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European Commission - Fact Sheet

December infringements package: key decisions

Brussels, 7 December 2017

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 130 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. Digital Single Market

(For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt - tel.: +32 229 67083, Inga Höglund – tel.: +32 229 50698)

Referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union

Collective Rights Management: Commission refers BULGARIA, LUXEMBOURG, ROMANIA and SPAIN to the Court of Justice

The European Commission decided today to refer Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Romania and Spain to the Court of Justice of the EU for failure to notify complete transposition of EU rules on collective management of copyright and related rights, and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online use into national law as foreseen by 10 April 2016 Collective Rights Management Directive, Directive 2014/26/EU). The Commission is calling on the Court to impose financial penalties on those 4 Member States (Bulgaria - € 19 121,60 per day, Luxembourg - € 12 920,00 per day, Romania - € 42 377,60 per day and Spain - € 123 928,64 per day). The infringement proceedings were opened against those countries in May 2016. To date, these Member States have not yet notified the Commission of taking the necessary steps to transpose the Directive into national law. In a separate infringement case involving Romania, the Commission has also decided to send a letter of formal notice over the implementation of the mandatory collective management system of musical works in May 2016. The Commission considers that the Romanian law fails to comply with the Directive on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society and the Collective Rights Management Directive. The Collective Rights Management Directive aims at improving the way all collective management organisations are managed by establishing common governance, transparency and financial management standards. It also sets common standards for the multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses in the internal market. The Collective Rights Management Directive is an essential part of Europe's copyright legislation. All collective management organisations have to improve their standards on governance and transparency. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

 

A letter of formal notice

Commission urges ROMANIA to ensure proper application of the mandatory collective management system

The Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to Romania over the failure to notify complete implementation of EU rules on the mandatory collective management system of musical works. The Commission considers that the Romanian law fails to comply with the Directive on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society (Directive 2001/29/EC) and Collective Rights Management Directive (Directive 2014/26/EU). Under the EU law, authors can authorise or prohibit the communication to the public of their work. However, under the Romanian law, authors have no choice but to leave the management of their right of communication to the public of musical works to a collective management organisation. This leads to a deprivation of author's exclusive right to communication to the public which, in the Commission's view, is not justified under EU law. Romania has now two months to reply to this letter.

 

2. Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

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

Reasoned opinion

Commission urges ITALY to notify full transposition of EU rules on the Inernational Labour Organisation's Maritime Labour Convention

By issuing the present reasoned opinion, the Commission urges Italy to notify all the national measures transposing EU rules on the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention (MLC; Council Directive 2009/13/EC). The Directive implements the agreement of the EU social partners in the maritime sector on the implementation of the MLC. This Directive entered into force on 20 August 2013, the day of entry into force of the Convention. It takes over the binding provisions of the MLC on living and working conditions for seafarers falling under Article 153 of Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), in particular the provisions on the seafarers' employment agreement, minimum age, working time, health and safety, and seafarers' welfare. Italy notified a number of national transposing measures, but several provisions were still unclear. The Commission asked the Italian authorities for clarification, which they provided accordingly. However, this reply clarified some doubts and there is still no information as regards the national measures transposing certain obligations of the Directive. Therefore, the Commission considers that Italy has partially failed to notify the measures to implement the Directive by 20 August 2014. The Commission is now inviting Italy to take the necessary measures to fully comply with the Directive. If Italy fails to bring its national legislation into line with EU law within two months, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

 

3. Energy

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

Letters of formal notice

Internal Energy Market: Commission calls on CYPRUS and the CZECH REPUBLIC to implement EU's Third Energy Package

The Commission has decided to send letters of formal notice to Cyprus and the Czech Republic formally requesting to ensure the correct implementation and application of the Electricity Directive (Directive 2009/72/EC) and the Gas Directive (Directive 2009/73/EC). The Directives are part of the Third Energy Package and contain key legal provisions which allow energy markets to function properly.

Energy efficiency: Commission calls on GREECE and MALTA to correctly implement EU rules on energy performance of buildings

The Commission has send letters of formal notice requesting Greece and Malta to ensure the correct implementation of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (Directive 2010/31/EU). The Directive requires Member States to 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. The Directive also requires EU countries to ensure that all new buildings are 'nearly zero-energy' from 2021 onwards (from 2019 - for public buildings).

