November infringements package: key decisions

Curia

(Credit: European Union)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


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 103 cases in which the issues with the Member States concerned have been addressed 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. Agriculture and rural developpment

(For more information: Daniel Rosario – tel.: +32 229 56185, Clemence Robin – tel.: +32 229 52509)

Referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union

Commission refers DENMARK to the Court for failing to fulfil its obligations in relation to the name “Feta”

The Commission decided today to refer Denmark to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failure to adequately fulfil its obligations under the EU law on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs. Companies based in Denmark produce and export white cheese to non-EU countries after labelling it as “Feta”. “Feta” is a registered Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) since 2002 in the EU and as such, it can only be produced in Greece according to a set of production specifications. The Commission considers that this practice is a direct breach of the protection granted by the registration as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and the Danish authorities have failed to prevent or stop it. By refraining to do so, Denmark infringes both the Regulation on quality schemes and the principle of sincere cooperation between the Union and Member States (Article 4(3) of the Treaty on European Union). This conduct not only violates current EU law, but it is also likely to frustrate the ongoing negotiations between the European Union and third countries for the conclusion of bilateral agreements that ensure the protection of European PDOs and the promotion of EU quality products outside the EU. The Commission decided to open EU infringement proceedings against Denmark in January 2018 by sending a letter of formal notice. In the context of an infringement procedure, the Commission invited the Danish authorities to take appropriate steps to prevent or stop companies established on its territory from carrying out this practice. Since Denmark has not addressed the issues raised, 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.

 

2. Competition

(For more information: Lucia Caudet – tel.: +32 229 56182, Maria Tsoni – tel.: +32 229 90526)

Referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union

State aid: Commission refers GREECE to Court for failure to recover incompatible State aid from mining company Larco

The European Commission has decided to refer Greece to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to comply with a 2017 ruling by the Court of Justice. In its ruling, the Court had condemned Greece for failure to implement a 2014 Commission decision requiringit torecover €135.8 million of incompatible aid from Larco General Mining & Metallurgical Company S.A. (“Larco”). In March 2014, the Commission found that various public measures (in the form of capital injections and state guarantees) in favour of Larco gave the company an undue advantage over its competitors, in breach of EU State aid rules. The Commission ordered Greece to recover the incompatible State aid amounting to €135.8 million, plus interest. On the same date, the Commission also adopted a decision finding that a plan proposed by Greece for the sale of certain assets of Larco could be implemented without the buyer being liable to repay any of the incompatible State aid granted to Larco. The sale plan has not yet been implemented. In November 2017, the Court of Justice (case C-481/16 European Commission v Hellenic Republic) found that Greece had failed to implement the Commission’s 2014 recovery decision and condemned Greece for not having recovered the incompatible State aid, as required by the 2014 recovery decision. In January 2019, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Greece regarding the non-implementation of the 2017 Court’s ruling. To this date, more than five years after the adoption of the Commission decision and following the Court’s judgment and the Commission’s letter of formal notice, Greece has still not recovered the incompatible State aid from Larco. The Commission has therefore now requested the Court of Justice to impose on Greece the following financial sanctions:

–   A lump sum payment of approximately € 3 709  per day for the period between 9 November 2017 (date of the first ruling by the Court of Justice) and the date Greece complies with the Court’s ruling, or, alternatively, failing compliance, the date of delivery of the Court’s second ruling. The minimum lump sum payment should not be lower than € 1.3 million.

–   A daily penalty payment of approximately € 26 697 from the day of its judgment until the date Greece brings the infringement to an end.

For more information, please refer to the full press release.

