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 107 cases in which the issues with the Member States concerned have been solved without the Commission needing to pursue the procedure further.
1. Budget and Human Resources
(For more information: Alexander Winterstein - tel.: +32 229 93265, Andreana Stankova – tel.: +32 229 57857)
A letter of formal notice
EU budget: Commission urges BELGIUM to make customs duties available to the EU budget
Today, the European Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice to Belgium because of its failure to make customs duties available to the EU budget, as required by EU law. This follows an European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) investigation which found that importers into Belgium mislabelled certain imports, thus paying lower duties than they would have paid had they labelled the product correctly. As a result, a total of €543,000 (minus collection costs) were lost to the EU budget. The Commission is starting the infringement procedure because it considers that the actions of the Belgian authorities are not in line with the Community Customs Code. In addition, the Belgian authorities did not take all the requisite measures to recover the own resources lost. If Belgium does not make the requested amount available to the EU budget, or does not provide a satisfactory reply, the Commission could take the next step in an infringement procedure and issue a reasoned opinion.
(For more information: Ricardo Cardoso - tel.: +32 229 80100, Maria Tsoni – tel.: +32 229-90526)
Fees for out-of-court legal work: Commission closes infringement against Cyprus
The European Commission decided today to close infringement proceedings against Cyprus concerning a minimum fee scale for out-of-court legal work, such as the drawing up of wills, contracts, the administration of estates and the registration of companies. EU law requires Member States to refrain from encouraging undertakings or associations of undertakings to favour or encourage anti-competitive behaviour that would breach Article 101 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union. In April 2018, the Commission raised concerns with the Cypriot authorities that certain legislative provisions, by empowering the Cyprus Bar Association to adopt a minimum fee scale for out-of-court work, encouraged behaviour that could prevent, restrict or distort competition within the EU's Single Market. In response to the concerns raised, Cyprus has amended its law. The Commission welcomes the new legislation, which removes the specific provision empowering the Cyprus Bar Association to set these fees. In parallel, the Commission today also closed an antitrust investigation into the minimum fee scale adopted by the Cyprus Bar Association, based on the empowerment contained in the national legislation. The Commission welcomes the decision of the Cyprus Bar Association to abrogate this minimum fee scale after the Commission raised concerns that these rules were not compatible with Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. The Commission's intervention means that lawyers can now freely determine their fees when providing out-of-court legal services and that citizens will benefit from more competitive prices in this sector.
3. Digital Single Market
(For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt - tel.: +32 229 67083, Joseph Waldstein – tel.: +32 229 56184)
A referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union
Universal Service Directive: Commission refers PORTUGAL to the Court
Today, the European Commission is referring Portugal to the Court of Justice of the EU to ensure a correct implementation of the Universal Service Directive, as regards the financing of universal service obligations.To balance the costs for the provision of universal service, which are not always profitable, Member States may introduce mechanisms to compensate them. The Portuguese authorities have imposed an obligation on telecom service providers to compensate the net costs of all universal services provided from 2007 onwards by the universal service provider. Portugal only did so in 2012, using a possibility provided by the Electronic Communication Law (No 5/2004), by enacting a new law which establishes an extraordinary contribution.Contrary to EU law, Portuguese authorities are asking operators to make an extraordinary contribution in 3 consecutive years for the financing of the net cost of the universal service incurred in the past. This is not in line with the requirements of transparency, non-discrimination and least market distortion established by the Universal Service Directive (Directive 2002/22/EC) in force in the EU since 2002 (Article 13 and Annex IV, Part B). The Commission is now calling on the Court of Justice of the EU to confirm that the extraordinary compensation infringes this Directive.The Commission opened the infringement proceedings against Portugal in February 2015 and sent a reasoned opinion in April 2016. Since Portugal has not complied yet with EU law, the Commission has decided to refer this case to the Court of Justice of the EU. For more information, please refer to the full press release.
A reasoned opinion
Electronic transactions: Commission urges SLOVAKIA to ensure proper application of the eIDAS Regulation
The Commission decided today to send a reasoned opinion to the Slovakian government on the application of the EU Regulation on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (eIDAS; Regulation (EU) No 910/2014), because it identified a number of legal compliancy issues on the dual role of the Slovakian supervisory body. The National Security Office cannot act at the same time as both a supervisory body and a qualified trust service provider. Such a double role undermines the purpose of the mechanism established by the eIDAS Regulation, namely to ensure a level playing field between the trust service providers and to contribute to the protection of users and the functioning of the internal market. The eIDAS Regulation enables the use of electronic identification means and trust services (i.e. electronic signatures, electronic seals, time stamping, registered electronic delivery and website authentication) by citizens, businesses and public administrations to access online services or manage electronic transactions in the EU. Slovakia has now two months to take the necessary measures to comply and to take steps to functionally separate these activities; otherwise, the Commission may decide to bring Slovakia on this matter before the Court of Justice of the EU.