 

4. Environment

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

Reasoned opinions

Environmental impact: Commission calls on the CZECH REPUBLIC to complete its conformity with the EU rules

The European Commission urges the Czech Republic to address remaining issues of non-conformity in relation to EU legislation on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA; Directive 2011/92/EU). The aim of Directive is toensure that projects which are likely to have a significant effect on the environment are adequately assessed before they are approved. The Commission opened a formal infringement case in April 2013. Most of the concerns which were raised by the Commission have been solved by the Czech authorities in 2015. Nevertheless, there are a number of unresolved issues. Czech legislation omits that projects which are not yet implemented, have been screened before 1 April 2015 or which underwent changes before receiving the development consent. In addition, access to justice for such projects is not ensured in line with the requirements of the Directive. The Czech authorities now have two months to reply on how to remedy the situation; otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the Czech Republic to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Water: Commission urges HUNGARY to ensure respect for EU rules for treating urban waste water

The Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to Hungary over its failure to comply with the EU requirements of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (Council Directive 91/271/EEC) in a total of 22 agglomerations. Untreated waste water can put human health at risk and pollute lakes, rivers, soil and coastal and groundwater. All these agglomerations should have been compliant by 31 December 2008 (in sensitive areas with a population equivalent of more than 10 000) and 31 December 2010 (in normal areas with a population equivalent of more than 15 000) as laid down in Hungary's Act of Accession. The Commission opened formal infringement proceedings in February 2017. The latest data provided by the Hungarian authorities show that conformity with EU legislation has not been achieved and is unclear from Hungary's reply when this will be the case. The Hungarian authorities have two months to reply on how to remedy the situation; otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU. This case is part of a horizontal action involving 12 Member States which all benefited from temporary derogations under their respective Treaties of Accession.

Air: Commission calls on POLAND to enact new EU legislation on improving air quality

The Commission is urging Poland to transpose EU rules on the reference methods, data validation and location of sampling points for the assessment of ambient air quality (Commission Directive (EU) 2015/1480). The Directive updates a number of data quality objectives and reference methods for measuring certain air pollutants. It also complements the criteria for the assessment of ambient air quality data and the siting of sampling points. Member States were required to transpose this Directive by 31 December 2016. As Poland has not done so, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion and giving the Polish authorities two months to reply. In the absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission may refer Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Plastic bags: Commission urges PORTUGAL to enact EU rules on lightweight plastic carrier bags

The Commission is calling Portugal to complete the enactment of EU waste legislation (Plastic Bags Directive, Directive (EU) 2015/720) into its national laws. In view of tackling resource waste and littering, Member States had to adopt measures to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags as required by the Directive by 27 November 2016. National governments can choose from among a list of measures to achieve the commonly agreed objectives. These include economic instruments, such as charges or levies. Another option is national reduction targets: Member States must ensure that no more than 90 of these bags are consumed per person a year by the end of 2019. By the end of 2025, that number should be down to no more than 40 bags per person. Both options may be achieved either through compulsory measures or agreements with economic sectors. It is also possible to ban plastic bags provided those bans do not go beyond the limits established by the Directive in order to preserve free movement of goods within the European Single Market. The Commission verifies by way of priority whether the Member States have fulfilled the obligation to transpose this Directive. Today, the Commission sends a reasoned opinion to Portugal for continued failure to notify the Commission of its measures. The Portuguese authorities now have two months to reply; otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Portugal to the Court of Justice of the EU.

 

Letters of formal notice

Water: Commission urges HUNGARY to enact EU rules on drinking water

The Commission is calling on Hungary to comply with the parametric values for arsenic, boron and fluoride as stipulated in the Drinking Water Directive (Council Directive 98/83/EC) in all zones of the country. 365 Hungarian zones benefited from a temporary derogation which expired on 25 December 2012. A report by the Hungarian authorities revealed in April 2016 that a number of these zones still failed to comply with the Directive's requirements. Therefore, the Commission opened a formal infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice covering the 66 non-compliant zones in May 2016. However, a recent report from Hungary showed that this earlier report contained erroneous data for several zones. Therefore, the Commission decided today to send an additional letter of formal notice to Hungary on 28 non-compliant zones. Hungary has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Animal welfare: Commission calls on HUNGARY to correctly enact measures on the protection of lab animals

The European Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice to Hungary over its incorrect transposition of a number of provisions of EU rules on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (Directive 2010/63/EU) into Hungarian law. The Directive, which had to be transposed 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. The Hungarian authorities incorrectly transposed the Directive into national legislation and therefore need to address several matters of non-conformity. Although the Hungarian authorities have indicated their willingness to tackle most of these issues, the necessary legislative amendments have not been adopted to date. Hungary has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Noise: Commission urges FRANCE and GREECE to adopt action plans on environmental noise

