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European Commission - Infringements decisions

July infringements package: key decisions

Brussels, 25 July 2019

Overview by policy area

In its monthly package of infringement decisions, the European Commission pursues 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 146 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. Budget and Human Resources

(For more information: Mina Andreeva - tel.: +32 229 91382, Andreana Stankova – tel.: +32 229 57857)

A reasoned opinion

EU budget: Commission urges BELGIUM to pay customs duties into the EU budget

Today, the European Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion to Belgium because of its failure to pay customs duties into the EU budget, as required by EU law. This follows a failure by the Belgian authorities to recover customs duties due by a company which reneged on its payment after it declared bankruptcy. As a result, a total of €926,000 were lost to the EU budget. The Commission started the infringement procedure in the summer of last year because it considered the Belgian authorities' actions not to be in line with EU law. More concretely, according to EU law, Member States must establish whether traditional own resources, such as customs duties, are due to be paid to the EU budget and immediately recover them if they are. When an amount has not been recovered, a Member State can only be released from its obligation to pay if it made sufficient efforts to recover it. Belgium failed to start the immediate recovery of the customs duties due and cannot, therefore, demonstrate that the amounts could not have been recovered. If Belgium does not pay the requested amount into the EU budget, or does not provide a satisfactory reply, the Commission could take the next step in an infringement procedure and refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU.

 

2. Climate Action

(For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen - tel.: +32 229 56186, Lynn Rietdorf – tel.: +32 229 74959)

Letters of formal notice

Fluorinated greenhouse gases: Commission urges ITALY and ROMANIA to notify national measures on penalties for infringements

Today, the Commission decided to send letters of formal notice to Italy and Romania for failing to notify national measures on penalties for infringements of EU rules on fluorinated greenhouse gases (Regulation (EU) No 517/2014). Fluorinated greenhouse gases, also known as ‘F-gases', are a family of man-made gases used in a range of industrial applications. The Regulation aims to contribute to the fight against climate change by reducing emissions of F-gases in the EU by two-thirds by 2030. F-gases have a powerful global warming effect (up to 23 thousand times greater than carbon dioxide, CO2). EU law lays down strict rules on the use of fluorinated gases and the conditions related to the placing on the market of products containing those gases. Under the rules adopted by Member States, penalties should have been in place by 1 January 2017 and all measures taken to ensure they are implemented.The penalties must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive. The availability of appropriate sanctions under national law is a crucial element in ensuring compliance with the Regulation, and thereby limiting climate change. The availability of penalties is particularly important in view of preventing illegal trade in hydrofluorocarbons. Member States also agreed to notify national measures on penalties to the Commission by 1 January 2017. To date, the Commission has not received any such notification from Italy and Romania. If the Member States concerned do not reply satisfactorily within two months, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

 

3. Digital Single Market

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

Reasoned opinions and letters of formal notice

Commission launches infringement procedures over 112 emergency phone number, unjustified geo-blocking and EU-wide cybersecurity rules

The European Commission today decided to pursue infringement procedures against a number of Member States following their failure to meet their obligations related to the Digital Single Market. The Commission will send reasoned opinions to Bulgaria, Germany, and Ireland for failing to notify the full transposition of the EU law on accessibility of the websites and mobile applications (Directive (EU) 2016/2102), and to Croatia for its failure to adequately spell out its plans for rolling out the 700MHz frequency band for 5G services (Decision (EU) 2017/899). In addition, the Commission has decided to send letters of formal notice to a number of EU countries. Firstly, to Austria, Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Romania, and Slovenia for failing to submit information about operators of essential services identified under the EU law on the security of network and information systems (Directive (EU) 2016/1148). Secondly, to Croatia, Czechia, Germany, Greece, and Spain after they failed to effectively implement the rules on the 112 emergency number (Directive 2002/22/EC), in particular by ensuring equivalent access for disabled users. Finally, following delays to the transposition of the EU Geo-blocking Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2018/302) into national law, Cyprus, France, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain will receiveletters of formal notice from the Commission. This concerns the adoption and notification of measures applicable to infringements of the geo-blocking rules, including sanctions by national enforcement bodies for businesses breaching EU rules. The Member States concerned now have two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion or refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU, as appropriate.

 

4. Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

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

Reasoned opinions

Indexation of family benefits: Commission takes next step in infringementprocedure against AUSTRIA

Today, the Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion to Austria due to the incompatibility of its law on the indexation of family benefits and family tax credits with EU rules. As of 1 January 2019, Austria has made family benefits and family tax reductions paid for children residing in another Member State dependent on the costs of living of that Member State. This means that many EU citizens, who work in Austria and contribute to its social security and tax system in the same way as local workers, receive fewer benefits simply because their children are living in another Member State. The Commission finds that this indexation mechanism is not compatible with EU law. Austria replied to the European Commission's letter of formal notice in March 2019. Having thoroughly analysed the arguments put forward by Austria, the Commission has concluded that the concerns have not been addressed. Therefore, the Commission has moved to the second step in the infringement procedure with a reasoned opinion, following letter of formal notice sent in January 2019. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

Working conditions: Commission urges HUNGARY to align its rules on standby jobs with the Working Time Directive

The Commission decided today to send a reasoned opinion to  Hungary for failing to protect standby workers (such as night guards or security guards), as required by EU law on working conditions (the Working Time Directive, Directive 2003/88/EC). This Directive requires Member States to fix a limit for average weekly working time that may not exceed 48 hours, including overtime. In Hungary, workers on standby jobs can be required to work up to 72 hours per week, calculated over a 6-month reference period. This goes beyond the 48-hour limit set by the Working Time Directive. EU rules provide for the possibility to opt out from the rule on maximum weekly working time only under specific conditions. In particular, workers - who voluntarily accept to work longer hours but afterwards decide to revoke their agreement - have to be protected. In Hungary, the national law only protects standby workers who have revoked their agreement against dismissal. The Commission invites the Hungarian authorities to comply with the relevant EU rules within two months. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice.

Letters of formal notice

Working conditions: Commission urges ITALY to prevent abuse of fixed-term contracts and avoid discriminatory employment conditions in the public sector

The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Italy, as public sector workers are not sufficiently protected against abusive successive fixed-term contracts and discrimination as required under EU rules (Council Directive 1999/70/EC). EU rules require that fixed-term workers do not have less favourable employment conditions than comparable permanent workers, unless justified on objective grounds. Currently, Italian law excludes several categories of public sector workers from this protection (such as teachers, healthcare staff, workers in the higher art, music and dance education, staff of some musical production foundations, academic personnel, agricultural workers and voluntary staff of the national fire brigade). Furthermore, Italy does not have sufficient safeguards in place to prevent discrimination regarding seniority. The Commission invites the Italian authorities to fully comply with the relevant EU rules. Italy now has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion.

Working conditions: Commission urges SPAIN to revise its national rules on paid annual leave to comply with EU law

The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Spain as its national provisions on annual leave are incompatible with EU rules on working time conditions (the Working Time Directive, Directive 2003/88/EC). In Spain, workers in the Civil Guard (in Spanish - Guardia Civil) are subject to specific rules, under which they do not receive an allowance to compensate for untaken paid annual leave at the end of their employment relationship. EU rules require that when an employment relationship has ended, and a worker can, therefore, no longer take paid annual leave, this worker is entitled to an allowance. Under EU law, this ensures that workers cannot lose their right to have paid annual leave at the end of the employment relationship, even in financial form. Spain now has two months to comply with the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may issue a reasoned opinion.

 

5. Energy

(For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen - tel.: +32 229 56186, Lynn Rietdorf – tel.: +32 229 74959)

Referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union

Energy: Commission refers BELGIUM to the Court for failing to comply with EU rules on electricity and gas markets

Today, the European Commission has decided to refer Belgium to the Court of Justice of the EU for failure to ensure the correct implementation of EU electricity market rules (Electricity Directive, Directive 2009/72/EC) and of the EU gas market rules (Gas Directive, Directive 2009/73/EC). Both Directives are part of the Third Energy Package and contain key provisions for the proper functioning of energy markets. Belgium did not correctly transpose certain rules on the powers of the national regulator. In particular, the Belgian regulator has not been given the powers to take decisions that are binding on electricity and gas undertakings, and can only make proposals to the government to take such decisions. Likewise, the conditions for connection to the electricity and gas networks are set by the government rather than by the regulator, as required by EU law. Finally, Belgian law does not ensure that transmission system operators actually control the whole of the electricity or gas network for which they are responsible, so they may not be in a position to fully ensure non-discriminatory access of electricity or gas suppliers to the grid. The Commission decided to open EU infringement proceedings against Belgium in October 2014 by sending a letter of formal notice, followed by a reasoned opinion in February 2016. Since Belgium has not addressed all the issues raised, the Commission decided to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

Commission refers ITALY to the Court for failure to transpose EU rules on protection against radiation

Today, the Commission has decided to refer Italy to the Court of Justice of the EU due to its failure to transpose the revised basic safety standards for protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation (Council Directive 2013/59/Euratom). The Directive modernises and consolidates European radiation protection legislation. These rules lay down basic safety standards to protect workers, members of the public, and patients against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation. This also includes emergency preparedness and response provisions that were strengthened following the Fukushima nuclear accident. In December 2013, Member States agreed to transpose the Directive by 6 February 2018 and to communicate to the Commission the measures and provisions adopted in national law. In May 2018, the Commission decided to open EU infringement proceedings against Italy by sending a letter of formal notice, followed by a reasoned opinion in January 2019. To date, no legislation transposing the Directive into Italian national law has been adopted and/or notified to the Commission by the Italian authorities. Therefore, the Commission has decided to refer Italy to the Court. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

Reasoned opinions

Energy efficiency: Commission urges 6 Member States to comply with the EU law

Today, the Commission decided to send reasoned opinions to Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom requesting the correct transposition of EU energy efficiency rules (Energy Efficiency Directive, Directive 2012/27/EU) into national law and its proper implementation. The 2012 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 2020 energy efficiency target. In October 2012, Member States agreed that all EU countries are required to use energy more efficiently at all stages of the energy chain, from production to final consumption. The Member States concerned now have two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to bring the matter before the Court of Justice of the EU.

Internal energy market: Commission calls on ROMANIA to remove barriers to exports of natural gas

The Commission decided today to send an additional reasoned opinion to Romania for failing to eliminate restrictions on trade in natural gas between Member States as required under EU rules for the internal market in natural gas(Articles 35 and 36 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, TFEU; Directive 2009/73/EC). In July 2014, the Commission sent a reasoned opinion to the Romanian authorities as their national legislation creates barriers to the free movement of goods within the EU single market. After assessing the recent amendments to the Energy Law adopted by Romania, the Commission found that an obligation to sell natural gas with priority on the Romanian market is maintained and, consequently, this violates EU law. By putting an obligation on the producers in Romania to give priority to sales on the domestic market, the Commission considers that the current Romanian legal framework creates unjustified barriers to exports of gas from Romania and has, therefore, requested that the barriers be lifted. Romania now has two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to bring the matter before the Court of Justice of the EU.