Letters of formal notice
Radio spectrum: Commission calls on CROATIA and The NETHERLANDS to comply with EU rules on spectrum
Today, the European Commission decided to initiate proceedings against two Member States for not complying with EU spectrum rules. Two letters of formal notice will be sent to Croatia and The Netherlands requesting full implementation of the European radio spectrum rules on the grounds of the 700 MHz Decision (EU) 2017/899. In line with these EU rules, Member States were obliged to adopt and make public their roadmap including detailed steps for allowing the use of the 694-790 MHz (‘700 MHz') frequency band for mobile broadband by 30 June 2020. The due date to adopt and publish these roadmaps was at the end of June 2018. The Member States mentioned above have either not adopted and published such a roadmap or they notified documents which do not fulfil the key requirements for a roadmap. Roadmaps serve to pave the way to 5G. As the roadmaps are not adopted, the development of 5G might be delayed in Croatia, the Netherlands and its surrounding countries. 5G connectivity is one of the top priorities for the Commission, following the agreement of the future telecom rules - the Electronic Communications Code. The new rules will ensure that 5G radio spectrum is available in the whole EU by 2020. If Croatia and The Netherlands do not act within the next two months, the Commission may send reasoned opinions on this matter.
4. Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
(For more information: Christian Wigand - tel.: +32 229 62253, Sara Soumillion – tel.: +32 229 67094)
A letter of formal notice
Free movement of workers: Commission questions different treatment between EU workers as regards access to housing benefits in the UNITED KINGDOM
The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to the United Kingdom for failing to comply with EU rules on free movement of workers (Article 45 TFEU and Regulation 492/2011). These rules prohibit discrimination on the ground of nationality between workers of EU Member States. The United Kingdom's rules on access to housing benefits treat temporary absences from the dwelling house more favourably if you stay within Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales) than if you are temporarily absent elsewhere. The UK's rules on access to housing benefits therefore disadvantage workers from other Member States, since they are more likely than workers of UK nationality to leave Great Britain temporarily. This unfavourable treatment constitutes indirect discrimination on the basis of nationality, which is prohibited by the rules on free movement of workers, unless it is objectively justified. At this stage, the Commission has not found any objective justification for this unfavourable treatment and has decided to launch the infringement procedure. The UK has two months to reply to the letter of formal notice; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.
(For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen - tel.: +32 229 56186, Lynn Rietdorf – tel.: +32 229-74959)
Letters of formal notice
Energy efficiency: Commission calls on 7 Member States to correctly transpose EU rules
Today, the Commission decided to send letters of formal notice to Austria, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Spain andfor failing to correctly transpose or implement certain requirements of the Energy Efficiency Directive (Directive 2012/27/EU). The Directive establishes a common framework of measures for the promotion of energy efficiency within the EU in order to ensure the achievement of the EU's 20% energy efficiency target for 2020 and to pave the way for further energy efficiency improvements beyond that date. These Member States now have two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.
(For more information: Enrico Brivio – tel.: +32 229 56172, Daniela Stoycheva – tel.: +32 229-53664)
Commission calls on GREECE and IRELAND to implement EU rules for Access and Benefits Sharing in full
The European Commission is calling on Greece and Ireland to step up their implementation of EU law designed to ensure access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their use. Following the entry into force of the EU Regulation on Access and Benefits Sharing (Regulation No 511/2014) on 11 June 2014, EU Member States were required to take measures in order to ensure efficient implementation of the Regulation. Member States are obliged in particular to designate competent authorities responsible for the application of the Regulation, and inform the Commission. They are also obliged to introduce rules on penalties for failing to abide by the legislation. As Greece and Ireland have failed to notify any legislation designating such authorities or establishing penalties, the Commission has decided to send each Member State a reasoned opinion, giving them two months to reply; otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Greece and Ireland to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Commission calls on IRELAND to finalise the designation of conservation areas
The European Commission urges Ireland to respect obligations under theHabitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC) for the protection of natural habitats and species included in the Natura 2000 network. Member States have to finalise the designation of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). They also have to establish, for these areas, the conservation priorities, objectives and measures to maintain or restore the species and habitats present in these areas to a favourable condition. These steps need to be carried out within a six-year deadline which, in the case of Ireland, expired on 12 December 2014. Thus, 255 areas out of 423 have not yet been designated. Site-specific conservation objectives have not been established for 198 sites, and the necessary conservation measures have not been established for any site. In particular, the necessary conservation measures have not been established for the priority habitat types "Coastal Lagoons" at 25 sites and "Blanket Bog" at 50 sites, as well as for the species "Freshwater Pearl Mussel" at 19 sites. The Commission is, therefore, sending an additional reasoned opinion. Ireland has now two months to reply to the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Ireland to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Commission urges SPAIN to comply with the EU legislation on waste management
The Commission calls on Spain regarding its failure to comply with legal obligations on waste management and the need to protect human health and the environment. Under the Waste Framework Directive(Directive 2008/98/EC), Member States are obliged to take all the necessary measures to ensure that waste management is carried out without endangering human health and harming the environment. Despite the incomplete information made available to the Commission, there is widespread evidence of a large number of illegal landfills (at least 1513) that still need closure, sealing and regeneration, which is causing a significant degeneration of the environment. Due to the long-standing systemic failure to comply with EU obligations, the Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion. Spain has now two months to reply to the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Spain to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Commission calls on SWEDEN to improve the treatment of urban waste water
The Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to Sweden over its failure to comply with the EU requirements of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (Council Directive 91/271/EEC). Untreated waste water can put human health at risk and pollute lakes, rivers, soil and coastal and groundwater. In Sweden, there are currently failings in 20 agglomerations that should have been compliant by either 31 December 2000 or 31 December 2005. A letter of formal notice was sent in April 2017. According to Sweden's reply, the authorities are working on a solution but compliance is not expected in the near future. The Commission is, therefore, sending a reasoned opinion and requesting Sweden to accelerate compliance. Sweden has now two months to reply to the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Sweden to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Letters of formal notice
Commission calls on BELGIUM to comply with the EU legislation on air quality
The European Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Belgium over poor air quality. EU legislation on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe requires Member States to assess air quality throughout their territory and to take measures to limit the exposure of citizens to pollutants. In May this year, the Commission set out the wide range of policy efforts that are ongoing to support Member States in their efforts to meet EU air quality targets; the enforcement actions that are being taken to help ensure clean air for all Europeansare part of this wider policy approach. Belgium has persistently failed to meet binding limit values for NO2, a pollutant gas, in the Brussels region since they came into force in 2010. The Antwerp agglomeration is also exceeding permitted values, despite a later 2015 deadline for entering into force. Although some measures, such as low emission zones, are in place to combat air pollution, the Commission is concerned that the current measures are not sufficient to achieve compliance as soon as possible. The Commission is also questioning the way air quality is monitored in Belgium, including the location of measuring points for NO2 in Brussels. The Commission has, therefore, decided to send an additional letter of formal notice to Belgium. Belgium has two months to reply; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.