 

3. Energy

(For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen – tel.: +32 229 56186, Lynn Rietdorf – tel.: +32 229 81325)

Reasoned opinions

Gas security of supply: Commission calls on POLAND to correctly transpose the EU rules

The Commission has today decided to send a reasoned opinion to Poland on the grounds that their national rules do not comply with the Security of Gas Supply Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2017/1938). The Polish legislation imposes certain gas storage obligations on undertakings importing gas to Poland, which are inconsistent with the EU law provisions. While security of supply obligations beyond the standard defined in the Security of Gas Supply Regulation are possible, they are subject to compliance with strict conditions, such as proportionality, non-discrimination and not unduly distorting competition or hampering the functioning of the internal market. The Commission is of the view that the Polish law requirements concerning gas storage are incompatible with the EU measures to safeguard the security of gas supply. The Regulation lays down requirements to be respected by all Member States in order to prevent and respond to potential supply disruptions in the EU. Poland has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Radioactive waste: Commission calls on BELGIUM and SPAIN to adopt national programmes for radioactive waste management compliant with EU rules

The Commission has decided today to send reasoned opinions to Belgium and Spain for failing to adopt a national programme for radioactive waste management compliant with certain requirements of the Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste Directive (Council Directive 2011/70/Euratom). The Directive establishes a Community framework for ensuring the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste to avoid imposing undue burdens on future generations. The Directive requires Member States to provide for appropriate national arrangements for a high level of safety in spent fuel and radioactive waste management. The aim is to protect workers and the general public from the dangers arising from ionising radiation. Radioactive waste is generated from the production of electricity in nuclear power plants or from the non-power-related use of radioactive materials for medical, research, industrial and agricultural purposes. This means that all EU countries generate radioactive waste. Member States were required to notify their national programmes by 23 August 2015. If Belgium and Spain do not act within the next two months, the Commission may refer these two Member States to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Letters of formal notice and reasoned opinions

Basic safety standards: Commission calls on 9 Member States to transpose EU legislation

The Commission has decided to send letters of formal notice to Belgium, Austria, Spain, Estonia and Hungary as well as reasoned opinions to Malta, Portugal, Cyprus and Greece, requesting the complete transposition of the latest Basic Safety Standards Directive (Council Directive 2013/59/Euratom) into their national legislation. Member States were required to transpose the Directive by 6 February 2018, but the abovementioned Member States have failed to do so in a complete manner. The Basic Safety Standards Directive modernises and consolidates the EU radiation protection legislation. It lays down basic safety standards to protect workers, members of the public, and patients against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation. It also includes emergency preparedness and response provisions that were strengthened following the Fukushima nuclear accident. The concerned Member States now have two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission; otherwise the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion to the 5 Member States that received a letter of formal notice or refer the 4 Member States that received a reasoned opinion to the Court of Justice of the EU.

A letter of formal notice

Sustainable biofuels: Commission requests BELGIUM to enact EU rules on indirect land use change

The Commission has decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Belgium for failing to fully transpose EU rules reinforcing the sustainability of biofuels (Directive (EU) 2015/1513), which are important in helping the EU meet its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. 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 is used for growing crops for biofuel production instead – thus 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. The period for Member States to transpose the provisions of the Directive and communicate national implementing measures to the Commission ended on 10 September 2017. Several other Member States have also received letters of formal notice for failing to fully transpose this Directive. Belgium has two months to reply to the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

4. Environment

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

Reasoned opinions

Waste: Commission calls on CYPRUS, GREECE and ITALY to improve domestic rules on hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment

The Commission is calling on Cyprus, Greece and Italy to bring their legislation into line with the new Directive (EU) 2017/2102which amends Directive 2011/65/EU on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. Directive 2011/65/EU lays down rules on the restriction of the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) with a view to contributing to the protection of human health and the environment, including the environmentally sound recovery and disposal of waste EEE. While the countries concerned have transposed Directive 2011/65/EU, they still need to adopt legislation in order to bring their legislation fully into line with new European norms. The three Member States are in the process of drafting new legislation but as no target date for compliance has been given, the Commission has decided to send reasoned opinions to them. The countries have two months to take action. Otherwise, the Commission may refer the case(s) to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Waste: Commission urges PORTUGAL to fully comply with EU rules on ship recycling