Letters of formal notice

Sustainable biofuels: Commission requests 8 Member States to enact EU rules on indirect land use change

Today, the Commission decided to send letters of formal notice to Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Poland, and Slovakia for failing to fully transpose EU rules reinforcing sustainability of biofuels (Directive (EU) 2015/1513). This Directive aims to reduce the risk of indirect land use change linked to biofuel production. Indirect land use change occurs when agricultural land used for growing crops for food or feed purposes starts to be used for growing crops for biofuel production instead – increasing the pressure to use other (unused) land to grow crops for food and feed purposes in order to meet demand for food and feed, which has implications for greenhouse gas emissions. The Directive also prepares the transition towards advanced biofuels produced from materials, such as waste and residues. In September 2015, Member States agreed to transpose EU legislation and communicate national implementing measures to the Commission by 10 September 2017. The Member States concerned now have two months to reply to the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Energy performance of buildings: Commission calls on MALTA to report on energy-efficient buildings

The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Malta for failing to report on cost-optimal levels of minimum energy performance requirements as required under EU law (Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, Directive 2010/31/EU). In May 2010, Member States agreed to set minimum energy performance requirements for buildings, with a view to achieve the best combination between investments and savings, also known as 'cost-optimal levels'. Calculating the cost-optimal levels is key for Member States to fully exploit the energy efficiency and renewable energy potential of the national buildings stock and to avoid citizens spending more money than necessary on efficiency improvements to their housing and offices. Malta now has two months to reply to the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

 

6. Environment

(For more information: Enrico Brivio – tel.: +32 229 56172, Ana Crespo Parrondo – tel.: +32 229 81325)

Referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union on air quality

Air quality: Commission refers BULGARIA and SPAIN to the Court for failing to protect citizens from poor air quality

Today, the European Commission has decided to refer Bulgaria and Spain to the Court of Justice of the EU over poor air quality. Bulgaria is failing to respect limit values of sulphur dioxide (SO2), and Spain is failing to respect limit values for nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Today's decisions are part of reinforced action by the Commission to engage with Member States to protect citizens' health from poor air quality, as set out in the Commission's Communication 'A Europe that protects: Clean air for all' of May 2018. In the case of Bulgaria, the latest sulphur dioxide(SO2) data presented show persisting non-compliance with the hourly and/or daily limit values for SO2 in the South-East zone, where the four largest thermal power plants in Bulgaria are located. Since 2005, EU rules sets limit values for SO2 concentration in ambient air. These provisions are applicable to Bulgaria as of its accession to the EU from 1 January 2007. Today's decision constitutes a second referral to the Court of Justice of the EU for Bulgaria's failure to comply with EU air quality standards. In its judgement of 5 April 2017, the Court confirmed Bulgaria's failure to comply with the limit values for PM10 (Commission v Bulgaria, C-488/15). The newest air quality data provided by Spain confirms the systematic breach of EU rules on nitrogen dioxide (NO2) values, which have been legally binding since 2010. The decision to refer Spain to the Court concerns the urban areas of Madrid, Barcelona and Vallès-Baix Llobregat, where the legal limits for NO2 have been persistently breached. According to the European Environment Agency, almost 9,000 premature deaths in Spain are attributable to NO2 each year. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

Letters of formal notice on air quality

Air quality: Commission urges CROATIA and ROMANIA to address systemic failure in monitoring pollution

Today, the Commission decided to send an additional letter of formal notice to Romania urging its authorities to address a systemic failure to monitor air pollution as required by EU legislation on ambient air quality (Directive 2004/107/ECandDirective 2008/50/EC). Although Romania has been carrying out an overhaul of its air quality monitoring network, many gaps remain concerning the appropriate number and type of air quality sampling points. These shortcomings amount to a systemic failure to comply with obligations to monitor air pollution. Furthermore, the Commission has also decided to send a letter of formal notice to Croatia, calling on its authorities to bring national legislation into line with EU rules on ambient air quality (Directive 2008/50/EC). Shortcomings in the national legislation include incorrect enactment of definitions of ‘ambient air' and ‘contributions from natural sources', which influence the scope of application of the Directive. In addition, the national legislation does not enact data quality objectives for fine particulate matter (PM2,5) measurements in rural areas, and lays down less stringent requirements with respect to the number of sampling points for ozone. PM2,5 can remain in the atmosphere from several days up to one week, thus is responsible for significant negative impacts on human health. The obligation to cooperate with neighbouring non-EU countries in the event of transboundary air pollution has not been fully enacted, and some requirements to ensure effective information to the public are also lacking. The Member States in question have two months to respond to the letters. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Air quality: Commission calls on GREECE to improve protection for citizens from industrial emissions

The Commission is concerned that Greece is failing to protect its citizens from noxious air pollution from several power plants as required by EU law on industrial emissions (Directive 2010/75/EU). The objective of the Directive is to limit the emissions of various pollutants. According to EU law, Member States may allow older power plants to continue operating under certain conditions, provided a strict, time limited exemption is in place. Greece has allowed power plants in Amyntaio and Kardia towns to derogate from EU legislation, despite the fact that the power plants do not meet the conditions listed in the Directive. In addition, the Commission is also concerned that the Greek legislation has been amended to grant such derogations in a manner that is not compatible with EU law. Greece has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Air quality: Commission warns POLAND to comply with the Court's ruling

The European Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice to Poland for failing to comply with its obligations under the Directive on Ambient Air Quality(Directive 2008/50/EC) and with the ruling delivered by the Court of Justice of the EU on 22 February 2018 (Commission vs Poland, C-336/16), in which the Court found that Poland had also breached its obligations under the Ambient Air Quality Directive. While acknowledging that some progress has been made, the Commission remains concerned by the slow pace of changes and the lack of a coordinated approach at national and local levels, in particular with regard to the replacing of outdated solid fuel boilers used for heating by individual households and with regard to measures addressing the transport sector. Poland has two months to reply to the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may refer the case back with proposed financial sanctions to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Air quality: Commission urges ROMANIA to ensure that industrial installations operate with appropriate permits

The Commission has decided to send an additional letter of formal notice to Romania urging its authorities to improve their implementation of EU rules on permits for plants that operate under the Industrial Emissions Directive (Directive 2010/75/EU). The Directive regulates emissions including sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, and dust into the air with the aim of reducing those emissions and the risks to human health and the environment they may cause. Following complaints from citizens and NGOs, the Commission has found that several installations, including four large combustion plants and a large pig farm, do not have permits setting operating conditions in accordance with EU legislation. In the absence of a permit, compliance with emission limit values cannot be checked and environmental risks can not be effectively avoided. The Commission has also learned that two large combustion plants that were initially part of the Romanian transitional national plan but have since been withdrawn, are failing to respect the applicable emission limit values for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and dust. Romania has two months to respond to the letter. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

A reasoned opinion on the environmental impact assessment

Environmental impact assessment: Commission calls on AUSTRIA to bring domestic legislation into line with EU law

The Commission is urging Austria to improve its implementation of the EU environmental impact assessment rules (the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, Directive 2011/92/EU), which assesses the effects of certain private and public projects on the environment. Currently, Austrian legislation restricts the legal review of decisions taken according to the environmental impact assessment procedure, by excluding arguments which have not been submitted in the administrative procedure. This is not in line with EU case law (Commission vs Germany, 15 October 2015, C-137/14). Austrian rules are also unduly restrictive as regards challenges by citizens' groups. The Commission finds that such national requirements violate EU norms on citizens' rights. While Austria has addressed some of the EU's previous complaints in this area, other anomalies persist. Therefore, the Commission has decided to send an additional reasoned opinion. Austria has two months to reply. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Letters of formal notice on the environmental impact assessment

Environmental impact assessment: Commission calls on AUSTRIA to bring domestic legislation into line with EU norms

The Commission is calling on Austria to bring its legislation into line with European rules on strategic environmental impact assessments (the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive, Directive 2001/42/EU). Under the Directive, certain plans and programmes that are likely to have significant effects on the environment must be assessed during their preparation and before their adoption. Currently, Austrian legislation does not provide an obligation for assessing such plans in the energy sector. Therefore, Austria's network development plan in the electricity sector, the long-term planning and the coordinated network development plan in the gas sector have not been properly assessed. The plans have potentially major consequences for gas and electricity infrastructure as they include high voltage transmission lines and gas pipelines and set the framework for the future development consent of projects listed in the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (Directive 2011/92/EU). The plans require an assessment before their adoption, thus ensuring that environmental considerations are taken into account in the decision-making process. As a result, the Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Austria, giving it two months to reply. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Environmental impact assessment: Commission calls on ESTONIA, HUNGARY and MALTA to improve domestic rules

The Commission is urges Estonia, Hungary, and Malta to bring their national legislation into line with new EU impact assessment law (the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, Directive 2011/92/EU). The Directive ensures that public and private projects are assessed for their impact on the environment before authorisation. EU countries updated new EU legislation in April 2014, reducing the administrative burden and improving the level of environmental protection, while making business decisions on public and private investments more sound, predictable and sustainable. The Commission has found over a dozen shortcomings in the legislation adopted by Estonia, including incorrect enactment of relevant general provisions on informing the public of the nature of possible decisions and setting relevant time frames, modalities for conducting transboundary environmental impact assessment procedures, and sanctions that appear not to be dissuasive. For Hungary, the shortcomings include general exemptions from conducting environmental impact assessments instead of limiting the exemptions to exceptional cases, incorrect enactment of the definition of development consent, inadequately dissuasive fines, and the potentially prohibitive cost of court procedures for NGOs. With regard to Malta, amongst others, the key issues include incorrect enactment of public information and consultation requirements in the context of the environmental impact assessment procedure, and incorrect national provisions of requirements on the content of development consent. Hence, the Commission decided today to send letters of formal notice to the Member States concerned, giving them two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Environmental impact assessment: Commission calls on IRELAND to ensure that peat extraction activities are adequately assessed

The Commission urges Ireland to ensure that peat bog extraction activities are properly assessed before authorisation. In a previous legal case on this matter (Commission vs Ireland of September 1999, C-392/96), the Court of Justice of the EU ruled against Ireland, finding it in breach of EU law. As confirmed by the Court, under the EU rules on environmental impact assessment (the Environmental Impact Directive, Directive 2011/92/EU), the impact of peat extraction activities on the environment must be properly assessed before authorisation. The Commission is concerned that these EU rules are still not being applied. Furthermore, a recent amendment of Irish law in January 2019 affecting larger extraction sites now gives operators more time for extraction activities that are in breach of EU law. As a result, the Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice to the Irish authorities. Ireland now has two months to address the Commission's concerns. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Reasoned opinions on nature protection

Nature protection: Commission urges POLAND to comply with nature protection rules