The Commission calls on France and Greece to comply with the key provisions of the Noise Directive (Directive 2002/49/EC). Environmental noise – as caused by road, rail and airport traffic – is the second main cause for premature death after air pollution. The Noise Directive requires Member States to adopt noise maps showing noise exposure within the bigger agglomerations, along main railways and main roads and of major airports. These maps then serve as a basis for defining measures in noise action plans. For France, action plans are missing for 58 agglomerations identified as well as for a significant number of major roads, major railways or major airports. Greece has still not adopted all the noise maps and noise action plans for agglomerations, major roads, and has also not reviewed the existing action plan for one major airport. Furthermore, France and Greece have also not properly identified all existing major infrastructures in their territories. The Commission has, therefore, decided to send a letter of formal notice to both Member States giving them two months to remedy the situation; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion. Since 2016, the Commission has initiated horizontal infringement action against 13 Member States on environmental noise.

Environmental impact: Commission calls on SPAIN to apply properly the EU rules when regularising certain projects

The Commission decided to open a formal infringement procedure against Spain today following complaints on implications of an urban development project planned to be carried out in a tourist resort on the island of Fuerteventura in Spain. The Commission is in view that the project had been approved without a proper determination of the need for a prior environmental impact assessment of its effects under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA; Directive 2011/92/EU) and without the appropriate impact assessment of the effects on the Special Protected Areas required under the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC). Moreover, the project was declared null and void by Spanish Courts, but the construction works were not suspended and continued under a modified project. The Commission is, therefore, sending a letter of formal notice requesting Spain to ensure compliance with the Environmental Impact Assessment and the Habitats Directives when unlawful constructions are regularized under the regional legislation of the Canary Islands. Spain has two months to respond; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

 

5. Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

(For more information: Lucia Caudet – tel.: +32 229 56182, Maud Noyon – tel.: +32 229 80379)

Referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union

Late payment: Commission refers ITALY to Court of Justice for failing to ensure suppliers are paid on time

Today, the European Commission decided to refer Italy to the Court of Justice of the EU due to systemic payments delay by the Italian public authorities in commercial transactions, thus breaching EU rules on payment arrangements (Late Payment Directive, Directive 2011/7/EU). According to the Late Payment Directive, public authorities have to pay for the goods and services they procure within 30 days or, in very exceptional circumstances, within 60 days of receiving the bill. The Commission attaches great importance to addressing the issue of delayed payment by public authorities, which has also been identified in several Member States, and pursues a strict enforcement policy of the Late Payment Directive. Timely payments are particularly important for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which count on a positive cash-flow to ensure their financial management, competitiveness and in many cases, their survival. The Commission acknowledges the efforts made by the Italian government to improve the situation since the launch of the infringement procedure with a letter of formal notice in June 2014 and the subsequent reasoned opinion sent in February 2017. However, more than three years after the launch of the infringement procedure, the Italian public authorities still take on average approximately 100 days to settle their invoices, with peaks which can considerably exceed this figure. The Commission has, therefore, decided to refer Italy to the Court of Justice of the EU. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

Commission refers HUNGARY to the Court of Justice of the EU over the Higher Education Law

Today, the European Commission decided to refer Hungary to the Court of Justice of the European Union on the grounds that its Higher Education Law as amended on 4 April 2017 disproportionally restricts EU and non-EU universities in their operations and needs to be brought back in line with EU law. The Commission has made this referral on the grounds that the law as amended is not compatible with the freedom for higher education institutions to provide services and establish themselves anywhere in the EU. In addition, the Commission also remains of the opinion that the new legislation runs counter to the right of academic freedom, the right to education and the freedom to conduct a business as provided by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the Union's legal obligations under international trade law (the General Agreement on Trade in Services, GATS, in the framework of the World Trade Organisation, WTO). The Commission launched the infringement procedure against Hungary in April 2017. As Hungary maintained its position in their replies to the letter of formal notice, reasoned opinion and additional reasoned opinion and didn't bring the Higher Education Law in line with EU law, the Commission has decided to refer Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

 

Referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union, a letter of formal notice and a reasoned opinion

Professional qualifications: Commission refers BELGIUM, FRANCE and GERMANY to Court and opens infringement against CYPRUS