Commission urges BULGARIA to comply with the European Court of Justice ruling on air quality
The European Commission urges Bulgaria to fully implement the ruling delivered by the Court of Justice of the EU on 5 April 2017 (C‑488/15). The Court found that Bulgaria had breached its obligations under the Air Quality Directive (Directive 2008/50/EC) by failing to comply with the limit values for concentration of PM10 in the ambient air and to keep the period of exceedance as short as possible. While acknowledging that some progress has been made, the Commission is concerned by the slow pace of change and the lack of a coordinated approach between the environmental authorities and the other authorities concerned at national and local levels.In May this year, the Commission set out the wide range of policy efforts that are ongoing to support Member States in their efforts to meet EU air quality targets; the enforcement actions that are being taken to help ensure clean air for all Europeansare part of this wider policy approach. Bulgaria has not yet adopted all the measures required to remedy the situation. The country adopted measures related to road traffic, namely amendment to the road traffic legislation, including controls on end-of-life vehicles waste and technical inspections. While this goes into the right direction, other measures, likely to help improve air quality, such as new requirements for sulphur and ash in coal and briquettes used for domestic heating, are still at the planning stage. If Bulgaria fails to act and the case is referred back to Court, financial sanctions could be imposed. Bulgaria has two months to reply.
Commission urges BULGARIA and the CZECH REPUBLIC to bring national legislation into line with the Air Quality Directive
The Commission is calling on Bulgaria and the Czech Republic to bring their Air Quality legislation into line with European rules (Directive 2008/50/EC). These Member States have shortcomings with the enactment of several provisions of this Directive into domestic legislation, with certain important provisions of principle not correctly reflected in national law. Under EU law, Member States are obliged to take appropriate measures to keep periods of exceedance of permitted values as short as possible. The Commission is concerned by the formulation in the legislation of Bulgaria, which falls short of this requirement. The Czech Republic has not effectively enacted provisions relating to limit values and some definitions, e.g. the definition of "volatile organic compounds" do not follow the Air Quality Directive definition. Letters of formal notice are, therefore, being sent, giving Bulgaria and the Czech Republic two months to reply; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.
Commission urges ITALY and SPAIN to comply with EU nitrates rules
The European Commission is calling on Italy and Spain over the insufficient protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources. EU legislation on nitrates is one of the cornerstones of Europe's water legislation, aimed at reducing water pollution caused or induced by nitrates from agricultural sources and preventing further pollution. In order to attain this objective, the Nitrates Directive (Council Directive 91/676/EC) contains different actions and measures to be elaborated and implemented by the Member States, including water monitoring, designation of nitrate vulnerable zones and establishment of codes of good agricultural practice and action programmes. Italy has failed to designate Nitrates Vulnerable Zones, monitor its waters and take additional measures in a number of regions concerned by nitrates pollution. Spain has failed to monitor its waters effectively, compromising its capacity to review Nitrates Vulnerable Zones and assess the effectiveness of Action Programmes, limiting the effectiveness of the legislation. The Commission has, therefore, decided to send letters of formal notice to each of the two Member States, giving them two months to reply; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinio.
7. Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union
(For more information: Johannes Bahrke – tel.: +32 229-58615, Letizia Lupini - tel.: +32 229 51958)
Suspended referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union
Directive on markets in financial instruments (MiFID II): Commission suspends referral of SPAIN to the Court
The European Commission has decided to put on hold the referral of Spain to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to implement the EU rules on markets in financial instruments (MiFID II), in light of the recent developments in the case. On 19 July 2018, the European Commission decided to refer Spain to the Court of Justice of the EU for failure to adopt the national measures necessary to fully transpose the revised markets in financial instruments directive (MiFID II), as well as its supplementing directive (Commission Delegated Directive (EU) 2017/593). At the time, Spain had only notified partial transposition of the above-mentioned directives into national law. On 1 October 2018, Spain notified a Royal Decree Law transposing most of the missing provisions. The transposition of a few provisions still needs to be completed by a Royal decree, which is planned for adoption by end of November. Therefore, the Commission considers that the execution of the referral of Spain should be put on hold. If the measures planned for adoption by end of November are not adopted as planned, the stay of the proceeding may be reconsidered. For more information, please refer to the full press release.