The Commission is calling on Poland to ensure that adequate safeguards are in place to protect forests and its plant and animal species, as required under EU nature legislation (the Habitats Directive, Council Directive 92/43/EEC; the Birds Directive, Directive 2009/147/EC). These Directives establish Natura 2000, an EU-wide network of protected areas aimed at to preserving habitats and species of EU interest. Under these laws, forest management plans - which regulate activities, such as logging - must undergo an assessment of their effects on Natura 2000 before authorisation. In Poland, such assessments are carried out, but Polish law does not provide access to justice with regard to forest management plans. As these plans may have significant effects on Natura 2000 sites, the public interest is, thereby, deprived of effective judicial protection under the Habitats Directive in this regard. In addition, Poland exempted forest management from obligations of strict species protection provided in the Birds and Habitats Directives in 2016, which compromises the required protection regime. In reply to a letter of formal notice sent by the Commission in July 2018, Poland agreed to consider amending its forest law regarding the exceptions for forest management. To date, however, no tangible progress has been made. The Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion. If Poland fails to act within two months, the case may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Letters of formal notice on nature protection 

Nature protection: Commission calls on FRANCE to stop illegal hunting methods

The Commission urges France to act on certain hunting practices that are authorised on its territory in defiance of EU law (the Birds Directive, Directive 2009/147/EC). France has authorised non-selective hunting practices, such as glue and nets, which are not in line with the requirements of this Directive. Member States may derogate from certain provisions of the Directive, but only under strict conditions that are not fulfilled in this case. The Commission is also concerned about the widespread and ongoing tolerance and authorisation of hunting greylag goose (Anser anser) after they have begun a migration to their breeding grounds, a practice also prohibited by the Birds Directive. The Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice. France now has two months to address the Commission's concerns. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Nature protection: Commission urges FRANCE and SPAIN to step up protection of Turtle Doves

The European Commission is calling on France and Spain to step up protection of the Turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur), as required by EU law protecting wild birds (the Birds Directive,Directive 2009/147/EC). The Turtle dove was once a very common farmland bird, but it is now under threat, illustrating how pressures from agriculture and hunting contribute to biodiversity loss. The species is listed as ‘vulnerable' on both the global Red List of Birds and the European Red List of Birds.Under the Directive, Member States have to ensure that Turtle doves have sufficient habitats, that these habitats are protected with adequate legal safeguards and managed according to the species' ecological needs, and that hunting only takes place when it is sustainable. Spain hosts more than half of the breeding population in the EU, with France hosting another 10%. Therefore, France and Spain are of huge importance for the conservation of this species. Over the period 1996-2016, the population in Spain declined by 40% and in France by 44%. As neither France nor Spain have taken the necessary measures to enhance protection, the Commission is issuing letters of formal notice. The Member States concerned have two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Nature protection: Commission calls on GERMANY to step up protection of flower-rich grasslands

The European Commission is calling on Germany to step up protection of flower-rich grasslands, thus respecting its obligations under the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC). The Directive is one of Europe's primary tools for protecting biodiversity. As adopted by Member States in May 1992, the Directive obliges EU countries to protect and restore to favourable conservation status habitats that play a vital role for biodiversity like pollinating insects, bees and butterflies, as part of the Natura 2000 network. Germany is failing in its obligation to prevent the deterioration of two habitat types. In particular, low hay meadows and mountain hay meadows. Largely due to unsustainable agricultural practices, these habitat types have significantly diminished in size or disappeared completely at various sites in recent years. Germany is also failing to monitor the conservation status of these habitat types and provide adequate legal safeguards for their protection. The Commission has therefore decided to send a letter of formal notice to Germany, giving it two months to address the Commission's concerns. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Nature protection: Commission calls on POLAND, PORTUGAL and ROMANIA to complete NATURA 2000 network

The European Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to Poland, Portugal, and Romania over their failure to ensure adequate protection for habitats and species of EU interest by designating nature protection areas. Under EU nature legislation (Council Directive 92/43/EEC on Habitats and Directive 2009/147/EC on Birds), Member States agreed to the development of a coherent European Natura 2000 network by proposing adequate Sites of Community Importance to the Commission. These countries have not proposed all the sites they should have and those proposed do not adequately cover the various habitat types and species that need protection. The Member States concerned have two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Reasoned opinions and letters of formal notice on nature protection

Nature protection: Commission calls on SLOVAKIA to complete Natura 2000 network

The Commission is calling on Slovakia to broaden its Natura 2000 network, thus respecting its obligations under the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC). The Directive is one of Europe's primary tools for protecting biodiversity. As adopted by Member States in May 1992, the Directive obliges EU countries to protect and restore to favourable conservation status habitats that play a vital role for biodiversity like pollinating insects, bees and butterflies, as part of the Natura 2000 network. Slovakia updated its list of proposed sites in October 2017, but the Commission assessment has found that insufficiencies persist. Slovakia needs to designate additional sites for 2 habitat types and 5 species, and some designated sites need refinements. Further scientific studies are required to broaden knowledge about habitats and species occurring in the country. This may in turn require the designation of more sites in the future. The Commission has therefore decided to send a reasoned opinion to Slovakia, giving it two months to address these concerns. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to bring the case before the Court of Justice of the EU. In a separate case, the Commission is also urging Slovakia to step up the pace of implementation of European nature legislation. Under the Habitats Directive, Member States begin by designating EU listed Sites of Community Importance (SCIs), and then within six years establish conservation objectives and measures to maintain or restore the protected species and habitats to a favourable conservation status, converting them into Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). These are key requirements to protect biodiversity across the EU. Slovakia has designated only 1 of its 473 SCIs as a Special Area of Conservation within the required time limit. This means that Slovakia has generally and persistently failed to set site-specific detailed conservation objectives and measures. The Commission has therefore decided to send a letter of formal notice to Slovakia, giving it two months to reply. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Nature protection: Commission urges SLOVENIA to improve enactment of nature legislation and step up its implementation

The Commission is calling on Slovenia to revise the enactment of EU nature law (the Habitats Directive, Council Directive 92/43/EEC, and the Birds Directive, Directive 2009/147/EC) in its domestic legislation. The Commission previously sent a letter of formal notice on this matter in October 2017. While some issues have been resolved, other problems remain. The main issues are the enactment of EU provisions in the Habitats Directive concerning mitigation measures to reduce impacts on protected areas and compensation measures to ensure that any damage to protected areas is made good at similar sites elsewhere. Slovenian law also provides a broad exemption from the Habitats Directive in emergency situations which is not foreseen in the Directive. Furthermore, the national law outlines exemptions for protecting species that contravene the Birds Directive. The Commission has therefore decided to send a reasoned opinion. Slovenia now has two months to remedy the situation; otherwise, the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU. In a separate case, the Commission is also urging Slovenia to step up protection of grasslands, an obligation under the Habitats Directive. Member States agree to protect and restore to a favourable status habitats that play a vital role for biodiversity, as part of the Natura 2000 network. Largely due to unsustainable agricultural practices, Slovenia is witnessing a substantial decline of the populations of grassland birds and of the False Ringlet butterfly as their habitats deteriorate. The Commission is concerned that Slovenia has not established and implemented the necessary conservation measures to protect these habitats, and that Slovenia lacks an effective system to halt their deterioration. The Commission is therefore issuing a letter of formal notice. Slovenia now has two months to address the Commission's concerns. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

A referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union

Biodiversity: Commission decides to refer GREECE to the Court over its failure to protect natural habitats and species adequately

The European Commission decided to refer Greece to the Court of Justice of the EU over its failure to protect biodiversity adequately. While Greece has designated Special Areas of Conservation to protect natural habitats and species included in the Natura 2000 network, it has failed to establish the necessary conservation objectives and measures corresponding to the ecological requirements of the natural habitat types and of the species present in all these sites. Under the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC), Member States propose Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) that host the natural habitat types and habitats of species listed in the Directive. The list of sites is then adopted by the Commission, as a first step towards consolidating Natura 2000, the EU-wide network of protected natural areas. On 19 July 2006, the Commission adopted a list of 239 such sites for Greece. The Commission has repeatedly urged Greece to fulfil these obligations. A letter of formal notice was sent in February 2015, followed by a reasoned opinion in February 2016 and a further additional reasoned opinion in March 2018. To date, Greece has offered no timetable for the completion of the process. The Commission has therefore decided to bring the case before the Court of Justice of the EU. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

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

Waste water: Commission refers SWEDEN to the Court for its failure to treat urban waste water

The European Commission decided to refer Sweden to the Court of Justice of the EU over its failure to ensure that urban waste water from a number of agglomerations receives adequate treatment, as required under EU rules (Council Directive 91/271/EEC). Untreated wastewater can put human health at risk and pollute lakes, rivers, soil and coastal and groundwater. Sweden has failed to ensure that urban waste water is subject to appropriate treatment before it is discharged back into the environment. Although there has been progress towards compliance, Sweden is still failing to meet its obligations under EU law. The Commission decided to open the EU infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice to Sweden in January 2010, followed by additional letters sent inSeptember 2015 and April 2017, as well as a reasoned opinion in November 2018. As there is still not full compliance by all the agglomerations in question, the Commission has decided to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

Reasoned opinions

Urban waste water: Commission reminds ITALY of its duty to ensure that urban waste water is adequately collected and treated

The European Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion to Italy for its failure to ensure that agglomerations with more than 2,000 inhabitants have adequate collection and treatment systems in place for urban waste water (the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, Council Directive 91/271/EEC). The Commission considers that 237 agglomerations in 13 Regions (Abruzzo, Calabria, Campania, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Liguria, Lombardia, Marche, Molise, Puglia, Sardegna, Sicilia, and Toscana) are in breach of several provisions of the Directive. The Commission calls on Italy to submit updated information on the progress made in all agglomerations for which Italy has acknowledged non-compliance. In addition, the Commission urges Italy to submit further clarifications on all agglomerations declared compliant by the Italian authorities, but where the evidence gathered by the Commission indicates the opposite. This causes significant risks to the environment and human health in a large number of agglomerations. The Commission opened the infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice to Italy in July 2018. In the absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Noise: Commission urges BELGIUM to adopt noise action plans on environmental noise in the Walloon region

The European Commission is calling on Belgium to comply with key provisions of EU rules on the assessment and management of environmental noise (Directive 2002/49/EC). Noise caused by road, rail and airport traffic is the second main environmental cause of premature death after air pollution. In June 2002, Member States adopted the Directive, which requires EU countries to adopt maps showing noise exposure within major agglomerations, along main railway lines, main roads and around major airports. These maps serve as a basis for defining measures to reduce noise pollution. In February 2017, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice on this matter to the Belgian authorities, followed by an additional letter in May 2018. Although there has been progress, action plans are still missing for all major roads and 31 major railways in the Walloon region. As a result, the Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion. Belgium has two months to remedy the situation. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Letters of formal notice

E-waste: Commissionurges CZECHIA to improve rules on electric and electronic waste

The Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to Czechia over shortcomings in its enactment of EU rules on waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE, Directive 2012/19/EU). Waste of electrical and electronic equipment, such as computers, TV-sets, fridges and cell phones, is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the EU and it is expected to grow to more than 12 million tonnes by 2020. If not properly managed, this can cause major environmental and health problems because of their hazardous content. The Commission considers that Czechia has incorrectly transposed certain EU provisions into national law, with the obligation to separate hazardous substances in this waste stream, and with the obligation to grant access to personnel from reuse centres to WEEE collection points. Czechia has two months to reply. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Water: Commission urges FRANCE to step up efforts to restore the ecological flow of the Rhine River

The Commission is calling on France to comply with its obligations under EU law (the Water Framework Directive, Directive 2000/60/EC. The Commission urges the French authorities to improve the condition of the Rhine River on its territory to ensuring ecological continuity, namely allowing fish species to migrate beyond dams. Under the Directive, adopted in October 2000, Member States agreed to take measures to ensure that water bodies achieve good ecological status by 2015. EU countries have to comply with a number of conditions set out in the EU legislation, regarding biodiversity, pollution, and natural flow. The deadline may be extended under certain conditions, but the Commission is concerned that France has not provided sufficient justifications for postponing the date of compliance. In addition, the French authorities have not provided a timetable with a programme for meeting these EU norms. France now has two months to address the Commission's concerns. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Water pollution: Commission urges GERMANY to implement judgment on breach of EU rules on nitrates

Today, the Commission decided to send a letter of formal noticeto Germany, calling on it to comply with a Court ruling on nitrates (the Nitrates Directive, Council Directive 91/676/EC). As adopted in December 1991, EU rules require Member States to draw up plans and take measures to reduce water pollution induced by nitrates from agricultural sources. In October 2013, the Commission sent Germany a letter of formal notice, raising concerns about a failure to meet various obligations under the Directive, particularly as regards sensitive areas. A reasoned opinion followed in July 2014, and as the Commission was still not satisfied by the response, a Court summons followed in April 2016. On 21 June 2018, that Germany was in breach of its obligations by failing to revise an action programme whose measures had proved insufficient (Commission vs Germany, C-543/16). Germany's subsequent actions have not fully remedied the deficiencies identified by the Court, which include inadequate rules to limit the application of fertilizers, additional measures required for polluted areas, closed periods and fertilization on steeply sloping ground. As Germany is still in breach of the Nitrates Directive as declared by the Court last year, the Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice under Article 260, urging Germany to comply with the judgment.

Reasoned opinions and letters of formal notice

Animal welfare: Commission calls on GERMANY and POLAND to correctly enact measures on the protection of laboratory animals

The Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to Germany and a letter of formal notice to Poland regarding shortcomings in their enactment of EU rules on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (Directive 2010/63/EU) into domestic law. The Directive was adopted in September 2010, and it was agreed to transpose EU rules into national law by 10 November 2012. The Directive ensures a high level of animal welfare while safeguarding the proper functioning of the internal market. These EU rules also aim to minimise the number of animals used in experiments and requires alternatives to be used where possible. There are numerous failings with the domestic laws in both Member States. Despite a letter of formal notice sent by the Commission in July 2018 and some progress since that date, German law continues to fall short in areas, such as inspections, competences, and the administrative procedures for authorising project applications as well as with some previsions absent. In the case of Poland, its national law includes a large number of shortcomings in the enactment of 19 articles (such as the requirement of scientific justification for the use of animals, elements to be evaluated during retrospective assessment of projects, and training and supervision of staff) and three Annexes to the Directive. The Member States concerned have two months to reply to arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Germany to the Court of Justice of the EU, and/or to send a reasoned opinion to the Polish authorities.

 

7. Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union

(For more information: Vanessa Mock – tel.: +32 229 56194, Guillaume Mercier – tel.: +32 229 80564)

Reasoned opinions

Financial services: Commission calls on ROMANIA to align its motor insurance laws with EU rules

The Commission decided today to send a reasoned opinion to Romania for not aligning its legislation on motor third party liability insurance with EU rules (the Solvency II Directive or Directive 2009/138/EC, and the Motor Insurance Directive, Directive 2009/103/EC). Romania's current national rules require a prior notification obligation of any intended modification of premiums and impose several limitations on the modalities of calculation by insurers of their premiums. The Commission took the view that these obligations are contrary to Solvency II Directive, as interpreted by the Court's case-law regarding the principle of the freedom of tariffs. The national legislation in question also obliges insurers to issue, for certain categories of vehicles, a policy valid only on Romanian territory. In the Commission's view, these rules are contrary to the Motor Insurance Directive, which requires that third-party motor liability insurance policies cover the whole territory of the EU on the basis of a single insurance premium. If Romanian authorities do not reply satisfactorily within two months, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Financial services: Commission requests IRELAND to apply new EU rules on institutions for occupational retirement provision (IORPs)

The Commission decided today to send a reasoned opinion to Ireland for not complying with its obligation to implement EU rules on institutions for occupational retirement provision (IORPs) (IORPs II, Directive (EU) 2016/2341). The Directive provides for a comprehensive regulatory framework regarding the activities and supervision of institutions for occupational retirement provision. In December 2016, Member States committed to transpose EU rules into national legislation by 13 January 2019. However, Ireland has not communicated to the Commission the required national measures. If the measures to enact this Directive are not notified within two months, the Commission may decide to refer Ireland to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Letters of formal notice

Solvency II: Commission requests 5 EU countries to correctly transpose certain EU insurance rules

The Commission decided today to send letters of formal notice to Belgium, Croatia, Estonia, Poland and Sweden regarding the incorrect transposition of EU rules on insurance and reinsurance (the Solvency II Directive or Directive 2009/138/EC). The Commission requests the Member States concerned to amend their national legislation as they have not correctly transposed certain provisions of the Directive. The Directive provides for a comprehensive regulatory framework regarding the taking up and the pursuit of insurance and reinsurance business. The EU rules introduce prudential requirements tailored to the specific risks of each insurer. This also enhances transparency, comparability and competitiveness in the insurance sector. If the Member States concerned do not act within the next two months, the Commission may send reasoned opinions on this matter.

Financial services: Commission requests HUNGARY to open its market fully to credit intermediaries from other Member States

The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Hungary for not applying all the provisions of the EU rules on residential immovable property (the Mortgage Credit Directive, Directive 2014/17/EU). EU law requires Hungary to put in place provisions on the cooperation between supervisory authorities, which would facilitate the supervision of credit intermediaries from other Member States operating in the country. Overall, the Directive aims to increase consumer protection in mortgage lending and to foster competition: by harmonising and raising the standard of pre-contractual information and by opening national markets to credit intermediaries. Lack of cooperation on the supervision of credit intermediaries from other Member States operating in Hungary may create obstacles to their activity and limit the choice for consumers. If the Hungarian authorities do not reply satisfactorily within two months, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

 

8. Health and Food Safety

(For more information: Anca Paduraru – tel.: +32 229 91269, Aikaterini Apostola - tel.: +32 229 87624)

A Reasoned opinion

Food safety: Commission urges CZECHIA to correctly apply EU law on the performance of official controls

Today, the European Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion to Czechia for failing to comply with EU rules on official controls performed to ensure the verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules (Regulation (EC) No 882/2004). The Czech authorities have decided to carry out a systematic risk assessment and subsequent potential official controls targeting certain foodstuffs coming from another Member State each time such foodstuffs enter Czechia. On that basis, the Czech authorities have established in national legislation the obligation for operators to systematically notify, at least 24 hours in advance, the arrival of such foodstuffs to the place of destination. This is incompatible with the harmonised framework established by EU rules. The Commission considers that the obligation to report the arrival of goods from another Member State must not be systematic. On the contrary, the reporting of the arrival of such goods may be requested by the competent authority only to the extent strictly necessary for the organisation of the official controls. Czechia now has two months to take the necessary measures to comply with the reasoned opinion. Otherwise, the Member State concerned may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.

 

9. Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

(For more information: Lucia Caudet – tel.: +32 229 56182, Sophie Dupin de Saint Cyr – tel.: +32 229 87278)

Reasoned opinions

Firearms: Commission urges 20 Member States to transpose new EU rules
Today, the European Commission decided to send reasoned opinions to 20 Member States urging them to transpose the new EU rules on firearms (the Firearms Directive, Directive (EU) 2017/853) into national legislation. The revised EU Directive, adopted by Member States in May 2017, tightens controls on the legal acquisition and possession of firearms. Member States were obliged to inform the Commission of the transposition measures for the majority of the Directive's provisions by 14 September 2018. The Commission is now addressing reasoned opinions to Belgium, Czechia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, and the United Kingdom for partially notifying the relevant transposition measures as well as Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain for not communicating any measures to the Commission. This step follows the letters of formal notice, which the Commission sent to Member States in November 2018. The Member States concerned now have two months to notify the Commission of the measures taken. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer them to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Trade secrets: the Commission calls on CYPRUS to comply with the rules
The Commission today decided to send a reasoned opinion to Cyprus requesting it comply with EU rules on trade secrets (the Trade Secrets Directive, Directive 2016/943/EU). The Directive, adopted by Member States in June 2016, harmonises the legal protection of trade secrets across the EU and ensures a sufficient and consistent level of civil redress in the EU single market in the event of unlawful acquisition, use or disclosure of a trade secret. Cyprus has not communicated their transposition measures so far, while the deadline set by the Directive expired on 9 June 2018. Cyprus now has two months to reply to the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer it to the Court of Justice of the EU.