The Commission has decided to refer Belgium, France and Germany to the Court of Justice of the EU over the failure to notify the complete transposition of EU law on the recognition of professional qualifications (Directive 2013/55/EU). The revised Directive should have been transposed into national legislation by 18 January 2016. The Commission sent reasoned opinions to the Belgian, French and German authorities in September 2016. Since then, Belgium, France and Germany still have not notified the complete transposition of the Directive to the Commission. Although substantial progress has been made, in particular by Germany and France, the Commission has decided to refer the 3 countries to the Court of Justice of the EU. The Commission will call on the Court to impose a daily penalty of € 22 260,48 for Belgium, € 53 287,52 for France and € 62 203,68 for Germany from the day of the judgement until this Directive is fully enacted and in force in national law. At the same time, the Commission is urging Cyprus to remove restrictions in certain regulations of professions which are incompatible with EU law. The Commission is sending a letter of formal notice to Cyprus for not recognising the professional training in the fields of engineering and architecture acquired by Cypriot citizens in other Member States, which does not seem to be in line with Directive 2005/36/EC. In addition, national rules do not fully respect the principle of automatic recognition of professional qualifications acquired abroad by architects as laid down in Article 49 of Directive 2005/36/EC. Cyprus now has two months to remedy the situation; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion to Cyprus. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

 

Referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union and a letter of formal notice

Public procurement: Commission refers 4 Member States to Court of Justice and opens a new case

The European Commission has decided to take Austria, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Spain to the Court of Justice of the EU over the failure to notify complete transposition of EU rules on public procurement and concessions (Directives 2014/23/EU, 2014/24/EU, 2014/25/EU) into national law. All Member States were obliged to notify the transposition of the latest public procurement rules by 18 April 2016. The Commission sent letters of formal notice to 21 Member States that had not transposed these rules in May 2016 and followed up with reasoned opinions addressed to 15 of those Member States in December 2016. The 4 Member States have still not notified the transposition of the following legislation: Austria and Luxembourg - Directives 2014/23/EU, 2014/24/EU, 2014/25/EU; Spain - Directives 2014/23/EU, 2014/25/EU; Slovenia - Directive 2014/23/EU. The Commission has thus decided to refer these 4 countries to the Court of Justice of the EU. The Commission will call on the Court to impose, depending on the Directive concerned, a daily penalty payment of € 52 972, € 42 377,6 and € 42 377,6 for Austria, of € 12 920, € 11 628 and € 11 628 for Luxembourg, of € 8 992,32 for Slovenia and of € 61 964,32 and € 123 928,64 for Spain, from the day of the judgement until these Directives are fully enacted and in force in national law. At the same time, the Commission is sending a letter of formal notice to the Netherlands, since it has not qualified the Dutch housing corporations as contracting authorities even though they are involved in public contracts. The Commission considers that the Netherlands breached the transparency obligation in Directive 2014/23/EU and Directive 2014/24/EU. The Netherlands has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

 

A Referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union and a closure

Services: Commission refers AUSTRIA to Court of Justice and closes a case against CYPRUS

Today, The Commission decided to refer Austria to the Court of Justice of the EU due to overly restrictive rules on the provision of services by architects, engineers, patent attorneys and veterinarians. At the same time, the Commission is closing a case against Cyprus as it has addressed the Commission's concerns and removed restrictions on engineering companies. Austrian legislation imposes a number of requirements on regulated professions: seat requirements for architects, engineers and patent attorneys; legal form and excessive shareholding requirements for architects, engineers, patent attorneys and veterinarians; restrictions on multidisciplinary companies for architects, engineers and patent attorneys. The Commission holds the view that these requirements create unjustified obstacles to the provision of services by these professions and run counter to the freedom to provide services (Articles 49 and 56 of Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, TFEU) and to the Services Directive (Articles 14, 15 and 25 of Directive 2006/123/EC). Austria was requested to remedy the breach of EU law, first in a letter of formal notice sent in June 2015, then in a reasoned opinion in February 2016 and, following an exchange with the Austrian authorities, a complementary reasoned opinion in November 2016. As the Austrian authorities maintain their position, the Commission has decided to refer Austria to the Court of Justice of the EU. In addition, the Commission has also decided to close a case against Cyprus regarding a 100% shareholding requirement imposed on engineering companies which are incorporated in Cyprus. The provision under the Cypriot law meant that all shareholders of such companies had to be qualified professionals and all voting rights had to belong to them. The Commission considered that such restrictions were disproportionate and ran counter to the freedom of establishment and the Services Directive (Directive 2006/123/EC). Following the Commission's decision in November 2016 to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU, Cyprus amended the law allowing a simple majority of capital shares and voting rights to be held by professionals. On this basis, the Commission decided to close the case today. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

 

A letter of formal notice

Free movement of goods: Commission calls on SPAIN to remove restrictions on imports of homeopathic medicines

Today, the European Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice to Spain regarding restrictions on parallel imports of homeopathic medicines. The current practices make it impossible in practice to introduce homeopathic medicines that are lawfully marketed in other EU Member States in the Spanish market. The Commission considers that this practice is contrary to the EU rules on free movement of goods (Article 34 of TFEU) and the Directive on medicinal products for human use (Articles 6 and 13(1) of Directive 2001/83). Spain now has two months to respond to the arguments raised by the Commission; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion to Spain.