Prudential supervision for banks and investment firms: Commission suspends referral of SPAIN to the Court
The European Commission has decided to put on hold the execution of Spain's referral to the Court of Justice of the EU for failure to fully implement EU rules on prudential supervision of credit institutions and investment firms, in light of the recent developments in the case. On 19 July 2018, the European Commission decided to refer Spain to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to adopt the national measures necessary to fully transpose the Capital Requirements Directive or CRD IV (Directive 2013/36/EU), which sets out the prudential and supervisory requirements for credit institutions and investment firms in the EU, including rules on the licensing of credit institutions, on the initial capital of investment firms, on the supervision of institutions, on supervisory cooperation, on risk management, on corporate governance (including remuneration) and on capital buffers. Since then, the Spanish authorities have submitted to the Commission draft measures that would ensure full transposition of CRD IV, together with a timeline for their adoption that would permit a solution before a possible Court judgment. More specifically, one Royal Decree-Law on anti-money laundering was adopted by the Spanish Government on 31 August 2018, and a second Royal Decree-Law transposing some of the missing provisions followed on 28 September. Another Royal Decree is expected to be adopted in November, and, lastly, a Law amending Law 10/2014 relating to the solvency of credit institutions and Royal Decree Law 4/2015 relating to the Stock Markets is expected to be adopted by beginning of December and published before the end of the year. Therefore, the European Commission considers that the execution of the referral should be put on hold, pending the adoption of the amending laws. If the transposing measures still missing are not adopted as planned, the stay of the proceeding may be reconsidered. For more information, please refer to the full press release.
8. Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs
(For more information: Lucia Caudet – tel.: +32 229 56182, Victoria Von Hammerstein-Gesmold tel.: +32 229 55040)
Services: Commission calls on GERMANY to fully open the market for vehicle testing services
The Commission decided today to send a reasoned opinion to Germany for restricting access to certain motor vehicle approval services. Type approval and tests of motor vehicles are harmonised at EU level. There are some exceptions to this rule. For the individual approval of two- and three-wheel motor vehicles and wheeled agricultural and forestry tractors as well as approval of technical changes to individual motor vehicles there are no common EU rules. In Germany, performing these services is reserved to experts of technical testing centres. Each German Land can designate only one such technical testing centre for a specific geographic area. Consequently a number of independent technical services cannot offer the services for the full range of vehicles because of the specific rules in Germany. The Commission is of the opinion that this constitutes a violation of the freedom of establishment and the free provision of services and has sent a reasoned opinion to Germany, requesting them to comply with the Services Directive (Directive 2006/123/EC) and Articles 49 and 56 of the TFEU. Germany has now two months to reply to the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Germany to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Public procurement: Commission urges PORTUGAL to comply with EU public procurement rules
The Commission decided today to send a reasoned opinion to Portugal regarding the direct award of a services concession contract to manage and explore the Free Zone of Madeira. EU rules on public procurement and concessions foresee open, transparent and competent procedures which allow companies to bid for a public contract. This provides market operators with better access to public contracts, while public authorities benefit from increased choice and quality of proposals. Derogations for direct awards are only allowed in narrowly defined cases such as the protection of intellectual property rights or the absence of competition for technical reasons. The Commission considers that this contract does not qualify for an exemption from these rules and a call for tenders should therefore have been organised. By not publishing such a call for tenders, the Contracting Authority may have discriminated potentially interested economic operators to take part in this competitive procedure, in breach of EU rules on the award of concession contracts (Directive 2014/23/EU). Portugal has now two months to address the issues raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Portugal to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Letters of formal notice
Public procurement: Commission calls on AUSTRIA to respect EU rules on means of redress in the State of Lower Austria
The European Commission decided today to send a complementary letter of formal notice to Austria regarding the remedies system for public procurement contracts in the State of Lower Austria. The Commission considers that the Act of Lower Austria on remedies has infringed the EU Remedies rules (Council Directive 89/665/EEC) in several respects. The Remedies Directive sets minimum national review standards to ensure that rapid and effective means of redress are available in all EU countries when an economic operator that has an interest in a public procurement procedure believes that it has been run without proper application of the EU Public Procurement Directives. However, the Act of Lower Austria does not guarantee that a contract is automatically put on hold, when an award decision is being reviewed by a body of first instance. Moreover, the Austrian authorities do not ensure effective and rapid remedies against decisions of contracting authorities in the State of Lower Austria. Finally, direct access to the Regional administrative Court is in certain situations not possible, as economic operators are obliged to apply first to the Conciliation Body. Austria now has two months to respond to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion to Austria.