A Letter of formal notice and a reasoned opinion

Recognition of professional qualification: Commission urges GREECE to comply with EU rules
Today, the Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice and a reasoned opinion to Greece because its national legislation and administrative practice do not comply with EU rules on recognition of professional qualifications. EU rules facilitate recognition of professional qualifications in EU countries, making it easier for professionals to provide their services around Europe, whilst guaranteeing a high level of protection for consumers and citizens. The letter of formal notice concerns two recent Greek legal texts that make it much more difficult for a large number of professionals, such as teachers, to get their professional qualification recognised in Greece. Moreover, the new measures exclude the recognition of foreign professional qualifications obtained via franchised arrangements and thus make access to the labour market of those persons almost impossible. The Commission considers that Greek legislation does not comply with EU rules on recognition of professional qualification (Directive 2005/36/EC as amended by Directive 2013/55/EU and TFEU). The reasoned opinionconcerns the lengthy process for recognition of qualifications from other Member States in Greece. EU rules set a four-month deadline for this process. However, it takes between 11 to 18 months for Greek authorities to recognise diplomas from other EU countries. As Greece significantly exceeds the time allowed, it breaches Directive 2005/36/EC. This has a negative impact on professionals. Greece now has two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission in the letter of formal notice and the reasoned opinion. If no satisfactory response is received, the Commission may decide to take the next step in the infringement procedure and send a reasoned opinion or refer Greece to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Letters of formal notice

Public procurement: Commission urges AUSTRIA to respect EU public procurement rules
The Commission today decided to send an additional letter of formal notice to Austria regarding a tender procedure for a public service contract with a value of €167 million to redevelop the hazardous waste site N6 in the municipal district of Wiener Neustadt. EU public procurement legislation requires all public contracts above a threshold of €144,000 to be tendered at EU-wide level, respecting the principles of transparency, equal treatment and non-discrimination. Based on the reply of the Austrian authorities to the letter of formal notice sent by the Commission in July 2018, the Commission considers that the contracting authority BALSA GmbH (Bundesaltlastensanierungsges.m.b.H.) breached EU public procurement rules (Directive 2004/18/EC) by not having allowed all bidders to have equal access to the tender. BALSA substantially altered the scope of the tender procedure between the first and second stage of that procedure and then failed to comply with the obligation to reissue the tender and meet the transparency requirement. Austria now has two months to respond to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Services: Commission calls on BULGARIA to comply with EU rules
The European Commission today decided to send two letters of formal notice to Bulgaria regarding its restrictions on provision of services. The first letter of formal notice concerns restrictions on the temporary cross-border provision of private security services. Foreign providers of security services face excessive administrative expenses that domestic providers do not face. For example, all documents have to be accompanied by an official translation and temporary cross-border providers are required to have an address of correspondence in Bulgaria. In addition, Bulgarian legislation does not take into account the requirements already fulfilled by foreign service providers in their home Member State. The Commission considers that these practices are contrary to EU rules on the free movement of services (Article 56 of the TFEU). The second letter of formal notice concerns a legal provision that defines the duration for the temporary cross-border provision of services. According to EU law, the distinction between establishment and temporary provision of services needs to be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account not only the duration, but also the regularity, periodicity and continuity of the provision of services. The Commission considers that by defining the period of time during which a provision of a service will be considered as temporary, the Bulgarian legislation violates the free movement of services principle enshrined in the Services Directive (Directive 2006/123/EC) and in the Treaty (Articles 56 of the TFEU). Bulgaria now has two months to respond to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Free movement of goods: Commission urges CZECHIA to remove restrictions on lightning protection systems
The Commission today decided to send a letter of formal notice to Czechia regarding its restrictions on the marketing, installation and use of Early Streamer Emission (ESE) active lightning conductors. By excluding the use of the other available standards, the French and Slovak ones, Czechia imposes the use of the Czech standard for demonstrating that all lightning protection systems comply with the legislation. The Czech standard does not provide for a higher safety level than the other standards. The Commission considers that these rules effectively prohibit the installation and use of active lightning protection that comply with other standards and that are lawfully marketed in other Member States. Such restrictions are contrary to jointly agreed EU rules on the free movement of goods while not providing for better consumer protection. They merely result in an obstacle to the import of lightning conductors, which is prohibited under Article 34 of TFEU. Czechia now has two months to respond to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion to Czechia.

Public procurement: Commission calls on GERMANY to remove prohibition to use public procurement procedures for assistive medical devices
Today, the European Commission decided to send an additional letter of formal notice to Germany regarding the transposition of EU public procurement rules (Directives 2014/23/EU, 2014/24/EU, and 2014/25/EU). A new provision of German law obliges statutory health insurance funds to negotiate their contracts for assistive medical devices with interested providers, forbidding them to use the dedicated and flexible procedures defined in the public procurement directives. These Directives provide for procedures that allow the contracting authorities, such as statutory health insurance funds, to obtain high quality standards at competitive prices. They guarantee undistorted competition by applying the principles of equal treatment, non-discrimination and transparency for all market operators. The German statutory health insurance funds spend around €8 billion on assistive medical devices per year. The Commission considers that the provision forbidding health insurance funds to use these procedures for assistive medical devices is contrary to the EU Directive on public procurement (Directive 2014/24/EU). Germany now has two months to respond to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Car industry: Commission urges GERMANY to comply with the Court's judgement on mobile air conditioning
The Commission today decided to send a letter of formal notice to Germany for failure to comply with a judgement of the Court of Justice of the EU (Commission v Germany C-668/16). In December 2015, the Commission decided to refer Germany to the Court over the use of a banned greenhouse gas as car refrigerant. On 4 October 2018, the Court ruled that Germany had indeed failed to apply the EU Framework Directive (Directive 2007/46/EC) and the EU rules on mobile air-conditioning systems (the MAC Directive, Directive 2006/40/EC). The MAC Directive prohibits the use of motor vehicle refrigerants with a global warming potential higher than 150 times of that of CO2 and phases out certain fluorinated greenhouse gases. National type-approval authorities have the obligation to certify that a vehicle meets all EU safety, environmental and production requirements – including those on mobile air-conditioning systems – before authorising it to be placed on the EU market. According to the Court's Judgement, German market surveillances authorities (Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt, KBA) failed to fulfil its obligations under the Framework Directive by allowing the car manufacturer Daimler AG to place automobile vehicles on the EU market that were not in conformity with the MAC Directive, and subsequently failing to take remedial action and sanction the manufacturer. On 24 July, Germany informed the Commission that it had required Daimler to recall the vehicles and that a penalty procedure had been initiated. The Commission is currently assessing the information received from the German authorities and, with this letter of formal notice, is requesting additional information on the measures taken to comply with the Court judgement.  The German authorities now have two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Germany to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Free movement of professionals: Commission launches infringement procedures against MALTA
The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Malta regarding their imposed restrictions on certain professions and the failure to notify these restrictions to the Commission as required by the EU rules on the recognition of professional qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC). Member States can decide whether and how to regulate professions. However, under jointly agreed EU rules, a Member State needs to assess whether regulation is necessary to protect legitimate public policy objectives and ensure that national professional requirements are inevitable and balanced. Malta introduced new shareholding requirements and corporate form restrictions on the establishment of psychotherapists. The Commission deems that the requirements in Malta disproportionately restrict access to these professions and should have been communicated to the Commission under the Directive. As Malta has not justified the proportionality of these restrictions and has not notified them to the Commission, the Commission considers that it has breached the Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC as amended by Directive 2013/55/EU) as well as EU rules on freedom of establishment (Article of the 49 TFEU). Malta now has two months to respond to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Services: Commission calls on HUNGARY to implement the Court's ruling on mobile payment services
The European Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Hungary for failure to comply with a judgement of the Court of Justice of the EU. In November 2018, the Court ruled (Commission v Hungary, C-171/17) that the Hungarian legislation on the provision of mobile payment services did not comply with EU law. Pursuant to the Act of 2011 on the national mobile payment organisation, the state-owned national mobile payment company was given the exclusive right to operate the national mobile payment system, a platform that service providers are obliged to use when providing mobile payment intermediation services in connection with some public services (e.g. public parking). This new exclusive right unnecessarily and disproportionally restricts access to a market that was previously fully open to competition, thereby harming investment and heavily limiting consumer choice. The ruling considered that the restrictions introduced by the Hungarian legislation are contrary to the fundamental principles of the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services (Directive 2006/123/EC and Article 56 of the TFEU). The Commission opened an infringement case against Hungary on this issue in November 2013 by sending a letter of formal notice to the Hungarian authorities. The Commission followed it up with a reasoned opinion sent in July 2014 and a decision to refer Hungary to the Court of Justice in November 2016. As Hungary has not taken any action to bring their legislation into compliance with EU law, the Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice. Hungary has two months to respond to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU again.

 

10. Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality

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

Referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union

Data protection: Commission decides to refer GREECE and SPAIN to the Court for not transposing EU law

The European Commission decided today to refer Greece and Spain to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to transpose the EU rules on personal data protection (the Data Protection Law Enforcement Directive, Directive (EU) 2016/680). In April 2016, the Council and the European Parliament agreed the Directive had to be transposed into national law by 6 May 2018. In the case of Greece, the Commission is calling on the Court of Justice of the EU to impose financial sanctions in the form of a lump sum of € 5,287.50per day between the day after the deadline for transposition set out by the Directive expired and either compliance by Greece or the date of delivery of the judgment under Article 260(3) of TFEU, with a minimum lump sum of € 1,310,000.00and a daily penalty payment of € 22,169.70from the day of the first judgment until full compliance is reached or until the second Court judgment. As regards Spain, the Commission is calling on the Court to impose a financial sanction in the form of a lump sum of € 21,321.00per day between the day after the deadline for transposition set out by the Directive expired and either compliance by Spain or the date of delivery of the judgment under Article 260(3) of TFEU, with a minimum lump sum of € 5,290,000.00and a daily penalty payment of € 89,548.20 from the day of the first judgement until full compliance is reached or until the second Court judgment. The Commission opened the infringement proceedings by sending a letter of formal notice to national authorities of the Member States concerned in July 2018 and the respective reasoned opinions - in January 2019. To date, Greece and Spain have not notified the Commission on the adoption of the national measures necessary in order to transpose the Directive. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

Reasoned opinions

Criminal justice: Commission urges BULGARIA and IRELAND to correctly transpose EU law on recognition of judgments imposing custodial sentences

The Commission today decided to send reasoned opinions to Bulgaria and Ireland regarding their failure to transpose the EU rules on recognition of judgments imposing custodial sentences (Council Framework Decision 2008/909/JHA). These rules ensure the mutual recognition of judgments in criminal matters imposing prison sentences. EU legislation also aims to facilitate the social rehabilitation of the sentenced individuals. Neither Bulgaria nor Ireland has communicated any adopted national law transposing the provisions of the Framework Decision, nor provided satisfactory answers on completion of the ongoing legislative procedures. The Bulgarian and Irish authorities now have two months to take the necessary measures to comply with the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer them to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Criminal justice: Commission calls on IRELAND to fully implement EU rules on number of framework decisions

The Commission decided today to send four reasoned opinions to Ireland for failing fully transpose in its national law the following Council Framework Decisions: on probation measures and alternative sanctions (Decision 2008/947/JHA), on supervision measures (Decision 2009/829/JHA), on financial penalties (Decision 2005/214/JHA) and on the exchange of criminal records information (Decision 2009/315/JHA). The purpose of the framework decision on the probation measures and alternative sanctions is to facilitate the application of suitable probation measures and alternative sanctions, in the case of offenders who do not live in the State of conviction. As regards the framework decision on the supervision measures, this ensures that the person concerned will be available to stand trial. The framework decision on financial penalties allows for mutual recognition of financial penalties, enabling a judicial or administrative authority to transmit a financial penalty directly to an authority in another EU country and to have that penalty recognised and easily executed. However, the framework decision on the exchange of criminal records information facilitates rapid exchange of information extracted from criminal records registers between the Member States. In its reply to the letter of formal notice sent by the Commission in January 2019, Ireland has not provided satisfactory answers on the completion of the ongoing legislative procedures. The Irish authorities now have two months to take the necessary measures to comply with the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Letters of formal notice

Market abuse: Commission calls on 6 Member States to fully comply with EU rules on criminal sanctions for market abuse

The Commission decided today to send letters of formal notice to Austria, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Italy, and Spain, because their national rules do not comply with EU rules on criminal sanctions for market abuse (Directive 2014/57/EU). Together with the Market Abuse Regulation, EU rules guarantee the efficiency, transparency and trustworthiness of European financial markets and contribute to the completion of the Capital Markets Union. The Directive gives authorities greater powers to take action against those who manipulate and abuse financial information. Under EU rules which Member States adopted in April 2014, they are required to ensure that such behaviour, including the manipulation of benchmarks, is a criminal offence, and is punishable with effective and consistent sanctions everywhere in Europe. The laws in these countries are insufficient on the scope of and sanctions for criminal offences in the field of market abuse. If the Member States concerned do not act within two months, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion.