 

Closures

Commission closes infringement procedures and complaints in the gambling sector

In line with its political commitment to be more strategic in enforcing EU law, the European Commission has today decided to close its infringement procedures and the treatment of complaints in the area of gambling. From the start, the Juncker Commission has been focusing on its political priorities and pursuing them vigorously. This political approach is also reflected in the Commission's handling of infringement cases. The Communication “EU law: Better results through better application” sets out the Commission's approach to prioritising cases in a strategic manner, carefully weighing the various public and private interests involved. In this vein, the Commission has today decided to close its infringement procedures in the area of online gambling and the treatment of relevant complaints against a number of Member States. The Court of Justice of the European Union has repeatedly recognised Member States' rights to restrict gambling services where necessary to protect public interest objectives such as the protection of minors, the fight against gambling addiction and the combat of irregularities and fraud. The Commission acknowledges the broader political legitimacy of the public interest objectives that Member States are pursuing when regulating gambling services. The Commission also notes Member States' efforts to modernise their online gambling legal frameworks, channel citizens' demand for gambling from unregulated offer to authorised and supervised websites, and ensure that operators pay taxes. With that in mind, it is not a priority for the Commission to use its infringement powers to promote an EU Single Market in the area of online gambling services. The Commission will continue to support Member States in their efforts to modernise their national online gambling legal frameworks and to facilitate cooperation between national gambling regulators. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

 

6. Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality

(For more information: Christian Wigand – tel.: +32 229 62253, Melanie Voin - tel.: +32 229 58659)

A referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union

European Commission refers HUNGARY to the Court of Justice for its NGO Law

Today, the European Commission is referring Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU for its law on foreign-funded NGOs. This is the third step in the infringement procedure. It follows the letter of formal notice sent by the Commission on 14 July and the reasoned opinionissued on 4 October this year. The Commission had decided to start legal proceedings against Hungary for failing to fulfil its obligations under the Treaty provisions on the free movement of capital, due to provisions in the NGO Law which indirectly discriminate and disproportionately restrict donations from abroad to civil society organisations. In addition to these concerns, the Commission is also of the opinion that Hungary violates the right to freedom of association and the right to protection of private life and personal data enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, read in conjunction with the EU Treaty provisions on the free movement of capital. Hungary replied to the Commission's letter of formal notice on 14 August and 7 September. After having carefully analysed the explanations put forward by Hungary, the European Commission concluded that its serious concerns had not been addressed and so issued a reasoned opinion. Hungary was given one month to take the necessary measures to comply with this reasoned opinion. The Hungarian authorities did not reply to the reasoned opinion within the deadline. Nor has Hungary, to this day, amended or repealed the contested provisions of the NGO law in compliance with EU law. Therefore the Commission has decided to refer the case to the Court of Justice under Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). For more information, please refer to the full press release.

 

Reasoned opinions and letters of formal notice

Commission urges 8 Member States to transpose the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive

Today, the Commission urged Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania to transpose the '4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive' (Directive (EU) 2015/849) in their national legislation. The new EU rules will strengthen the existing anti-money laundering requirements and improve the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing. All Member States had to transpose this Directive by 26 June 2017. The 8 Member States have not notified any transposition measures and the draft laws are still in their national legislative process. Therefore, after giving these 8 countries the opportunity to submit their observations in reply to its letters of formal notice sent in July 2017, the Commission is now urging these countries to take the necessary measures to fully comply with the Directive. If these Member States fail to bring their national legislation into line with EU law within next two months, the Commission may decide to refer the cases to the Court of Justice of the EU. In addition to infringement proceedings against a number of Member States that the Commission opened last July, on 23 November 2017, the Commission has opened new infringement proceedings and sent letters of formal notice to Belgium and Spain as the Commission has assessed that the notified measures did not represent a complete transposition of EU rules on the Anti-Money Laundering Directive in the national legal systems. Belgium and Spain have two months to reply to the letter of formal notice; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

 