Free movement of services: Commission urges DENMARK to remove restrictive obligations for foreign self-employed persons
The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Denmark regarding restrictive obligations for foreign self-employed persons providing services in the country. Under Danish law, foreign service providers that wish to provide services in Denmark without employing any workers and without posting workers to Danish territory, must notify in advance when and where they will provide their service. Such an obligation restricts the freedom to provide services as enshrined in the Services Directive (Directive 2006/123/EC) and Article 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU). Restrictions on the freedom to provide services may only be justified if overriding reasons of general interest such as public health or protection of the environment are at stake. Denmark now has two months to respond to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.
Professional qualifications: Commission requests GREECE to change its practices regarding recognition of professional qualifications
The European Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Greece regarding its lengthy process for the recognition of qualifications of professionals from other Member States. In accordance with EU law, applications for recognition of qualifications must be treated within a reasonable timeframe, more specifically within four months (Directive 2005/36/EC on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications). However, in Greece this process is significantly longer, taking on average 11 to 18 months. This has a negative impact on professionals, who cannot access the labour market in Greece and cannot exercise the profession either as a self-employed person or as an employee. The Commission had already opened an infringement procedure against Greece in 2016, which was closed in 2017 as Greece had adopted a number of measures. The Commission stayed in contact with national authorities to follow the matter. However, it appears that these measures were not sufficient to absorb the delays. Greece now has two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.
Public procurement: Commission urges LATVIA to comply with EU public procurement rules
Today, the European Commission decided to send a complementary letter of formal notice to Latvia for procuring certain public contracts in breach of EU rules on public procurement. These rules help obtain better value for taxpayer money by ensuring that public contracts are awarded through transparent, non-discriminatory, and competitive tender procedures. The Commission considers that the tenders for procuring traffic organisation products (such as, traffic lights, cameras and control devices) do not respect the principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination in Articles 28 and 56 TFEU (free movement of goods and freedom to provide services). In addition, the Commission raises concerns with respect to the direct award, without a public tender, of a contract for the servicing of a cloud remote control system related to the functioning of traffic organisation products (Directive 2014/24/EU and Directive 2014/25/EU). Latvia now has two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.
9. 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
Commission decides to refer LUXEMBOURG to the Court of Justice for not completely implementing EU anti-money laundering rules
The European Commission decided today to refer Luxembourg to the Court of Justice of the EU for transposing only part of the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive (Directive 2015/849) into their national law. The Commission proposed that the Court charges a lump sum and daily penalties until Luxembourg takes the necessary action and this Directive is fully enacted and in force in national law. The EU anti-money laundering rules are crucial in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing. The 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive reinforces the previously existing rules by strengthening the risk assessment obligation for banks, lawyers, and accountants and by setting clear transparency requirements about beneficial ownership for companies and trusts. It also facilitates cooperation and exchange of information between Financial Intelligence Units from different Member States to identify and follow suspicious transfers of money to prevent and detect money laundering or terrorist financing. For more information, please refer to the full press release.
Commission calls on IRELAND, ROMANIA and SLOVENIA to implement the EU Victims' Rights Directive
The Commission is sending reasoned opinions to Ireland, Romania and Slovenia to urge them to properly implement the EU Victims' Rights Directive (Directive 2012/29/EU). The Victims' Rights Directive gives victims of crime clear rights to access information, to participate in criminal proceedings and to receive support and protection adapted to their needs. This Directive also ensures that vulnerable victims - such as children, victims of rape, or those with disabilities- are identified, so they can receive additional protection during criminal proceedings. The EU rules apply to all victims of crime in the EU regardless of their nationality. The Victims' Rights Directive had to be transposed into national law by 16 November 2015. Ireland has implemented the rules, however analysis by the Commission shows they are not complete. Romania and Slovenia have notified only partial implementation of the rules. As a result, the Commission is calling on the Irish, Romanian and Slovenian authorities to take action and is sending them reasoned opinions. If the Irish, Romanian and Slovenian authorities fail to act within two months, the cases may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Commission urges IRELAND and SPAIN to implement new package travel rules
The Commission is sending reasoned opinions to Ireland and Spain to urge them to implement the new package travel rules (Directive 2015/2302/EU). The rules modernise consumer protection for package holidays by giving protection to the 120 million consumers who book combined forms of travel. The updated framework bring clearer rules on information for travellers and on liability, as well as they reinforce money-back and repatriation in case of bankruptcy. Member States had to implement the package travels rules in national legislation by 1 January 2018. This was followed by a six-month transition period, until 1 July, when the national measures transposing the Directive should have started applying across the EU. Since neither Ireland nor Spain have implemented the new package travel rules, the Commission is today sending a reasoned opinion following the letter of formal notice sent on 22 March 2018. If the Irish or Spanish authorities fail to act within two months, the cases may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU. (For more information, see the press release on the new package travel rules or the factsheet).