The Commission is urging Portugal to comply with its duty to fully implement European legislation on ship recycling (Ship Recycling Regulation, Regulation (EU) No 1257/2013). The EU Regulation aims to make ship recycling greener and safer. Its main objective is to ensure that ships under EU authority (those sailing under the flag of an EU Member State) are recycled in a safe and sustainable manner. It is essential that Member States fulfil key obligations relating to the designation of competent authorities, administrations and contact persons and to the establishment of national law provisions with regard to the enforcement of these EU rules and the applicable penalties. All of these obligations had to be fulfilled by 31 December 2018 and Member States were obliged to notify the relevant designations and national enforcement provisions to the Commission by the same date. The Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Portugal in June 2019 as the country had not fulfilled its obligations. Portugal is still in the process of drafting legislation on the national enforcement provisions but no target date of compliance has been given. As compliance has still not been achieved, the Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion. Portugal now has two months to take action. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Water: Commission urges SPAIN and SLOVAKIA to comply with the EU legislation on Urban Waste Water

The Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to Spain and Slovakia over their failure to comply with the EU requirements of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (Council Directive 91/271/EEC). Untreated waste water can put human health at risk and pollute lakes, rivers, soil and coastal and groundwater. In Spain, the case concerns the failure by 145 agglomerations to respect the Directive’s key obligations on collection, treatment and monitoring. These agglomerations should have been compliant by either 31 December 1998, 31 December 2000 or 31 December 2005. A letter of formal notice was sent on 4 October 2017. However, despite some minor progress, full compliance is not expected in the near future. Regarding Slovakia, the Member State has failed to provide a collecting system for 233 agglomerations and has also failed to ensure that the urban waste water entering collecting systems is subject to appropriate treatment. All Slovak agglomerations should have been compliant by 31 December 2015. The case looks into compliance with the intermediate deadlines 31 December 2008 and 31 December 2012. The Commission sent a letter of formal notice in February 2017. The Slovak authorities recognise the existence of a problem. However, despite their efforts and EU financial support from Cohesion Policy, compliance is not expected to be achieved in the near future. The Commission is therefore sending reasoned opinions and asking Spain and Slovakia to accelerate compliance. The countries have two months to reply. Otherwise, the Commission may refer the cases to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Marine environment: Commission calls on PORTUGAL to comply with its reporting obligations on the protection of marine waters

The Commission is urging Portugal to comply with the reporting obligations on the environmental status of marine waters under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (Directive 2008/56/EC). The Directive provides a comprehensive framework to protect the EU’s seas and oceans, and ensures that their resources are managed sustainably. In June 2008, Member States agreed to review and update their assessment of the environmental status of the waters concerned, the environmental impact of human activities, their determination of good environmental status and their environmental targets by 15 October 2018. Portugal failed to submit reports to the Commission by the required deadline. As a result, the Commission opened the infringement proceedings by sending them a letter of formal notice in June 2019. As no reports have been received since the deadline expired, the Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion. Portugal now has two months to take action. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Biodiversity: Commission calls on CZECHIA to complete Natura 2000 network

The Commission is calling on Czechia 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. It obliges EU Member States to protect and restore to favourable conservation status habitats that play a vital role for biodiversity as part of the Natura 2000 network. Czechia updated its list of proposed sites in May 2016, but the Commission assessment has found that insufficiencies persist. Czechia needs to designate additional sites for 3 habitat types and 5 species, and some designated sites need refinements. Further scientific studies are required to broaden knowledge about certain habitats and species occurring in the country. This may in turn require the designation of more sites in the future. Moreover, the Commission is concerned that Czechia excluded sites from designation or reduced the area of sites due to economic interest, for example the planned construction of weir-and-lock systems on the Elbe river. Member States cannot invoke economic reasons or other non-scientific considerations in order to justify an insufficient proposal of sites. The Commission has therefore decided to send a reasoned opinion to Czechia, giving it two months to address these concerns. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case before the Court of Justice of the EU.

