103 cases in which the issues with the Member States concerned have been solved without the Commission needing to pursue the procedure further.

For more information on the EU infringement procedure, see the full MEMO/12/12. For more detail on all decisions taken, consult the infringement decisions' register.

1. Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

(For more information: Christian Wigand - tel.: +32 229 62253, Sara Soumillion – tel.: +32 229 67094)

Reasoned opinions

Health and safety: Commission urges PORTUGAL to notify transposition of the Electromagnetic Fields Directive

The European Commission decided today to send a reasoned opinion to Portugal over the failure to notify the transposition of the Directive on the protection of workers against electromagnetic fields (Directive 2013/35/EU) into their national legislation. The general principles for the protection of the health and safety of workers are set out in the Framework Directive (Council Directive 89/391/EEC). The Electromagnetic Fields Directive tailors these principles to the specific risks arising from electromagnetic fields. The Directive further specifies the requirements for employers to assess risks arising from the exposure to electromagnetic fields in the workplace and, if necessary, to put in place preventive and protective measures to eliminate such risks or reduce them to a minimum. It also sets specific exposure limit values which should not be exceeded. Member States' laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the Electromagnetic Fields Directive had to enter into force by 1 July 2016 and the Commission had to be informed immediately. Given that the Portuguese authorities are merely preparing the necessary transposition measures but have not yet notified the Commission of the final adoption and entry into force of the necessary measures, the Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion. If the Portuguese authorities fail to act within two months, the case may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Free movement of workers: Commission requests 8 Member States to notify complete transposition of the Directive aiming to facilitate EU citizens work abroad

The Commission has decided to send reasoned opinions to Austria, Cyprus, theCzech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugaland Romania over the failure to notify complete transposition of the Directive concerning EU citizens' right to work in another Member State (Directive 2014/54/EU) into their national legislation. The Directive aims to help people working or looking for a job in another EU country to exercise their right of free movement granted by EU law more easily. It envisages measures to assist and to protect mobile Union citizens, to ensure better access to information on the free movement rights, to tackle discrimination on grounds of nationality as regards access to employment, pay and other working conditions as well as to overcome existing unjustified obstacles to free movement. Member States were under an obligation to transpose this Directive and to communicate national transposition measures to the Commission by 21 May 2016. Further to the letters of formal notice sent by the Commission in September 2016, the European Commission has decided to send them reasoned opinions. If these Member States' authorities fail to act within two months, the case may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Posting of workers: Commission urges 9 Member States to notify complete transposition of the Enforcement Directive

The European Commission decided today to send reasoned opinions to the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Spain, Croatia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Swedenand Slovenia over the failure to notify the complete transposition into their national legislation of the Directive (Directive 2014/67/EU) setting out measures and control mechanisms necessary for the better and more uniform implementation, application and enforcement in practice of the posting of workers as required by Directive 96/71/EC. Member States' laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the Posting of Workers Enforcement Directive had to enter into force by 18 June 2016 and the Commission had to be informed immediately. Given that the authorities of these Member States have not yet notified the Commission of the adoption of the necessary measures, the Commission has decided to send them reasoned opinions. If the national authorities fail to act within two months, the case may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.

 

2. Energy

(For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen - tel.: +32 229 56186, Nicole Bockstaller – tel.: +32 229 52589)

A reasoned opinion

Commission requests LATVIA to fully comply with Energy Performance of Buildings Directive

The European Commission has requested Latvia to correctly transpose all the requirements of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (Directive 2010/31/EU) into national law. In the EU, buildings represent 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions. The correct implementation of the Directive is essential for reaching EU energy and climate targets as well as improving comfort and helping consumers save money on their energy bills. Member States must establish and apply minimum energy performance requirements for new and existing buildings, ensure the certification of buildings' energy performance, and require the regular inspection of heating and air conditioning systems. In addition, the Directive requires Member States to ensure that all new buildings are ‘nearly-zero energy' buildings from 2021 onwards. According to the Commission, not all the requirements of the Directive had been fulfilled. In particular, the energy performance certificates which have to be issued when a building is constructed, sold or rented out to a new tenant are not made compulsory in Latvia, but should be issued only upon request by the buyer, tenant or lessee. The Directive also requires that the energy certificates are displayed in visible place in buildings frequently visited by the public, while the national legislation limits these obligations to buildings owned by the public. Finally, there are more exemptions than foreseen in the Directive and no sufficient enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure compliance with the Directive's requirements. Latvia has two months to notify the European Commission of measures taken to remedy this situation; otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the Latvian authorities to the Court of Justice of the EU.