A reasoned opinion and a letter of formal notice
Anti-Money Laundering: Commission calls on ESTONIA and DENMARK to completely transpose the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive
Today, the Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion to Estonia and a letter of formal notice to Denmark for failing to completely transpose the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive (Directive (EU) 2015/849) into national law. Despite these Member States having declared their transposition to be complete, the Commission assessed the notified measures and concluded some provisions are missing. The EU anti-money laundering rules are crucial in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing. Following the recent money laundering scandals in the EU, the European Commission considers it a matter of urgency that all the Member States transpose this Directive as fast as possible. Gaps in one Member State can have an impact on all others. All Member States had to transpose the rules of the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive by 26 June 2017. As most Member States did not transpose the Directive on time, the Commission opened non-communication infringement procedures against 21 Member States. By now, most Member States have adopted national laws. Estonia and Denmark now have two months to respond and take the relevant action otherwise the European Commission may pursue the next infringement steps, including referral to the Court of Justice. The Commission has already referred Romania and Ireland to the Court of Justice on this matter and today has adopted a decision to refer Luxembourg to the Court for transposing only part of the Directive (see a press release).
Letters of formal notice
Commission calls on FINLAND to correctly implement the Consumer Rights Directive
The Commission is sending a letter of formal notice to Finland urging it to take action swiftly to ensure the EU Consumer Rights Directive is correctly implemented in its national law. Thanks to these EU rules, consumers across Europe have benefitted from the same strong consumer rules wherever they make a purchase in the EU. Some major benefits include the right to return a good and the right to a full refund if consumers change their mind within 14 days, a ban on hidden charges and pre-ticked boxes on internet purchases.
The Finnish law, as it stands today, is not completely in line with the Consumer Rights Directive. Finlandmust introduce essential rules regarding the consumer's right of withdrawal, for example clarifying that the consumer can withdraw without giving any reason and without incurring any costs other than those directly related to returning of the good. Also, they must clarify the consumer's right to pre-contractual information, for example the rule that, in case of dispute, the trader has to prove that all necessary information has been provided. Member States had to adopt their national laws by 13 December 2013, for the measures to apply from 13 June 2014. If Finland does not address the outstanding issues within the next two months, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion on this matter. (For more information EU consumer rights, see the video and consumer rights on EUandMe).
Commission calls on IRELAND to implement the legislation behind the European Criminal Records Information System
The Commission is sending a letter of formal notice to Ireland to urge the country to implement the legislation behind the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS). The system allows criminal records to be electronically exchanged between authorities throughout the EU. It makes sure this is done in a fast and standardised way, within short deadlines. It provides judges and prosecutors but also administrative authorities with easy access to information on previous convictions of convicted criminals, and thus prevents offenders from escaping their criminal past when moving from one EU Member State to another. Although Ireland has been using the system for many years, it has not yet transposed the Framework Decision on ECRIS into their national legislation, which would ensure that the use of this system is obligatory. Ireland is the only EU Member State to have not done so. If Ireland does not act within the next two months, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion on this matter.
Commission urges SWEDEN to correctly implement EU rules on unfair commercial practices
The Commission is calling on Sweden to take action swiftly to ensure that EU legislation on unfair commercial practices (Directive 2005/29/EC) is correctly implemented in national law. The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive protects consumers from unfair commercial practices and ensures that they are not misled or exposed to aggressive marketing. The Swedish law, as it stands today, is not fully in line with the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. Sweden must introduce rules regarding essential concepts in its law such as professional diligence, average consumers, vulnerable consumers as well as rules on codes of conduct. If Sweden does not act within the next two months, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion on this matter
10. Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
(For more information: Enrico Brivio – tel.: +32 229 56172, Daniela Stoycheva - tel.: +32 229 53664)
A reasoned opinion
Common market organisation: Commission urges the UNITED KINGDOM to establish a functioning management system of producer organisations
Today, the Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion to the United Kingdom for failure to carry out checks and ensure compliance with the conditions for recognition of fishery producer organisations. The information gathered by the Commission demonstrates that the system of producer organisations, as it evolved in the United Kingdom, no longer serves the aim to bring together producers to fulfil the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy and of the common organisation of the markets (Regulation (EU) No 1379/2013). In particular, the system undermines the principle of democratic functioning of producer organisations across the EU and may also jeopardise their capacity to enforce rules on their members. Thanks to the common organisation of the markets policy, operators in the fishery and aquaculture sectors may join forces by creating producer organisations to strengthen their bargaining power and promote collective and sustainable management of fishing and farming activities. The Commission opened the EU infringement proceedings against the United Kingdom in May 2018 by sending a letter of formal notice to the respective authorities in the UK. Having not received a satisfactory reply from the Member State on the Commission's concerns, the European Commission is, therefore, sending a reasoned opinion. The United Kingdom has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission; otherwise, the European Commission may decide to bring the case before the Court of Justice of the EU.
11. Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship
(For more information: Natasha Bertaud – tel.: +32 229-67456, Katarzyna Kolanko - tel.: +32 229 63444)
Proceeds of crime: Commission urges BULGARIA and ROMANIA to notify national measures in full transposition of EU rules
The Commission calls on BULGARIA and ROMANIA to entirely implement EU law on the temporary prohibition (freezing) and confiscation of instrumentalities and proceeds of crime in the EU (Directive 2014/42/EU). This Directive establishes minimum rules on the freezing of property with a view to possible subsequent confiscation and on the confiscation of property in criminal matters. Due to EU regulations in place, this makes it easier for national authorities to confiscate and recover the proceeds and instrumentalities from crime in the EU. According to EU legislation, 'proceeds' are considered as any economic advantage derived directly or indirectly from a criminal offence, whereas 'instrumentalities' – any property used or intended to be used to commit a criminal offence. Freezing and confiscating property that has been acquired through a criminal offence deprives criminals of their illegally acquired assets. This is a crucial means of combating (organised) crime. It is also a way to stop the proceeds of crime being laundered and reinvested in legal or illegal business activities. Member States had to transpose the Directive into national rules by 4 October 2015. However, Bulgaria and Romania had not communicated any national implementation measures to the Commission. Therefore, the European Commission decided today to send a reasoned opinion its national authorities. Bulgaria and Romania have two months to reply;otherwise, the Commission may decide to bring the case on this matter before the Court of Justice of the EU.