Biodiversity: Commission urges GREECE, CZECHIA, IRELAND, POLAND and FRANCE to protect the environment against invasive alien species

The Commission is calling on Greece, Czechia, Ireland, Poland and France to bring their legislation into line with Regulation 1143/2014 on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species. This Regulation sets out rules to prevent, minimise and mitigate the adverse impact on biodiversity of the introduction and spread within the Union, both intentional and unintentional, of invasive alien species. Regarding Greece, Czechia, Ireland and Poland, these Member States still need to adopt, and communicate to the Commission, legislation which would lay down the rules on penalties that would be applicable to infringements of the Regulation. France still needs to adopt all the lists of invasive alien species of concern for five of its outermost regions and then, communicate these lists to the Commission. The Commission therefore is sending reasoned opinions to these Member States, which now have two months to reply. Otherwise, the Commission may refer the cases to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Industrial Emissions: Commission calls on AUSTRIA to fully enact new EU rules into national legislation

The Commission requests Austria to adapt its national legislation in order to transpose Directive (EU) 2015/2193 on the limitation of emissions of certain pollutants into the air from medium combustion plants. The Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Austria on 24 January 2018. Austria’s reply indicates that the missing provisions have not yet been fully incorporated. Since Austria has not yet fully enacted the EU rules into their national legislation, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion. Austria now has two months to reply. Otherwise, the Commission may refer the country to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Environmental impact assessment: Commission calls on GERMANY to take steps to ensure that the environmental impact of certain projects is adequately assessed

The Commission has asked Germany to adapt its national legislation in order to take into account the modifications introduced by the new Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (EIA Directive 2014/52/EU) amending Directive 2011/92/EU. The aim of new directive is to ensure that projects, which are likely to have a significant effect on the environment, are adequately assessed before they are approved. The Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Germany in July 2017. Germany’s reply indicates that the missing provisions have not yet been fully incorporated. Since Germany has not yet fully enacted the EU rules into its national legislations, the Commission decided today to send a reasoned opinion. Germany 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

Environmental impact assessment: Commission calls on FINLAND to improve domestic rules

The Commission is urging Finland to bring its national legislation into line with the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (EIA Directive 2011/92/EU). The Directive ensures that the impact on the environment of public and private projects is assessed before they are authorised. EU Member States adopted new EU legislation in April 2014 (Directive 2014/52/EU), 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. In Finland, shortcomings in the legislation concern both the Finnish Mainland and the Åland Province. Those include unclear national rules for adopting projects on the basis of sectorial legislation, incorrect enactment of provisions on the consultation of the public and of authorities, and incorrect national provisions on the required content of development consent decisions. Therefore, the Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Finland which now has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Waste: Commission calls on AUSTRIA to improve some rules on management of electric and electronic waste

The Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to Austria over shortcomings in its enactment of EU rules on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE Directive 2012/19/EU), as earlier done for a number of other Member States. 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 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. Various formal problems have been identified in Austrian legislation. In particular, it does not correctly transpose some definitions and does not provide for a prohibition of the disposal of untreated waste. Austria now has two months to remedy the situation. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Air Quality: Commission calls on AUSTRIA to improve rules concerning the assessment of ambient air quality

The Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to Austria over shortcomings in its enactment of EU rules concerning reference methods, data validation and location of sampling points for the assessment of ambient air quality (Commission Directive (EU) 2015/1480 of 28 August 2015 amending several annexes to Directive 2004/107/EC and Directive 2008/50/EC). Correct reference methods, data validation and location of sampling points are essential in order to establish reliable data. Without reliable data it is impossible to assess ambient air quality. Various problems have been identified in Austrian legislation. In particular, it does not provide for a correct update of the documentation and a quality system review for all measurement work. In addition, parts of the transposing legislation do not cover ozone. Austria now has two months to remedy the situation. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Biodiversity: Commission urges CYPRUS to ensure protection of Natura 2000 sites

The Commission is sending a letter of formal notice to Cyprus as it considers that it has generally and persistently, since the date of accession to the EU, failed to ensure that its authorities subject plans or projects to appropriate assessment of their implications on the Natura 2000 sites and/or that it has agreed to plans or projects without having ascertained that they will not adversely affect the integrity of the Natura 2000 site concerned. The Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive) aims at contributing towards ensuring bio-diversity through the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora in the European territory of the Member States to which the Treaty applies. According to this Directive, plans and projects not directly connected with or necessary to the management of a Natura 2000 site need to undergo an appropriate assessment of their implications (both their individual implications and also in combination with other plans or projects) for the site at stake unless Member States are certain, following a screening of the project, that the project will not have significant impacts on the Natura 2000 site. These plans and projects can only be agreed by the competent national authorities if the latter has ascertained that they will not adversely affect the integrity of the site concerned. Cyprus is given two months to comply. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Biodiversity: Commission urges LATVIA to ensure nature protection