A closure

Commission and ITALY successfully resolve package travel issue to ensure consumers are protected in case a tour operator goes bankrupt

Today, the Commission closed an infringement procedure against Italy, as the country has now brought its national rules on package travel in line with the EU Package Travel Directive (Council Directive 90/314/EEC). The EU legislation requires organisers of package tours to have insolvency protection guaranteeing that consumers receive a refund and are brought back home in case the travel organiser goes bankrupt. Thanks to a complaint by an Italian consumer organisation in 2011, the Commission became aware of an issue with the Italian National Guarantee Fund (in Italian - Fondo Nazionale di Garanzia). After the tour organiser Todomondo had gone bankrupt in 2009, the Fund had received more than 4 000 reimbursement claims, totalling almost €7 million. However, there was not enough money in the Fund to cover them. As a result, the Commission opened an infringement proceeding in 2012. Due to changes in the Italian legislation - which became applicable in July 2016 - the Italian authorities have now replaced the underfunded National Guarantee Fund with a duty for tour operators and travel agencies to take out insurance or provide a bank guarantee for all payments they receive from consumers. This protection can be provided also through privately-run collective funds. Travellers using Italian tour operators are now fully protected should the company go bankrupt. Italy has also made arrangements for reimbursement for all travellers who had lost money through insolvencies in the past.

 

7. Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

(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

European integrated maritime policy: Commission decides to refer BULGARIA, FINLAND and GREECE to the Court

The European Commission decided today to refer Bulgaria, Finland and Greece to the Court of Justice of the EU for not notifying or partially notifying its measures transposing EU rules establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning (Directive 2014/89/EU). Member States had to transpose the Directive into national law by 18 September 2016. The Commission will call on the Court to impose a daily penalty payment of € 14 089,60 per day for Bulgaria, € 7 739,76 per day for Finland and € 31 416,00 per day for Greece from the day of the judgement until this Directive is fully enacted and in force in national law. The infringement proceedings were opened against Bulgaria, Finland and Greece in November 2016 and reasoned opinions were sent in these proceedings in July 2017. Bulgaria and Greece have not notified the Commission on the adoption of the measures necessary to transpose the Directive. Finland has notified the Commission on the adoption of the measures necessary to transpose the Directive but these measures apply only to mainland Finland and not to the Province of Åland, which is also covered by the scope of the Directive. Competition for maritime space – for renewable energy equipment, shipping, fisheries, aquaculture and other uses – has highlighted the need to manage our waters jointly and more coherently. Maritime spatial planning works across borders and sectors to ensure human activities at sea take place in an efficient, safe and sustainable way. Maritime Spatial Planning directly supports and facilitates the implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Among its main objectives are high levels of employment and productivity, and social cohesion and inclusion. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

 

8. Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship

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

Referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union

Relocation: Commission refers the CZECH REPUBLIC, HUNGARY and POLAND to the Court of Justice

The European Commission has today decided to refer the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU for non-compliance with their legal obligations on relocation. On 15 June 2017, the Commission launched infringement procedures against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. The replies provided by the three Member States were not found satisfactory and the Commission decided to move to the next stage of the infringement procedure by sending reasoned opinions on 26 July 2017. Despite the confirmation by the Court of Justice of the EU of the validity of the relocation scheme in its ruling from the 6 September, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland remain in breach of their legal obligations. The replies received were again found not satisfactory and the three Member States have given no indication that they will contribute to the implementation of the emergency relocation scheme. This is why the Commission has decided to confirm that the infringements it had identified in its reasoned opinions remain by now moving to the next stage of the infringement procedure. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

 

Reasoned opinions

Migration: Commission steps up infringement 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 reasoned opinion. The Commission initiated the infringement procedure against Hungary in December 2015. Following a series of exchanges both at political and technical level with the Hungarian authorities and the concerns raised by the amendments to the Hungarian asylum law introduced in March this year, the Commission decided to send a complementary letter of formal notice on 17 May 2017. Following the analysis of the reply provided by the Hungarian authorities, and in view of the new legislation adopted by the Hungarian Parliament in October, the Commission will no longer pursue four out of the eleven issues identified in the complementary letter of formal notice. The reply provided by the Hungarian authorities, however, was still found to be unsatisfactory as it failed to address the majority of the concerns. The Commission still 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. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

 

Letters of formal notice:

Legal migration: Commission calls on GREECE, the NETHERLANDS and PORTUGAL to reconsider charges for residence permits for third country nationals and urges ROMANIA to implement legal migration directives correctly