Consumer protection: Commission requests CYPRUS to fully comply with EU rules to protect consumers from unfair contract terms

The European Commission today decided to send an additional letter of formal notice to Cyprus because their national rules do not comply with EU law on unfair commercial practices (Directive 2005/29/EC) and unfair contract terms (Unfair Contract Terms Directive, Council Directive 93/13/EEC). The Commission opened this infringement case in 2013 based on a series of complaints from EU citizens who bought real estate in Cyprus. Real estate developers, banks and lawyers had allegedly omitted to inform buyers about pre-existing mortgages when selling immovable properties. The Commission found that the Cypriot authorities were not effectively enforcing neither the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive nor the Unfair Contract Terms Directive. The Commission has been in contact with the Cypriot authorities, which responded positively to several of the concerns raised by the Commission on the transposition and implementation of the two directives. However, the matter has not be resolved so far. Cyprus now has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion to the Cypriot authorities.

Victims' rights: Commission urges 9 Member States to fully implement EU legislation

Today, the Commission decided to send letters of formal notice to Czechia, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Poland, Portugal, and Sweden for failing to completely transpose victims' rights (the Victims' Rights Directive, Directive 2012/29/EU). The Directive applies to victims of all crimes regardless of their nationality and regardless of where in the EU the crime happens. The EU rules give victims clear rights to access information, to participate in criminal proceedings and to receive support and protection adapted to their needs. This also ensures that vulnerable victims can obtain additional protection during criminal proceedings. Member States adopted the Directive in October 2012 and agreed to transpose the EU rules in their national law by 16 November 2015. The Member States receiving letters of formal notice have not implemented several provisions of this Directive, such as the right to be informed about both the victims' rights and the case, or the right to support and protection. If the Member States concerned do not act within two months, the Commission may decide to send reasoned opinions.

Free movement of persons: Commission urges FRANCE to ensure family members of EU citizens can enjoy their rights

The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to France, as its national rules run against EU law on free movement of persons (Directive 2004/38/EC). EU law requires that residence cards for family members have to be valid for five years or for the period for which that person intends to reside in that country. French law stipulates that residence cards for non-EU family members of EU citizens should have limited validity when the EU citizen is either economically inactive, for example, a pensioner or student, or is working under a fixed-term contract. If a residence card is not valid for a reasonable period, the family member may not be able to get a job, which in turn has an impact on the EU citizen who might have to leave to France. Today's letter of formal notice to France follows the numerous complaints from EU citizens and discussions with the French authorities on this matter. If Francedoes not act within two months, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion.

Data protection: Commission calls on GERMANY to enact the Data Protection Law Enforcement Directive in all its states

Today, the European Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice to Germany, as not all 16 of its states (Länder) have adopted measures transposing the EU data protection rules (the Data Protection Law Enforcement Directive, Directive (EU) 2016/680). The Directive protects citizens' fundamental right to data protection whenever personal data is used by criminal law enforcement authorities. In particular, EU rules also ensure that the personal data of victims, witnesses, and suspects of crime are duly protected, and facilitate cross-border cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism. To date, Germany notified the transposition measures at the Federal level and in only 10 out of 16 states. Under EU rules as adopted by Member States in April 2016, the deadline to transpose the Directive into national law was 6 May 2018. Germany has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Equal workers' rights: Commission calls on GREECE to enact EU law guaranteeing equal treatment of self-employed workers' partners

The Commission today decided to send a letter of formal notice to Greece becauseits national legislation is not in line withthe principle of equal treatment of self-employed workers as enshrined in EU law (Directive 2010/41/EU. The Directive requires Member States to ensure that female self-employed workers as well as female spouses and life partners of self-employed workers - which are recognised by national law - receive a maternity allowance for at least 14 weeks. To date, the national law only allows self-employed workers, but neither their spouses nor partners, to have access to maternity allowance. Member States adopted this Directive in July 2010 and agreed to translate these EU rules into national law by 5 August 2012. Greece has two months from now to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission; otherwise, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion. 

 

11. Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship

(For more information: Tove Ernst – tel.: +32 229 86764, Markus Lammert - tel.: +32 229 80423)

A referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union

Migration: Commission refers BELGIUM to the Court for failing to transpose the Directive on intra-corporate transfers

Today, the European Commission has decided to refer Belgium to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to transpose the Directive on intra-corporate transfers of staff from outside the EU. The Directive seeks to facilitate the temporary secondment of highly-skilled employees (managers, specialists and trainee employees) of multinational companies to subsidiaries situated in the EU. In May 2014, Member States agreed to transpose the Directive into national law by 29 November 2016. The Commission opened infringement proceedings against Belgium in January 2017. In light of Belgium's failure to transpose the Directive into national law, in October 2017, a reasoned opinion was sent. Belgium has still not yet notified the Commission of the adoption of all measures necessary in order to transpose the Directive, and so today, the Commission has decided to refer Belgium to the Court of Justice of the EU. The Commission is calling on the Court of Justice of the EU to impose financial sanctions against Belgium in the form of a lump sum of € 4,088.25 per day between the day after the deadline for transposition set out by the Directive expired and either compliance by Belgium or the date of delivery of the judgment under Article 260(3), with a minimum lump sum of € 2,029,000.00, and a daily penalty payment of  € 36,794.25 from the day of the first judgment until full compliance is reached or until the second Court judgment. 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

Migration and asylum: Commission takes HUNGARY to Court for criminalising activities in support of asylum seekers and opens new infringement for non-provision of food in transit zones

Today, the European Commission decided to refer Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU concerning legislation that criminalises activities in support of asylum applications and further restricts the right to request asylum. The Commission has also decided to send a letter of formal notice to Hungary concerning the non-provision of food to persons awaiting return who are detained in the Hungarian transit zones at the border with Serbia. Another decision taken today concerns the referral of Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU for excluding non-EU nationals with long-term resident status from exercising the veterinary profession. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

Reasoned opinions

Legal migration: Commission urges 4 EU countries to fully transpose and implement EU rules on non-EU students and researchers

The Commission decided today to send reasoned opinions to Belgium, France, Slovenia and Sweden for not having fully transposed EU rules on the conditions of entry and residence of non-EU nationals for the purposes of research, studies, training, voluntary service, pupil exchange schemes or educational projects and au pairing (Directive (EU) 2016/801). The Directive provides harmonised minimum conditions of entry and residence in the EU for non-EU researchers, students, trainees and volunteers taking part in the European voluntary service scheme and regulates the situation of researchers and students as regards mobility between Member States. Member States had until 23 May 2018 to bring their national legislation in line with this Directive and to inform the Commission accordingly. The Commission sent letters of formal notice in July 2018 to Member States that failed to communicate the relevant national legislation. The Member States concerned have only partially notified the necessary transposition measures. These Member States now have two months to respond. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer them to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Security Union: Commission urges GREECE and LUXEMBOURG to fully implement EU rules on combating terrorism

Today, the European Commission decided to send reasoned opinions to Greece and Luxembourg for failing to communicate the national measures taken to implement the EU rules on the fight against terrorism (Directive (EU) 2017/541). The Directive on combating terrorismis a key element of the EU's counter-terrorism strategy and includes provisions that criminalise and sanction terrorist-related offences, such as travelling abroad to commit a terrorist offence, returning to or travelling within the EU for such activities, training for terrorist purposes and the financing of terrorism. In addition, EU rules set out special provisions for victims of terrorism to ensure they have access to reliable information as well as professional and specialist support services, in the  immediate aftermath of an attack and for as long as necessary. Member States had until 8 September 2018 to transpose the Directive. On 11 November 2018, the Commission sent letters of formal notice to 16 Member States. Since then, Greece and Luxembourg have still not communicated to the Commission any national measures to implement the new rules.  Therefore, the Commission decided today to send reasoned opinions to both national authorities. The Member States concerned have two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the cases to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Legal migration: Commission urges PORTUGAL to reconsider charges for residence permits for non-EU long-term residents

The Commission today decided to send a reasoned opinion to Portugal for charging excessive and disproportionate fees for residence permits under the Long-Term Residents Directive(Council Directive 2003/109/EC). The Directive defines the minimum conditions under which non-EU nationals can obtain EU long-term residence permits. While Member States may levy administrative charges for processing applications, excessive and disproportionate charges hinder the rights of the applicants. The Commission opened the infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice to Portugal in December 2017. Portugal now has two months now to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Reasoned opinions, letters of formal notice and closures

Common European Asylum System: Commission steps up monitoring of implementation of EU rules

The European Commission today adopted infringement decisions against 6 Member States for failure to communicate national measures relating to the transposition of the Qualification, Asylum Procedures and Reception Conditions Directives. The Commission has decided to send letters of formal notice to Czechia and Estonia for failing to fully transpose the recast Qualification Directive (Directive 2011/95/EC) which clarifies the grounds for granting international protection in the EU. The Commission also decided to send reasoned opinions to Bulgaria and Spain as well as a letter of formal notice to Portugal for failing to fully transpose the recast Asylum Procedures Directive (Directive 2013/32/EU), which aims to ensure common procedural safeguards for examining applications for international protection across the EU. The Commission has also today decided to send a reasoned opinion to Lithuania for failing to fully transpose the EU rules on reception conditions for asylum applicants (the recast Reception Conditions Directive, Directive 2013/33/EU). Under the European Agenda on Migration, the Commission committed to prioritise the transposition and implementation of recent asylum rules when considering infringement procedures. With today's decisions, and while negotiations on the reform of the Common European Asylum System proposed by the Commission are still ongoing, the Commission is taking an additional step to ensure the full application of current rules. As such, the European Commission has also decided to close28 pending proceduresfor failure to fully transpose the 3 Directives as the national measures have now been notified to the Commission. The Commission is currently further assessing the conformity of these national transposition measures with the 3 Directives.