A letter of formal notice
Migration: Commission calls on BULGARIA to comply with EU rules on asylum
Today, the European Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice to Bulgaria concerning the incorrect implementation of EU asylum legislation. The Commission has found that shortcomings in the Bulgarian asylum system and related support services are in breach with provisions of the Asylum Procedures Directive (Directive 2013/32/EU), the Reception Conditions Directive (Directive 2013/33/EU) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Concerns relate in particular to: the accommodation and legal representation of unaccompanied minors; the correct identification and support of vulnerable asylum seekers; provision of adequate legal assistance; and the detention of asylum seekers as well as safeguards within the detention procedure. If Bulgaria does not act within the next two months, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion on this matter.
12. Mobility and Transport
(For more information: Enrico Brivio – tel.: +32 229 56172, Stephan Meder - tel.: +32 229 13917)
Referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union
Railway safety: Commission refers BULGARIA to the Court of Justice for failure to transpose and comply with EU rules on railway safety
Today, the Commission has decided to refer Bulgaria to the Court of Justice of the EU for failure to correctly transpose and implement EU legislation on railway safety (Directive 2004/49/EC). The Directive requires Member States to establish an investigating body which is independent in its organisation, legal structure and decision-making from any railway undertaking, infrastructure manager, charging body, allocation body and notified body, and more generally from any party whose interests could conflict with the tasks entrusted to the investigating body. Bulgaria has failed to fully transpose and implement the Directive at national level in this regard. More specifically, Bulgarian legislation does not guarantee that investigations of serious rail accidents and incidents are performed by an independent investigating body. For more information, please refer to the full press release.
Airport slot allocation: Commission calls on the Court to fine PORTUGAL for failure to comply with previous Court judgment
The European Commission decided to refer Portugal back to the Court of Justice of the EU for its failure to fully and completely comply with the Court's judgment of 2016. The Portuguese authorities have not taken the necessary measures to comply with EU common rules on allocation of airport slots. Portugal failed to provide the necessary safeguards regarding the functional and financial independence of the slot coordinator. The Commission is calling on the Court of Justice of the EU to impose a lump sum payment of €1849000. The Commission is also proposing a daily penalty payment of €7452, if full compliance by the Member State is not achieved by the date when the Court issues its second judgment under Article 260(2) of TFEU. The final decision on the penalties rests with the Court of Justice of the EU. The final decision on the penalties rests with the Court of Justice of the EU. For more information, please refer to the fullpress release.
Road Safety: Commission calls on BULGARIA, CYPRUS, and DENMARK to fully transpose EU rules on roadworthiness
The Commission today urges Bulgaria and Cyprus to fully transpose European rules on the periodic technical inspection of motor vehicles and their trailers into national law (Directive 2014/45/EU). The Directive defines the items to be tested during the roadworthiness test, the test methods, and the defects and their assessment. In spite of Member States' notifications of national transposition measures and declarations of complete transposition, the Commission has found the transposition of the Directive's measures in these Member States incomplete. In addition, Denmark is requested to complete the transposition of the updated rules concerning the registration documents of vehicles (Directive 2014/46/EU),as also in this case, the Commission has found the transposition incomplete. This Directive requires Member States to set up electronic vehicle registers with harmonised content, and it defines the procedure to be followed in case of a failed periodic roadworthiness test. All Member States concerned have now two months to respond, after which the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Letters of formal notice
Aviation: Commission calls on BULGARIA to ensure EU rules on airport charges are put in place
The Commission decided today to send an additional letter of formal notice to Bulgaria for failing to correctly transpose EU rules on Airport Charges (Directive 2009/12/EC). Member States are required to put in place national measures to ensure that airport fees for air carriers are calculated in accordance with the principles of transparency, consultation and non-discrimination as set out in policies agreed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Airport charges are fees airlines pay to airports for the use of infrastructure and services related, in particular, to take-off and land as well as processing of passengers. Member States need to ensure that airport managing bodies hold consultations with airlines based on a transparent information exchange between the two parties. This is to warrant that airport charges are non-discriminatory and related to the level of services provided by the airport. In case of disagreement, either party may seek the intervention of the independent supervisory authority in the respective Member State which shall examine the matter. Bulgaria has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.
Road transport: Commission calls on 6 Member States to implement rules on information services for safe and secure parking places
The Commission has decided today to send letters of formal notice to Austria, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg and the Netherlands for failing to communicate information on safe and secure parking. More specifically, these Member States failed to communicate information related to parking places registered in the information service and parking places providing information (e.g. availability of parking spaces or priority zones). This is required by Regulation (EU) Nº 885/2013which was adopted under the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Directive. Truck drivers in Europe are often confronted with insufficient parking facilities and information on such facilities, and therefore often park in non-secured zones or unsafe locations. The Member States concerned now have two months to reply to the letter of formal notice, after which the Commission may consider adopting reasoned opinions.