 

3. Environment

(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 takes IRELAND to Court for failure to upgrade waste water treatment infrastructure

The European Commission is taking Ireland to the Court of Justice of the EU for its failure to ensure that urban waste water in 38 agglomerations across the country is adequately collected and treated to prevent serious risks to human health and the environment. Under EU law (Council Directive 91/271/EEC), towns and cities are required to collect and treat their urban waste water, as untreated waste water can put human health at risk and pollute lakes, rivers, soil, coastal and groundwater. The 38 agglomerations (towns, cities, settlements) with inadequate wastewater infrastructure are: Arklow, Athlone, Ballybofer/Stranorlar, Ballincollig New, Castlecomer, Cavan, Clifden, Clonakily, Cobh, Cork City, Dundalk, Enfield, Enniscorthy, Fermoy, Gaoth Dobhair, Killarney, Killybegs, Longford, Mallow, Midleton, Monksland, Navan, Nenagh, Oberstown, Pasage/Monktown, Portarlington, Rathcormac, Ringaskiddy, Ringsend, Roscommon Town, Roscrea, Shannon Town, Thurles, Tralee, Tubbercurry, Youghal and Waterford City. The referral decision also raises additional concerns about the failure to ensure that a correct operating licence has been issued for the treatment plants serving the agglomerations of Arklow and Castlebridge. The Commission initiated the infringement against Ireland in September 2013, followed by warnings in September 2015 and September 2016. According to a recent Commission report on the implementation of EU environmental policy and law in Member States, one of the main challenges Ireland faces is maintaining the important investments required for water services, given the urgent need to invest in water infrastructure. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

Landfills: Commission refers ROMANIA to the Court of Justice of the EU over illegal landfills

The European Commission is taking Romania to the Court of Justice of the EU for its failure to close and rehabilitate 68 illegal landfills, which represent a serious risk for human health and the environment. Despite earlier warnings from the Commission, Romania has failed to take measures against 68 non-compliant landfills, as required by EU Landfill Directive (Council Directive 1999/31/EC). Under the Directive, Member States must recover and dispose of waste in a manner that does not endanger human health and the environment, prohibiting the abandonment, dumping or uncontrolled disposal of waste. Romania was obliged to close and rehabilitate these substandard municipal and industrial landfills by 16 July 2009. Due to insufficient progress in addressing the issue, the Commission sent an additional reasoned opinion in September2015, urging the Romanian authorities to adequately deal with 109 uncontrolled sites, which – although not in operation – still posed a threat to human health and the environment. Some progress was made, but for 68 landfills the necessary measures - to clean them up and close them - had still not been completed by December 2016. In an effort to urge Romania to speed up the process, the Commission is bringing the Romanian authorities before the Court of Justice of the EU. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

 

Reasoned opinions

Waste: Commission calls on AUSTRIA to enact EU rules on waste

The European Commission is urging Austria to bring its national law into full conformity with EU rules on waste (Commission Directive (EU) 2015/1127 amending the Waste Framework Directive, Directive 2008/98/EC). The Waste Framework Directive aims to minimise the negative effects of the generation and management of waste on human health and the environment. It also seeks to reduce the use of resources and focuses on prevention, reuse and recycling, thereby contributing to a more circular economy. Member States were obliged to adopt the measures necessary to comply with the Directive by 31 July 2016. After Austria missed the initial deadline, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice in September 2016. Austria adopted certain measures, but a number of points of non-conformity in the regulatory framework still remain, such as provisions regarding the energy efficiency formula and energy recovery from waste in accordance with the waste hierarchy. The Commission is now sending a reasoned opinion. Austria 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.