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

Water: Commission requests IRELAND, ESTONIA, AUSTRIA, THE NETHERLANDS and LUXEMBOURG to meet their obligations on environmental quality standards for pollutants

The Commission is warning Ireland, Estonia, Austria, The Netherlands and Luxembourg regarding their obligations under Directive 2008/105/EC on environmental quality standards, as modified by Directive 2013/39/EU. The Environmental Quality Standards Directive is key to assessing the status of Europe’s surface waters. The Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC) requires the Member States to bring surface waters to good ecological and chemical status ultimately by 2027. That general obligation includes a regular monitoring of their status, including the concentrations of certain chemical pollutants. If thresholds concentrations of those pollutants are exceeded, the Member States must take action. Following an assessment of how the Member States have transposed the amended Environmental Quality Standards Directive, the Commission has identified several shortcomings in the national legislation of the five Member States mentioned above, ranging from missing definitions through incorrect specification of monitoring frequencies to failure to include the new requirements in binding legislation. The Commission has therefore decided to send letters of formal notice to the five 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.

Water: Commission urges BELGIUM to protect its waters from nitrate pollution

The Commission has issued an additional letter of formal notice to Belgium over non-compliance with the nitrates directive (Council Directive 91/676/EEC). That directive aims to protect Europe’s (surface and ground) water against pollution from agricultural sources by requiring the authorities to take measures aimed at avoiding such pollution. A first letter of formal notice was sent in February 2014. The Commission decided to broaden the discussion with Belgium since then and specifically, in view of the Flemish region’s reports on monitoring of water quality indicating that maximum allowed quantities of animal manure have not been respected, at least since 2016 (when a derogation was granted under the Directive), until 2018. The derogation granted to the Flemish region allowed it for quantities of nitrates above the normal limit per hectare if conditions were met. However, the official report indicates that quantities actually applied in many cases exceeded the maxima considerably. To date, there is no indication that these exceedances have been ended. Regarding the Walloon region, the current nitrates action programme in place (PGDA 3) does not contain all the measures required by the Directive. Despite indications of improving ground water quality and adoption of new measures since the case was opened in 2013, the Commission considers that certain measures should be further strengthened and scientifically underpinned so as to ensure that water quality complies with the Directive (close periods, spreading manure on slopes, registration of quantity of fertilisers applied on the land, etc.). The Commission expects its concerns to be taken into account in the upcoming revision of the PGDA 3. Belgium now has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

5. Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

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

Reasoned opinions and additional letters of formal notice

Public procurement: Commission takes further action against 4 Member States as regards their national public procurement and concessions rules

The Commission decided today to send reasoned opinions to Czechia and Polandfor the non-conformity of their national legislation with the 2014 Public Procurement and Concessions Directives (Directives 2014/24/EU and 2014/25/EU and Directive 2014/23/EU). The Commission also decided to send additional letters of formal noticeto Bulgaria and Italy to ask them for further information on their national rules transposing the same EU legislation. All four decisions taken today are follow-up actions to the letters of formal notice sent in January 2019  and come on top of the letters of formal notice sent in October 2019. All Member States now have two months to respond to the arguments raised by the Commission in the additional letters of formal notice or reasoned opinions sent today. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to follow up with the sending of a reasoned opinion in the case of Bulgaria and Italy, or refer Czechia and Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Professional qualifications: Commission asks 24 Member States to comply with EU rules on the recognition of professional qualifications

The Commission has today decided to send reasoned opinions to 22 countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Greece, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Sweden) and send complementary letters of formal notice to Germany and Malta, regarding the non-conformity of their national legislation and practice with EU rules on the recognition of professional qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC as amended by Directive 2013/55/EU). With these rules, the EU has put into place a modern system, which helps make labour markets more flexible, further facilitates the provision of services between Member States and establishes automatic recognition of professional qualifications in EU countries for some professions, such as architects, doctors or nurses. The Commission sent these reasoned opinions and complementary letters of formal notice regarding rules on freedom of establishment, freedom to provide services, automatic recognition of qualifications, facilitation of administrative requirements for recognition procedures, recognition of professional traineeships and administrative cooperation. All Member States concerned now have two months to respond to the arguments raised by the Commission; otherwise the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion to Germany and Malta or to bring the cases before the Court of Justice of the European Union for the other Member States to which a reasoned opinion was addressed.