The Commission decided today to send letters of formal notice to: Greece, the Netherlands and Portugal for charging excessive and disproportionate fees for residence permits under EU Directives on legal migration; as well to Romania - on the incorrect transposition and implementation of certain provisions in EU Directives on legal migration. These Directives cover the conditions of entry and residence for certain categories of migrants, such as students, researchers, and highly skilled workers but also long-term residents and beneficiaries of rules on family reunification. While Member States are allowed to levy administrative charges for processing applications, excessive and disproportionate charges breach the rights of the applicants. This concerns the implementation by all 4 Member States of the Students Directive (Council Directive 2004/114/EC), the Researchers Directive (Council Directive 2005/71/EC), the Blue Card Directive (Council Directive 2009/50/EC) and the Single Permit Directive (Directive 2011/98/EU), as well as the implementation of the Long-Term Residents Directive (Council Directive 2003/109/EC) and the Family Reunification Directive (Council Directive 2003/86/EC) by Greece and Portugal and Romania. The Commission also takes the view that Greece has failed to fulfil its obligations under the Long-Term Residents Directive by imposing conditions for the renewal of long-term residence permits instead of automatically renewing them. In addition, the Commission today opened an infringement procedure against Romania on the incorrect transposition and implementation of provisions pertaining to the rejection of applications for residence permits and the obligation to justify the reasons for refusal in EU Directives on legal migration. The Directives concerned are the Family Reunification Directive (Directive 2003/86/EC), the Students Directive (Directive 2004/114/EC), the Researchers Directive (Directive 2005/71/EC), the Blue Card Directive (Directive 2009/50/EC) and the Single Permit Directive (Directive 2011/98/EU). Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania now have two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission.

 

9. Mobility and Transport

(For more information: Enrico Brivio – tel.: +32 229 56172, Alexis Perier - tel.: +32 229 69143)

A reasoned opinion

Sustainable transport: Commission urges AUSTRIA to transpose rules on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure

The Commission has called on Austria 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 dependence on transport oil, mitigate its environmental impact and, thereby, deliver on the European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility adopted by the Commission on 20 June 2016. The Directive 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, Austria has only partially notified the Commission of measures transposing the Directive into national law. Austria now has 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.

 

Letters of formal notice

Road Safety: Commission calls on CYPRUS to fully transpose rules on roadworthiness tests

The European Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to Cyprus requesting it to fully transpose and implement the EU law on periodic roadworthiness tests for motor vehicles and trailers (Directive 2014/45/EU). The Directive covers all types of vehicles and defines harmonised requirements for the items to be tested during the roadworthiness test, the methods, the defects and their assessment. Failure to transpose and implement the Directive leads to an inconsistent application of the rules across the EU with detrimental effects on road safety. Cyprus now has two months to comply with EU law; otherwise, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion on this matter.

Seafarers: Commission calls on IRELAND to respect EU rules on mutual recognition of seafarers' certificates

The European Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to Ireland for failing to comply with EU law on the mutual recognition of seafarers' certificates (Directive 2005/45/EC). In February 2017, the Irish authorities issued a Marine Notice under which, inter alia, certificates,issued by training providers approved by the competent authority of other Member States, are not accepted for training carried out in Ireland. Ireland has now two months to comply with EU law; otherwise, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion on this matter.

Seafarers: Commission urges ITALY to comply with EU rules on minimum level of training of seafarers

The Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to Italy due to its non-compliance with European rules on the minimum level of training of seafarers (Directive 2008/106/EC, as amended). The Commission urges Italy to take corrective actions, in particular with regard to maritime education and training programmes as well as course design, review and approval; recognition of certificates; certification and endorsement on the certificates of competency for engineer officers at management level; and requirements for certification. Italy has now two months to comply with EU law; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Commission urges ROMANIA to correctly transpose EU legislation establishing a single European railway area

The European Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Romania due to shortcomings in the application of the EU rules establishing a single European railway area (Directive 2012/34/EU). The letter of formal notice concerns new international rail passenger services, the licensing of railway undertakings, information on access conditions and charges of services in terminal, stations and workshops. The national law lacks the obligation to consult the rail sector on new contractual agreements and the alignment of existing agreements to the new rules. National law should also require a transparent procedure for the selection of decision making staff at the rail regulatory body. Romania has now two months to comply with EU law; otherwise, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion on this matter.