Waste: Commission requests BELGIUM to revise regional measures on waste management and waste prevention

The Commission is urging Belgium to adopt and update plans to prevent and manage waste, into line with the objectives of EU waste legislation (Directive 2008/98/EC) and the circular economy. Such plans and programmes are intended to reduce the impact of waste on human health and the environment, and to improve resource efficiency across the EU. Member States have to re-evaluate their waste management plans at least every six years and revise them as appropriate. Belgium failed to revise, extend or replace the existing waste management plan for the Walloon Region (Horizon 2010) and improve its component on waste prevention. As Belgium is lagging behind with the update, and the new waste documents are expected to be adopted only later this year, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion. If Belgium fails to act within two months, the case may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Noise: Commission is urging HUNGARY to adopt measures on environmental noise

The European Commission calls on Hungary to establish the required strategic noise maps and action plans, as required under the EU rules (the Noise Directive, Directive 2002/49/EC) to decrease noise pollution in the EU. Environmental noise – as caused by road, rail and airport traffic, industry, construction, and some other outdoor activities – is the second main cause for premature death after air pollution. The Noise Directive requires Member States to prepare and publish, every five years, noise maps and noise management action plans for bigger urban areas, major roads, railways and airports. The Commission sent Hungary a letter of formal notice in April 2016. Although there has been some progress, the Hungarian authorities have still failed to draw up and to communicate to the Commission the required strategic noise maps for the Budapest agglomeration and the required action plans for the major roads and major railways in the country. The Commission has, therefore, decided to send a reasoned opinion. If Hungary fails to act within two months, the case may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Animal welfare: Commission is urging ITALY to enact measures on the protection of lab animals

The European Commission calls on Italy to bring its national law into full conformity with EU rules on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (Directive 2010/63/EU). This Directive, which should have been enacted into national law by 10 November 2012, ensures a high level of animal welfare while safeguarding the proper functioning of the internal market. It also aims to minimise the number of animals used in experiments and requires alternatives to be used where possible. Italy had enacted the Directive in March 2014; however, a number of points of non-conformity need to be addressed. On certain aspects, the Italian law remains below the animal welfare standards set out by the Directive, while Italy invokes its allegedly higher standards on other issues, which can disturb the proper functioning of the internal market. In April 2016, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice. As substantial compliance issues still remain, the Commission is now sending a reasoned opinion. If the Italian authorities fail to act within two months, the case may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Waste: Commission calls on ITALY to adopt and revise regional measures on waste management

The Commission is urging Italy to adopt and update plans to manage waste, into line with the objectives of EU waste legislation (Directive 2008/98/EC) and the circular economy. Such plans are intended to reduce the impact of waste on human health and the environment, and to improve resource efficiency across the EU. Member States have to re-evaluate their waste management plans at least every six years and revise them as appropriate. Several Italian regions (Abruzzi, Basilicata, Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Liguria, Piedmont, Sardinia and Sicily) failed to revise their waste management plans adopted in 2008 or earlier. The Commission is, therefore, sending a reasoned opinion. If the Italian authorities fail to act within two months, the case may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Air pollution: Commission warns GERMANY, FRANCE, SPAIN, ITALY and the UNITED KINGDOM of continued air pollution breaches

The European Commission sends final warnings to Germany, France, Spain, Italy andthe United Kingdom for failing to address repeated breaches of air pollution limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2). NO2 pollution is a serious health risk. Most emissions result from road traffic. The European Commission urges 5 Member States to take action to ensure good air quality and safeguard public health. More than 400 000 citizens die prematurely in the EU each year as a result of poor air quality. Millions more suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases caused by air pollution. Persistently high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) caused almost 70 000 premature deaths in Europe in 2013, which was almost three times the number of deaths by road traffic accidents in the same year. EU legislation on ambient air quality (Directive 2008/50/EC) sets limit values for air pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide. In case such limit values are exceeded, Member States are required to adopt and implement air quality plans that set out appropriate measures to bring this situation to an end as soon as possible. Today's reasoned opinion concerns persistent exceeding of NO2 limit values in: Germany (28 air quality zones, including Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and Köln); France (19 air quality zones, among them Paris, Marseille and Lyon); The United Kingdom (16 air quality zones, among them London, Birmingham, Leeds, and Glasgow); Italy (12 air quality zones, including Rome, Milan and Turin); Spain (3 air quality zones, one being Madrid and two covering Barcelona). While it is up to the Member State authorities to choose the appropriate measures to address exceeding NO2 limits, much more effort is necessary at local, regional and national levels to meet the obligations of EU rules and safeguard public health. If Member States fail to act within two months, the Commission may decide to take the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

 

4. Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union

(For more information: Vanessa Mock – tel.: +32 229 56194, Letizia Lupini - tel.: +32 229 51958)

Audits: The Commission requests CROATIA, CYPRUS, ESTONIA, POLAND, ROMANIA and SLOVENIA to apply EU rules on Audit