13. Taxation and Customs Union
(For more information: Johannes Bahrke – tel.: +32 229-58615, Letizia Lupini – tel.: +32 229 51958)
Reasoned opinions and letters of formal notice
Paradise Papers: Commission follows up on illegal tax breaks for yachts and aircraft
The Commission today stepped up its agenda to tackle tax avoidance in the yacht and aircraft sectors by implementing infringement proceedings on tax breaks being applied in the pleasure craft industries of Italy and the Isle of Man. These provisions can generate major distortions of competition as highlighted by last year's 'Paradise Papers' leaks.In light of its subsequent investigations into these matters and contacts with the Member States concerned, the Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Italy for not levying the correct amount of VAT on the leasing of yachts. The Commission also decided to send a reasoned opinion to Italybecause of its illegal system of exemptions for fuel used to power charted yachts in EU waters. A letter of formal notice was also sent to the UK concerning the Isle of Man's abusive VAT practices with regard to supplies and leasing of aircraft. Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Union, said: "It's simply not fair that some individuals and companies can get away with not paying the correct amount of VAT on products like yachts and aircraft. Favourable tax treatment for private boats and aircraft is clearly at odds with our commonly agreed tax rules and heavily distorts competition in the maritime and aviation sectors. With this in mind, the Commission is taking action to clamp down on rules that try to circumvent EU law in these areas." For more information, please refer to the full press release.
Letters of formal notice
Taxation: Commission requests that BELGIUM amend its legislation on tobacco excise duty
The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Belgium asking it to change its rules on destroying stocks of tobacco product when excise duty changes. Belgian legislation requires businesses to sell or destroy their stocks before the end of the month when a new excise duty rate is introduced. In particular, by giving no alternative to businesses than the destruction of the tobacco products concerned, and imposing such measure even in cases where the new rate applicable would be lower than the former one, the Belgian legislation runs against EU rules on excise duty (Council Directive 2008/118/EC) and the principle of proportionality, as interpreted by the Court of Justice of the EU. If Belgium does not act within the next two months, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion to the Belgian authorities.
The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Belgium for not implementing Judgment C-110/17 Commission vs. Belgium of 12 April 2018 on the evaluation of rental income from immovable property. The Court of Justice of the EU had declared that Belgium has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU law by calculating the rental income of Belgian taxpayers from immovable property located abroad on the basis of the actual value, while rental income on property located in Belgium is based on the cadastral value, i.e. calculated by reference to the property description and valuation. If Belgium does not act within the next two months, the Commission may refer Belgium to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Taxation: Commission calls on BULGARIA to correctly transpose new transparency rules for the exchange of information
The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Bulgariafor failing to correctly implement EU rules which provide for automatic information exchange between Member States on financial income, including dividends, capital gains and account balances (Council Directive 2014/107/EU). Bulgarian law currently provides for a broader exception for certain reportable persons than that allowed in the EU legislation, allows certain types of entities, such as partnerships to escape due diligence procedures and excludes certain annuity contracts from its scope. If Bulgaria does not act within the next two months, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion to the Bulgarian authorities.
Taxation: Commission requests that ITALY align its rules on the price of fuel in the Lombardy region with EU law
The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Italy as its legislation on the price of fuel in the Lombardy region does not respect EU law. Italian tax rules allow for a reduction of the VAT rate applied to fuel the closer the refuelling station is to the border with Switzerland. This results in two different VAT rates on the same product depending on where the product is purchased. Such a legislation generates distortions of competition and runs against the provisions of common EU rules (VAT Directive, Council Directive 2006/112/EC), which prohibits Member States from treating similar goods differently for VAT purposes. If Italy does not act within the next two months, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion to the Italian authorities.
Taxation: Commission requests that ROMANIA end its VAT split payment mechanism
The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Romania for applying a split payment mechanism for VAT. Since 1 January 2018, Romania applies this alternative VAT collection mechanism where VAT is paid to a separate blocked account, causing a major administrative burden for honest companies doing business there. This arrangement is mandatory for certain businesses which are required to open a separate blocked VAT bank account. Their customers must split the payment of the invoice by paying the VAT separately to the VAT account of the supplier. The taxpayer may only use the amount collected on the dedicated VAT account to pay VAT to the Treasury and to its suppliers. The measures run against both EU VAT rules (Council Directive 2006/112/EC) and the freedom to provide services (Article 56 of TFEU). Today's Letter of Formal Notice follows a Communication also adopted today from the Commission rejecting a request from Romania to derogate from EU rules in this area due to concerns arising from the proportionality principle and compatibility with the Treaty. If Romania does not act within the next two months, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion to the Romanian authorities.
Taxation: Commission closes case for CYPRUS and LUXEMBOURG
The Commission welcomes the transposition by Cyprus and Luxembourg of the measures on mandatory automatic exchange of information in the field of taxation as regards Member State tax authorities' access to anti-money-laundering information, known as “DAC5” (Council Directive (EU) 2016/2258). Today, the Commission decided to close these two infringement cases.