Letters of formal notice

Child protection: Commission calls on 7 Member States to enforce EU rules on combating child sexual abuse

Today, the Commission decided to send letters of formal notice to 7 Member States (Bulgaria, Germany, Lithuania, Malta, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden) for failing to implement EU rules on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography (Directive 2011/93/EU). The EU has strict rules criminalising such abuse across Europe that ensure severe penalties for offenders, protect child victims and help to prevent such offences from taking place in the first place. The Directive also includes special measures to fight online child sexual abuse. Almost all Member States faced delays when implementing the new measures, since the Directive is extremely comprehensive. The Commission is aware of those challenges but to ensure effective protection of children from sexual abuse, all Member States must fully comply with the provisions of the Directive. The Commission therefore decided to launch infringement procedures against 7 Member States for the incorrect implementation of the Directive into national law. The Member States concerned now have two months to respond to the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Legal migration: Commission urges ITALY to ensure the correct implementation of EU rules on rights of non-EU workers

The European Commission decided today to open an infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice to Italy for the incorrect implementation of EU rules on non-EU work and residence permits (the Single Permit Directive, Directive 2011/98/EU). The Directive guarantees that non-EU workers legally residing in an EU country benefit from equal treatment with nationals of that country as regards working conditions, freedom of association, education, social security and tax benefits among other areas. The Commission has identified an incorrect transposition and application of the principle of access to social security benefits on an equal basis with EU nationals. Italy now has two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Security Union: Commission calls on ITALY and SLOVENIA to comply with the EU Cybercrime Directive

Today, the Commission decided to send letters of formal notice to Italy and Slovenia concerning the incorrect implementation of the Directive on Attacks against Information Systems (Directive 2013/40/EU). The Directive is an essential part of the EU's legal framework in the fight against cybercrime and requires Member States to strengthen national cybercrime laws and to introduce tougher criminal sanctions, including for large-scale cyber-attacks. Member States are also obliged to designate points of contact, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week, to ensure improved cooperation between national authorities. The Commission considers that Italy and Slovenia have incorrectly implemented the measures set out in the Directive into their national laws, in particular regarding the offences and the penalties. Italy and Slovenia now have two months to respond to the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Legal migration: Commission urges ROMANIA to ensure the correct implementation of rules on residence permits for non-EU nationals

The European Commission decided today to send Romania an additional letter of formal notice for the incorrect implementation of provisions relating to the rejection of applications for residence permits and the obligation to justify the reasons for refusal under the EU Directives on legal migration. The EU Directives concerned are: the Long-Term Residents Directive (Council Directive 2003/109/EC), the Family Reunification Directive (Council Directive 2003/86/EC), 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). The Commission opened an EU infringement procedure by sending a first letter of formal notice to the Romanian authorities in December 2017. Romania now has two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Legal migration: Commission urges SWEDEN to ensure the correct implementation of EU rules

The Commission decided today to open an infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice to Sweden forthe incorrect implementation of several Directives in the field of legal migration. The Commission has identified non-conformity issues as regards the processing applications for permits, as well as restrictions to equal treatment of certain categories of non-EU nationals. The Directives concerned are: the Single Permit Directive (Directive 2011/98/EU), the Family Reunification Directive (Council Directive 2003/86/EC), the Long-Term Residents Directive (Directive 2003/109/EC), the EU Blue Card Directive (Directive 2009/50/EC), the Seasonal Workers Directive (Directive 2014/36/EU) and the Intra-Corporate Transferees Directive (Council Directive 2014/66/EU). Sweden now has two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

 

12. Mobility and Transport

(For more information: Enrico Brivio – tel.: +32 229 56172, Stephan Meder - tel.: +32 229 13917)

A referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union

Commission refers AUSTRIA to Court over the certification of train drivers

The European Commission decided today to refer Austria to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to comply with European rules on the certification of train drivers (Directive 2007/59/EC). The referral is due to the fact that the Austrian authority appointed for the purposes of the Directive, and tasked notably with the licensing of the train drivers, is not the safety authority, contrary to what the Directive explicitly requires. The Commission considers that it is for the Austrian authorities to take all necessary measures to remedy this situation. The Commission opened the EU infringement procedure against Austria by sending a letter of formal notice to the national authorities in November 2015, followed by a reasoned opinion in April 2017. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

Reasoned opinions

Driving licences: Commission urges GERMANY and CZECHIA to comply with EU rules on the medical fitness of drivers

Today, the Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion to Germany and Czechia, urging both EU countries to communicate the national measures taken to transpose EU rules on driving licences (Commission Directive (EU) 2016/1106). In July 2016, Member States adopted EU rules where they agreed on aspects as regards the medical fitness of drivers in relation to cardiovascular disease. The deadline for transposing those EU rules into national law was 1 January 2018. So far, Germany and Czechia have only partially communicated to the Commission measures taken to that end. In March 2018, the Commission opened EU infringement proceedings by sending a letter of formal notice to the Member States concerned. However, both Member States did not provide a satisfactory reply on the arguments raised by the Commission. As a result, the Commission now requests these EU countries to take the necessary measures to comply with the Directive. If they fail to adopt and notify the Commission of national legislation to transpose this Directive within two months, the Commission may decide to refer the cases to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Railway infrastructure: Commission urges GREECE and IRELAND to enact EU law on rail market opening and governance

Today, the Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion to Greece and Ireland urging them to communicate the national measures taken to transpose EU rules on the opening of the market for domestic passenger transport services by rail and the governance of the railway infrastructure (Directive (EU) 2016/2370) which are parts of the 4th Railway Package. In December 2016, Member States agreed to transpose the Directive into national law by 25 December 2018. In January 2019, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice requesting Greece and Ireland to comply with the Directive. To date, however, Greece and Ireland have still not communicated to the Commission which measures have been taken to that end.  They now have two months to comply with their obligations; otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the cases to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Inland waterway transport: Commission calls on HUNGARY to comply with EU requirements on vessels

The Commission today decided to send a reasoned opinion to Hungary regarding technical requirements for inland waterway vessels (Directive 2016/1629/EU and Commission Delegated Directive (EU) 2018/970). To date, Hungary has not communicated any measures taken on the transposition of these requirements into national law. According to the Directives, the national authorities must also set up an inspection system to check which vessels comply and to issue EU inland navigation certificates. The Directives set up a common system for technical requirements for vessels and an inspection regime, and make requirements for navigation certificates on inland waterways identical across all Member States. Hungary now has two months to reply to the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Road safety: Commission urges POLAND to transpose new vehicle testing measures to increase road safety

Today, the Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion to Poland requesting national authorities to fully transpose EU rules on periodic roadworthiness tests for motor vehicles and their trailers (Directive 2014/45/EU) as adopted in April 2014. The aim of the legislation is to improve vehicle testing in the EU, and, therefore, road safety. Member States were required to transpose these EU rules by 20 May 2017. So far, Poland has only partially transposed the Directive. The Directive covers passenger cars, lorries, buses, heavy-trailers, motorcycles and speed tractors. This also defines the items to be tested during the roadworthiness test, the tests methods, what is considered a defect, and how defects are assessed. These EU rules introduce minimum requirements for the testing facilities, training of inspectors and supervising bodies. In addition, Polandalso hasneither adopted, published nor communicated to the Commission the national measures taken to transpose EU rules on the technical roadside inspection of commercial vehicles (Directive 2014/47/EU). The Directive provides common rules for the technical roadside inspection of lorries, buses, heavy-trailers and speed tractors. Poland now has two months to reply. Otherwise, the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Letters of formal notice

Road transport: Commission requests that 15 Member States to upgrade the connection of their national electronic registers on road hauliers to the new European Registers of Road Transport Undertakings version

The Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to Belgium, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and United Kingdom for failing to upgrade the connection between their respective national registers on road transport undertakings and the new version of European Registers of Road Transport Undertakings (ERRU), as required by the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/480. The ERRU allows the exchange of information on road transport undertakings established within the EU and between Member States. It is an essential instrument to ensure enforcement of EU legislation. The implementation of a new and enhanced version of ERRU requires Member States to adapt their systems at national level. The deadline for establishing an upgraded connection of national electronic registers expired on 30 January 2019. If the authorities from the Member States concerned fail to send a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion to the Member States concerned.

Seafarers: Commission urges BELGIUM to comply with EU rules on training of seafarers

Today, the Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice to Belgium for failing to comply with EU rules on the minimum level of training for seafarers (Directive 2008/106/EC). These rules aim to ensure that seafarers' training standards are respected across the EU, and are in line with international standards. To date, Belgium has not fulfilled its obligations under the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) regarding. In particular, on seafarer certification and its requirements, the quality management system implemented by one of its maritime education and training institutions or the qualification and training of instructors. Belgium has two months to respond to the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Single European railway area: Commission calls on DENMARK, IRELAND, the NETHERLANDS, and POLAND to fully transpose EU law

Today, the Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice to Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Poland for failing to transpose certain provisions of the EU rules on establishing a single European railway area (Directive 2012/34/EU). The Directive aims to create a single European rail area, notably on competition issues, regulatory oversight and financial architecture of the railway sector, the power of national regulators, improved framework for investment in rail, and fair and non-discriminatory access to rail infrastructure and rail related services. In November 2012, Member States adopted the Directive and agreed to transpose these rules into national law by 16 June 2015. The Member States concerned now have two months to reply. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Electronic tolling: Commission urges GERMANY to provide fair and non-discriminatory remuneration to electronic toll providers

The Commission today decided to send a letter of formal notice to Germany for failing to comply with the principles of fair and non-discriminatory remuneration for European Electronic Toll Service (EETS) providers as required by the EU law (Commission Decision 2009/750/EC). The EETS providers will in the future collect tolls paid in Germany. The remuneration offered (0.75% of toll revenues) does not cover the costs of EETS providers and is well below the remuneration offered to the national incumbent. The Commission considers the model of remuneration for EETS providers put in place by Germany unfair and discriminatory, and that it will thus jeopardise interoperability for users in Germany. Moreover, it risks jeopardising the creation of a common market for EETS services in Europe. Germany has two months to respond to the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Road transport: Commission calls on HUNGARY to put in place effective penalties for infringements related to the use of tachographs

Today, the European Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice to Hungary for failing to comply with EU law on tachographs in road transport (the Tachograph Regulation, Regulation (EU) No 165/2014). In February 2014, Member States adopted the Regulation under which EU countries are now required to set rules on the penalties applicable when tachographs used incorrectly. The tachographs allow national enforcement authorities to verify compliance with social legislation in road transport (Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 and Directive 2002/15/EC) and speed limits (Directive 92/6/EEC). EU countries agreed that penalties must be effective, proportionate, dissuasive and non-discriminatory, and in compliance with the categories of infringements set out in Directive 2006/22/EC. Currently, Hungarian legislation requires enforcement authorities to deliver only a warning, instead of a fine, to small and medium-sized companies in the case of a first-time infringement of the Tachograph Regulation. The Commission considers that this system of mere warnings does not fulfil the criteria for penalties mentioned above. This goes against the aim of this legislation, which is to improve working conditions for drivers, fair competition between undertakings in the road transport sector, and general road safety. By sending a letter of formal notice to Hungary, the Commission has officially launched the infringement procedure. Hungary now has two months to address the Commission's concerns. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Maritime transport: Commission urges MALTA to comply with EU rules on marine equipment

The Commission today decided to send a letter of formal notice to Malta for failing to comply with EU law on marine equipment (Directive 2014/90/EU). The common EU safety rules concern equipment, such as life jackets, sewage cleaning systems and radars, on board EU-flagged ships. Malta has failed to ensure that marine equipment (on board of Maltese flagged vessels) is always accompanied by a declaration of conformity, and is not conducting market surveillance on an adequate scale. Malta is neither inspecting transferred shipsnor issuing certificates for equivalent marine equipment when a ship is transferred. Malta has two months to respond to the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Rail safety: Commission urges POLAND to ensure independent investigation of serious rail accidents

The Commission today decided to send a letter of formal notice to Poland regarding the non-implementation by Poland of the Court's judgement in June 2018 (Commission vs Poland, 13 June 2018, C-530/16). With this ruling, the Court concluded that Poland had failed to adopt the measures necessary to ensure that the investigating body is independent. In addition, the Polish authorities failed to adopt measures in terms of its organisation and decision-making, of railway undertakings and rail infrastructure managers controlled by the Minister for Transport.Independence is crucial to ensure effective investigation and prevent future accidents. Poland now has two months to respond and demonstrate that implementation of the Court judgement has taken place. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU, calling on the Court to impose financial penalties on Poland.