The European Commission has requested Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Poland, Romania and Slovenia to fully implement the new EU rules on Audit. The Audit Directive (Directive 2014/56/EU on statutory audits of annual accounts and consolidated accounts) lays down the conditions for the approval and registration of persons that carry out statutory audits. It also sets out the rules on independence, objectivity and professional ethics applying to those persons and the framework for their public oversight. Amending the previous Audit Directive (Directive 2006/43/EC), the new rules allow for greater transparency and predictability of the requirements applying to persons performing audits. The amendments further enhance the independence and objectivity of those performing audits. Member States had to enact these rules into national law by 17 June 2016. Having missed the original deadline, these six Member States were sent letters of formal notice at the end of July 2016. They replied to these letters committing to swiftly enact the new legislation. Having failed to do so, today's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion. If Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Poland, Romania and Slovenia do not act within two months, they may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Reporting on infringements: The Commission calls on POLAND, the NETHERLANDS, SPAIN and PORTUGAL to apply EU rules on whistle-blowers

In 2015, the Commission adopted an implementing Directive as regards the reporting to competent authorities of actual or potential infringements of the Market Abuse Regulation ("whistle-blowing" Directive; Commission Implementing Directive (EU) 2015/2392). This Directive is part of the Market Abuse rulebook and requires Member States to establish effective mechanisms to enable the reporting of infringements of the Market Abuse Regulation. It contains provisions to protect those who report such infringements and further specifies procedures to protect whistle-blowers and reported persons, including follow-up arrangements on reports by whistle-blowers and protection of personal data. Member States had to enact these rules into national law by 3 July 2016. Having missed this original deadline, Poland, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal were sent letters of formal notice in September 2016. As the Commission is not aware of a transposition of the rules into national law, it is issuing a reasoned opinion to Poland, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal requesting them to bring their legislation on whistle-blowing into line with EU law. If they fail to act within two months, these Member States may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.

 

5. Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

(For more information: Lucia Caudet – tel.: +32 229 56182, Mirna Talko – tel.: +32 229 87278)

Letters of formal notice

Free movement of goods: Commission launches infringement procedures against HUNGARY and ROMANIA regarding retail trade of agricultural and food products

The Commission decided today to send letters of formal notice to Hungary and Romania on the grounds that their national rules on retail of agricultural and food products run against EU law. In Hungary, a new law obliges retailers to apply the same profit margins to domestic and imported agricultural and food products, despite the fact that the cost of imported products is subject to currency and exchange rate fluctuations. This may discourage sales of imported agricultural and food products in comparison to domestic ones. The Commission raised concerns on the basis of the principle of free movement of goods (Article 34 of Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, TFEU). In Romania, large retailers are required to purchase at least 51% of food and agricultural products from local producers. This raises concerns with respect to freedom of movement of goods. The same law also requires retailers to promote products of Romanian origin, restricting their commercial decision of which products to place on offer, which in turn runs counter to the freedom of establishment (Article 49 of TFEU). According to EU law restrictions of these freedoms are only permitted when there is a justified need to protect an overriding public interest, such as public health, and no less restrictive the measures can be taken. Neither Hungary nor Romania has provided evidence that their national measures are justified and proportionate. The Hungarian and Romanian authorities now have two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission.

 

Letters of formal notice, a reasoned opinion and a closure

Late payment: Commission urges 4 Member States to comply with the Late Payment Directive to protect SMEs in their commercial relations

The European Commission is taking further steps against Greece, Italy, Slovakia and Spain to ensure the correct application of the Late Payment Directive (Directive 2011/7/EU) and prevent losses to businesses – particularly, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) - in these countries. Late payments have a negative impact on businesses by affecting their liquidity and cash flow, complicating their financial management and preventing them from growing. The Late Payments Directive equips creditors with strengthened rights by putting in place time limits for payments by businesses and public authorities when procuring goods or services. When payment deadlines are not met, it entitles businesses to fair compensation. To discourage a culture of late payments, public administrations play a particularly important role in setting an example in promptly and transparently paying their suppliers. The Commission is requesting an action from Member States due to the following: Greece: new legislation removing creditors' rights to interest and compensation (a complementary letter of formal notice); Italy: excessively late payment by public authorities (a reasoned opinion); Slovakia: excessively delayed payments in the public health sector (a letter of formal notice); Spain: legislation systematically extending the statutory payment term by 30 days (a letter of formal notice). These 4 Member States now have two months to notify the Commission of measures taken to remedy the situation. Alternatively, the European Commission may decide to refer Italy, which receives a reasoned opinion, to the Court of Justice of the EU. The Commission has also decided to close a case against Portugal since the country has brought its national law into line with the Directive. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