 

10. 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 AUSTRIA to the Court of Justice over the VAT treatment of resale rights of works of art

The European Commission has decided to refer Austria to the Court of Justice of the EU for incorrectly applying Value Added Tax (VAT) to royalty payments paid to artists for the resale of works of art. The resale right – which gives rise to what are commonly known as 'royalties' – is an unassignable and inalienable property right enjoyed by the author of an original work of graphic or plastic art, to an economic interest in successive sales of the work concerned. This right allows an artist, under certain conditions, to receive a percentage of the sale price of a work of art when it is resold. Under Austrian law royalty payments to an artist or to those entitled to royalties for the resale of an original work of art, are currently subject to VAT. This violates EU law according to which VAT is only due on goods or services 'provided for consideration', i.e. for payment (the VAT Directive, Council Directive 2006/112/EC). In a previous judgement, the Court of Justice of the EU decided that when a person provides services without receiving a direct consideration, there is no basis of assessment or amount on the basis of which the VAT can be applied. In the view of the Court, such services are consequently not subject to VAT (C-16/93 on 3 March 1994, R.J. Tolsma). As royalty payments for resale rights are paid in consideration for goods or services supplied by the artist, they should not be subject to VAT. The European Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion to the Austrian authorities in July 2016. As Austria has failed to bring its legislation in line with EU law, the Commission has decided to refer Austria to the Court of Justice of the EU. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

 

A reasoned opinion

Taxation: Commission requests LATVIA to align national taxation rules on the capital contribution to companies in the form of real estate with EU law

The Commission decided today to send a reasoned opinion to Latvia for infringing EU rules on indirect taxes on the raising of capital (Council Directive 2008/7/EC). Currently, the Latvian legislation sets a ceiling for registration fees when ownership of non-residential real estate is transferred by purchase or exchange agreement or at an auction. However, such a ceiling is not provided for when the transfer of ownership takes the form of capital contribution. In some cases, this results in an unfavourable treatment of capital contribution which is incompatible with EU law. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion. In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer Latvia to the Court of Justice of the EU.

 

Reasoned opinions and closures

Taxation: Commission calls on BELGIUM to transpose new transparency rules for the exchange of tax rulings, and closes the cases for BULGARIA, CYPRUS and PORTUGAL

The European Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to Belgium for its failure to communicate the transposition of new measures on the automatic exchange of tax rulings between EU tax authorities (Council Directive (EU) 2015/2376). Member States were supposed to transpose these measures by 31 December 2016. The new rules are designed to help clamp down on cross-border tax avoidance, aggressive tax planning and harmful tax competition. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion. In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer Belgium to the Court of Justice of the EU. In the meantime, the Commission has also welcomed the transposition of the same measures by Bulgaria, Cyprus and Portugal and decided today to close the respective infringement cases.

Taxation: Commission requests CYPRUS to transpose new rules for the automatic exchange of tax information country by country, and closes cases for 6 Member States

The European Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to Cyprus for the failure to communicate the transposition of new measures on the mandatory automatic exchange of information in the field of taxation (Council Directive (EU) 2016/881). Member States were supposed to transpose these measures by 4 June 2017. The new rules are designed to help clamp down on cross-border tax avoidance, aggressive tax planning and harmful tax competition. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion. In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer Cyprus to the Court of Justice of the EU. In the meantime, the Commission has also welcomed the transposition of the same measures by Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Portugal andthe United Kingdom decided today to close the respective infringement cases.

 

Letters of formal notice

Taxation: Commission requests FRANCE to align its rules on the taxation of bonds and its provisions regarding the deductibility of participation fees with EU rules

The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to France for limiting the right to deduct capital losses only to subscribers of bonds issued by resident entities. The Commission also sends a letter of formal notice to France for the unfavourable treatment of non-resident taxpayers. Under current French rules, resident taxpayers can fully deduct costs and expenses related to the participation from the tax base, whereas these costs are only partially deductible for non-resident taxpayers. These limitations violate EU law on the freedom of establishment (Article 49 of TFEU), the free movement of capital (Article 63 of TFEU), and 31 and 40 of the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA) which guarantee the right to establishment and the free movement of capital in the EU and the EEA. If France does not act within the next two months, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion to the French authorities.

 

Closures

Taxation: Commission closes 4 cases as Member States communicated on the transposition of the rules on mandatory automatic exchange of information

The European Commission welcomes the transposition of the rules on mandatory automatic exchange of information in the field of taxation (Council Directive 2014/107/EU) by Cyprus, Croatia, Malta and Slovakia. Under these rules, financial income, including dividends and capital gains, and account balances, are subject to automatic information exchange within the EU. The Commission has decided today to close the infringement cases initiated for these Member States in January 2016.

MEMO/17/4767

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