 

13. Taxation and Customs Union

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

Referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union
Taxation: Commission refers BELGIUM to the Court due to its tax treatment of taxpayers investing in property abroad
Today, the Commission decided to refer Belgium to the Court of Justice of the EU for its failure to properly implement rules related to the calculation of rental income. This situation can result in different tax treatment and discourage Belgian residents from buying property abroad. In its judgment of 12 April 2018 (Commission vs Belgium,C-110/17), the Court found that Belgian provisions for rental income run contrary to EU law. Rental income of taxpayers in Belgium from immovable property located abroad is calculated on the basis of the actual rental value, while for property located in Belgium it is based on the cadastral value - which is to say, calculated by reference to the property description and valuation. This means that Belgium failed to fulfil its obligations under free movement of capital (Article 63 of TFEU and Article 40 of the EEA Agreement). The Commission is calling on the Court of Justice of the EU to impose financial sanctions in the form of a lump sum of € 4,905.90 per day between the day after the deadline for transposition set out by the Directive expired and either compliance by Belgium or the date of delivery of the judgment under Article 260(2) of TFEU, with a minimum lump sum of € 2,029,000.00 and a daily penalty payment of € 22,076.55 from the day of the first judgment until full compliance is reached or until the second Court judgment. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

Taxation: Commission refers GERMANY to the Court for its failure to apply EU rules on VAT for farmers
Today, the Commission decided to refer Germany to the Court of Justice of the EU for not applying the EU Value Added Tax (VAT) scheme for farmers correctly. Under current EU rules, Member States can apply a flat-rate VAT scheme (Council Directive 2006/112/EC) which allows farmers to charge their customers a standard amount – or ‘flat-rate compensation' – on their agricultural products and services. In turn, those farmers cannot claim compensation for VAT they have already paid. The scheme is supposed to be used by farmers who are likely to experience administrative difficulties when following normal VAT rules or the simplified rules provided for small companies. However, Germany applies the flat-rate scheme by default to all farmers, including owners of large farms, regardless of whether they encounter such administrative difficulties. The only farmers who cannot benefit from the scheme are commercial livestock breeders. In addition, according to figures from the German Supreme Audit Institution (Bundesrechnungshof), German farmers to whom the flat-rate scheme applies are also being overcompensated for the input VAT that they have paid. This is not allowed under EU rules and generates major distortions of competition in the internal market, in particular in favour of big farmers who do not encounter difficulties with the normal VAT arrangements. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

A referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union and reasoned opinions

Commission takes further steps to end illegal tax breaks in the ITALIAN and CYPRIOT yacht industries

The Commission is today taking further steps to end illegal tax breaks in the yacht industries of Italy and Cyprus. Today's legal proceedings form part of the Commission's ongoing efforts to stamp out unfair tax avoidance practices in the EU. As part of today's infringement package, the Commission has decided to refer Italy to the Court of Justice for the EU for its failure to address an illegal system of exemptions for fuel used to power chartered yachts in EU waters. At the same time, the Commission decided to send reasoned opinions to Italy and Cyprus for not levying the correct amount of Value Added Tax (VAT) on the leasing of yachts. Tax breaks of this type can lead to major distortions of competition. Due to the size of this sector, these illegal and favourable tax regimes also run counter to the fiscal consolidation processes of these Member States. Since the beginning of its mandate, the Juncker Commission has been at the forefront of European and international efforts to combat tax avoidance and tax evasion. When it comes to VAT, recent Commission initiatives seek to put in place a single EU VAT area which is less prone to fraud and would enhance cooperation between Member States. The issue of VAT fraud transcends national borders and can only be solved effectively by a concerted, joint effort of Member States. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

Reasoned opinions

Taxation: Commission calls on BELGIUM to bring its rules on tax deductibility of alimony payments in line with EU law

The Commission today decided to send a reasoned opinion to Belgium asking it to amend its legislation on the deductibility of alimony payments from the taxable income of non-residents. Currently, Belgium refuses the deduction of alimony payments to non-resident taxpayers, when the Member State of residence is not in a position to take into account their ability to pay tax and their personal and family circumstances because of the modest amount of their worldwide income. This refusal penalises non-resident taxpayers because they have exercised the freedom of movement of workers under Article 45 of TFEU and Article 28 of the EEA Agreement. If Belgium does not act within the next two months, the Commission may refer Belgium to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Customs Union: Commission requests BULGARIA to ensure proportionate sanctions for not declaring cash

The Commission today decided to send a reasoned opinion to Bulgaria for failing to introduce effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions for carrying cash of a value of €10,000 or more. Under EU rules on cash controls (Regulation (EC) No 1889/2005), any person entering or leaving the European Union must declare if they are carrying €10,000 or more. The obligation to declare cash aims at ensuring effective control on cash movements and to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing. When the declaration obligation is not complied with in Bulgaria, customs authorities confiscate the amounts not declared and impose additional pecuniary sanctions or imprisonment. The Court of Justice of the EU has already issued two orders declaring the Bulgarian sanction regime to be incompatible with the proportionality principle of EU law (Case C-707/17and joined cases C-335/18C-336/18). If Bulgaria does not act within the next two months, the Commission may decide to bring the case before the Court of Justice of the EU.

Taxation: Commission urges GREECE to align its rules regarding the limited deductibility of foreign losses

The Commission today decided to send a reasoned opinion to Greece in respect of income tax legislation which limits deductibility of foreign losses, as interpreted by guidelines issued by the Greek tax authorities. While both business profits originating domestically and those originating in another EU/EEA state are subject to taxes in Greece, the treatment of losses incurred abroad is limited. This difference in treatment constitutes a restriction to the right of establishment (Article 49 of TFEU). If Greece does not act within the next two months, the Commission may decide to bring the case before the Court of Justice of the EU.

Taxation: Commission requests POLAND align tax rates on certain energy products with the minimum EU threshold

The Commission today decided to send a reasoned opinion to Poland for enabling energy intensive businesses to exempt certain harmonised excise products, such as coal and gas from excise duty. Under Polish legislation, certain energy products used by energy intensive businesses falling under the European Emission Trading Scheme (the EU ETS) are exempt from excise duty. This rule favours highly polluting activities, runs against EU climate objectives and generates major distortions of competition within the EU. The Polish national rule also runs counter to EU energy tax rules (Council Directive 2003/96/EC). If Poland does not act within the next two months, the Commission may decide to bring the case before the Court of Justice of the EU. 

Taxation: Commission calls on SPAIN to abolish the obligation imposed on non-resident taxpayers to appoint a tax representative

The Commission today decided to send a reasoned opinion to Spain for obliging non-resident taxpayers to appoint, in certain cases, a tax representative domiciled in Spain. This can result in extra costs and obstacles for taxpayers. Following the case-law of the Court of Justice of the EU, this obligation implies bearing the cost of remunerating that representative. Furthermore, the fact that the representative must reside in Spain impedes the freedom to provide services for persons and undertakings established in other Member States of the EU and of the EEA. These legal obligations violate the free movement of workers, the freedom of establishment, the freedom to provide services and the free moment of capital (Articles 45,49 and 56 of TFEU), insofar as they impose additional costs on non-resident taxpayers liable to discourage them from taking up activities or investment in Spain. If Spain does not act within the next two months, the Commission may decide to bring the case before the Court of Justice of the EU.

Letters of formal notice, reasoned opinions and closures

Taxation: Commission adopts set of infringement procedures on the Anti-Tax Avoidance rules

The Commission today decided to send a letter of formal notice to Austria and Ireland requesting them to implement the interest limitation measure as required by EU tax avoidance practices (the Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive Council Directive (EU) 2016/1164or ATAD). If Austria and Ireland do not act within the next two months, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion to their authorities. At the same time, the Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion to Denmark for its failure to notify national implementing measures for the controlled foreign company (CFC) rules of ATAD, which aim to deter profit shifting to low or no tax countries. If Denmark does not act within the next two months, the Commission may decide to bring the case before the Court of Justice of the EU. Finally, the Commission also decided today to close infringement proceedings against Belgium, Cyprus, Czechia, France, Greece, Portugal and the United Kingdom since they have now fulfilled their obligations to communicate to the Commission their respective anti-tax avoidance rules implementing the Directive.

Letters of formal notice

Taxation: Commission requests GERMANY to recognise the profit and loss transfer agreement concluded with corporations established under the laws of another EU/EEA Member State

The Commission today decided to send a letter of formal notice to Germany for refusing to recognise profit and loss transfer agreements which form a precondition for tax consolidation purposes entered into by companies relocating their place of management to Germany. Corporations established under the laws of another EU/European Economic Area (EEA) Member State, but which transfer their place of management to Germany, cannot meet the formal registration requirements for the recognition of such agreements. This is because  the German tax administration requires that the agreement is registered at the seat of the company, while refusing to recognise the registration with a Commercial Registrar in another EU/EEA Member State as being equivalent with the registration with a domestic Commercial Registrar. This means that the group of companies is treated less favourably than groups of which all the members have their registered offices in Germany. This deters companies established in another EU/EEA State from establishing a business in Germany. Germany had already modified its law but these legislative amendments would be void of purpose if German tax administration continues now to refuse the benefits of the tax consolidation on the grounds that the formal requirements of the profit and loss transfer agreement have not been met. These rules are, therefore, likely to dissuade corporations from exercising their Treaty rights relating to the freedom of establishment (Article 49 of TFEU and Article 31 of the EEA Agreement). If Germany does not act within the next two months, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion to the German authorities.

Taxation: Commission requests POLAND amend VAT rules for cash processing services

The Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to Poland for exempting various cash processing services from VAT, for example escorting of cash, preparing cash supplies for cash machines, storage of cash and extraction of excess cash. EU rules (VAT Directive, Council Directive 2006/112/EC) do not allow VAT exemption for these services. If Poland does not act within the next two months, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion to the Polish authorities.

INF/19/4251

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