 

Reasoned opinions

Single Market: Commission requests 4 Member States to transpose new rules on boats and boat components

The Commission decided today to send reasoned opinions to Cyprus, Finland, Ireland and Romania requesting them to transpose the Directive on recreational craft and personal watercraft (Directive 2013/53/EU). The Recreational craft Directive addresses the construction, safety, and other requirements of boats intended for sport or leisure. The Directive should have been fully transposed Member States' into national legislation by 18 January 2016. The 4 Member States concerned have not yet communicated the complete transposition of these Directives into their national laws to the Commission. These Member States now have two months to notify the Commission of the full transposition of the Directives; otherwise, the European Commission may decide to refer them to the Court of Justice of the EU.

 

A closure

AUSTRIA amends sectoral driving ban on the A12 Inn Valley motorway - Commission closes infringement case

The Commission decided today to close the infringement procedure against Austria concerning the national legislation which bans certain heavy goods vehicles from driving on a segment of the A12 motorway in the Inn Valley. The Commission, in a letter of formal notice sent to Austria in July 2016, had considered the risk that this measure could in practice have on restricting free transit and hence also the free movement of goods (Article 34 of TFEU). While Austria is obliged to introduce measures reducing atmospheric pollution in the Inn Valley under the Ambient Air Quality Directive (Directive 2008/50/EC), the Commission had considered that less restrictive measures were available to achieve the objective. Austria subsequently amended this legislation in October 2016. The Commission welcomes the amendment and is, therefore, now in a position to close the infringement procedure

 

6. Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

(For more information: Enrico Brivio – tel.: +32 229 56172, Iris Petsa – tel.: +32 229 93321)

A reasoned opinion

Commission calls on ROMANIA to comply with the principle of equal access to EU waters and resources in the Black Sea

The Commission is urging Romania to comply with the principle of equal access to Union waters and resources in the Black Sea. In a reasoned opinion sent to Romania today, the Commission considers that Romania has failed to grant equal access to EU waters and resources, following a series of incidents involving vessels flying the flag of Bulgaria. The equal access regime is a fundamental principle of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). EU fishing vessels shall have equal access to waters and resources in all EU waters, as prescribed under Article 5(1) of the Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013. Member States must ensure that vessels flying the flag of other EU countries can freely access the waters under their jurisdiction in order to carry out fishing activities. Member States must also ensure that these vessels are treated in a non-discriminatory manner by national authorities in charge of fisheries control. Romania has two months to inform the Commission of the measures taken to remedy the situation, following which the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

 

7. Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship

(For more information: Tove Ernst – tel.: +32 229 86764, Katarzyna Kolanko - tel.: +32 229 63444)

Reasoned opinions

Migration: Commission urges BELGIUM to fully implement rules on the Single Permit

The Commission decided to send a complementary reasoned opinion urging Belgium to fully transpose the 'Single Permit Directive' (Directive 2011/98/EU), which all Member States were required to transpose by 25 December 2013. The Directive introduces a single application procedure for the issuing of single permits for non-EU nationals to reside and work on the territory of an EU Member State, and a common set of rights (including equal treatment compared to nationals in that country) for non-EU workers legally residing in a Member State. By the transposition deadline, Belgium had only partially transposed the Directive. As a result, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice for non-communication to Belgium in March 2014 and a reasoned opinion in April 2015, finally referring Belgium to the Court of Justice of the EU in November 2015. Belgium has subsequently notified the Commission of the ongoing legislative processes, including at the regional level, and the referral to the Court was temporarily put on hold. However, the transposition of the Directive still remains partial and has no reliable timetable for finalisation. The Commission, therefore, decided to address an additional reasoned opinion to the Belgian authorities, which now have two months to notify the Commission of measures taken to bring its national legislation into line with EU law. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Belgium to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Security Union: Commission calls on CYPRUS, FRANCE and ROMANIA to implement completely European rules on explosives precursors

The European Commission is requesting Cyprus, France and Romania to ensure the full implementation of Regulation (EU) No 98/2013 on the marketing and use of explosives precursors. The Regulation entered into force on 2 September 2014 and is an important piece of legislation restricting and controlling the access to several dangerous chemicals which could be used by terrorists to manufacture homemade explosives. Cyprus, France and Romania have not yet laid down the required rules setting out penalties to be applied in case of a breach of the Regulation. The Commission is, therefore, sending reasoned opinions to the three Member States to urge them to take all measures necessary to ensure that the penalties are implemented into line with the Regulation. In addition, France and Romania are being reminded that they need to ensure a regular dissemination of precursors guidelines to economic operators (i.e. retailers). If Cyprus, France and Romania do not remedy the situation within the next two months, the Commission may decide to refer these cases to the Court of Justice of the EU. The correct implementation of this Regulation on explosives precursors is an important element of both the European Agenda on Security and the Commission's Communication on paving the way towards a genuine Security Union.

 

A closure

Commission closes infringement proceedings on the implementation of the Schengen Borders Code by GERMANY

The Commission decided today to close infringement proceedings against Germany concerning the legal framework for police checks in internal border zones. The German authorities adopted an advisory decree providing the necessary legal certainty on this matter. The Commission is, therefore, now in a position to close the infringement proceedings. In general, the Commission encourages Member States to make use of the possibility under the Schengen Borders Code to carry out police checks in border areas.

 

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

Transport: Commission refers CROATIA, the NETHERLANDS, PORTUGAL and SWEDEN to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to correctly implement EU rules on driving licences

The European Commission has decided to refer Croatia, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to correctly transpose the European rules on driving licences (Directive 2006/126/EC). The Commission has identified several shortcomings in the transposition of the Directive, including: the failure of the Netherlands to correctly implement the harmonised validity periods for licences; the failure of Portugal to ensure that one person holds only one licence; and the failure of Sweden to correctly transpose the requirements on medical fitness, especially for drivers who are dependent on alcohol. In addition, the European Commission has decided to refer Croatia to the Court for failing to connect to the EU driving licences network ("RESPER"), as required by Directive 2006/126/EC. RESPER can help Member States cooperate with each other and ensure that licences are issued in accordance with EU rules. The exchange of information through RESPER should have started on 19 January 2013. The Commission opened these infringement proceedings in October 2015, with a reasoned opinion sent to the Member States concerned in June 2016. Since they have still not fulfilled their obligations under Directive 2006/126/EC, the Commission has decided to refer the cases to the Court. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

 

9. Taxation and Customs Union

(For more information: Vanessa Mock – tel.: +32 229 56194, Patrick Mc Cullough – tel.: +32 229 87183)

A referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union

Taxation: Commission refers GREECE to the Court of Justice over reduced rate of excise duty applied to "Tsipouro" and "Tsikoudià"

The European Commission is referring Greece to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to apply the standard rate of excise duty to two specific alcoholic beverages "Tsipouro" and "Tsikoudià". According to EU law, the same excise duty rate should apply to ethyl alcohol used in the production of alcoholic beverages, unless exemptions or derogations apply. However, Greece does not have a derogation for the spirits Tsipouro or Tsikoudià and currently applies a reduced rate of excise duty (50%) to Tsipouro and Tsikoudià as well as super-reduced rate (around 6%) to the production of those same spirits by small producers, so-called 'two-day distillers'. By applying these reduced rates, Greece is infringing EU rules since it favours spirits produced in its own country. This runs counter to the principle that prohibits internal taxation which affords indirect protection to domestic products or the imposition on the products of other Member States of any internal taxation in excess of that imposed on similar domestic products. Furthermore, although small distilleries may benefit under certain conditions from a reduced rate of excise duty, this cannot be less than 50% of the standard national rate. By applying a super-reduced rate, the Greek scheme for two-day distillers does not respect these conditions. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

 

A reasoned opinion

Taxation: Commission calls on SPAIN to ensure that its rules on foreign-held assets are proportionate

The European Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Spain today requesting to change its rules on assets held in other EU or the European Economic Area (EEA) Member States ("Modelo 720"). While the Commission takes the view that Spain has the right to require taxpayers to provide its authorities with information on certain assets held abroad, the fines charged for failure to comply are disproportionate. As fines are much higher than penalties applied in a purely national situation, the rules may deter businesses and private individuals from investing or moving across borders in the single market. Such provisions are consequently discriminatory and in conflict with the fundamental freedoms in the EU. In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer the Spanish authorities to the Court of Justice of the EU.

MEMO/17/234

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