Letters of formal notice

Commission opens infringement procedures against 5 Member States for failing to comply with EU harmonised product rules on appliances burning gaseous fuels

The Commission decided today to send letters of formal notice to Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Malta and Slovakia for failing to fulfil their obligations under the EU harmonised rules for appliances burning gaseous fuels (Regulation 2016/426). The Regulation lays down the requirements that each gas appliance has to fulfil in order to be placed on the market, and sets clear obligations for economic operators and national market surveillance authorities. Under this Regulation, Member States should have communicated to the Commission the types of gas and corresponding supply pressures of gaseous fuels used on their territory by 21 October 2017. The five Member States now have two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission; otherwise the Commission may decide to send reasoned opinions.

6. Mobility and Transport

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

Reasoned opinions

Transport of dangerous goods: Commission calls on PORTUGAL to enact EU rules on inland transport of dangerous goods

The Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to Portugal requestingto fully comply with EU law on inland transport of dangerous goods. Portugal failed to update its national legislation governing the transport of dangerous goods by road and rail. The national legislation of Portugal was not adapted taking into account technical and scientific progress as required by Commission Directive 2018/1846, namely concerning the amendments to the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR), as well as the Regulations concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail (RID). The Portuguese authorities now have two months to reply; otherwise, the Commission may refer the Member State to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Road transport: Commission requests 9 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 reasoned opinions to Belgium, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, 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 do not act within two months, the Commission may refer the Member State to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Letters of formal notice

Road transport: Commission calls on SLOVAKIA to implement rules on information services for safe and secure parking places

The Commission has decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Slovakia for failing to communicate information on safe and secure parking. More specifically, Slovakia failed to communicate information related to parking places registered in the information service as well as to parking places providing dynamic information (e.g. availability of parking spaces or priority zones). This is required by Regulation (EU) Nº 885/2013 which was adopted under the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Directive. Truck drivers in Europe are often confronted with insufficient parking facilities and information on such facilities, and therefore often park in non-secured zones or unsafe locations. Slovakia now has two months to reply to the letter of formal notice; otherwise, the Commission may consider adopting a reasoned opinion.

7. Legal service

(For more information: Mina Andreeva – tel.: +32 229 91382)

Referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union

European Commission refers SPAIN to the Court of Justice for its rules on the compensation for damages

Today, the European Commission decided to refer Spain to the Court of Justice of the EU regarding Spanish rules on compensation for damages caused by the State when adopting legislation contrary to Union law. Following complaints received about certain Spanish provisions regulating the compensation for damages caused by legislative acts that are in breach of Union law, the European Commission initiated an infringement procedure on 14 June 2017, considering that these provisions are in breach of the principles of effectiveness and/or equivalence. These principles limit the procedural and substantive autonomy of the Member States when they set the conditions for liability in case of breaches of Union law. Firstly, the Spanish legislation makes compensation conditional on a number of cumulative conditions: there has to be a judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union declaring a Spanish legislative act to be in breach of Union law; the injured party needs to have obtained, at any instance, a final judgment dismissing an appeal against the administrative decision which caused the damage; and the injured party needs to have alleged the breach of Union law during that appeal procedure. Following established case-law, these conditions make the award of damages by the State for breaches of Union law excessively difficult and thereby violate the principle of effectiveness. Secondly, the Spanish rules establish less favourable conditions for the liability of the State resulting from a breach of Union law than for the liability resulting from breaches of the Spanish Constitution. This is a violation of the principle of equivalence. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

8. Taxation and Customs Union

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

Referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union

Taxation: Commission refers POLAND to Court for failing to remove certain tax exemptions on the use of energy products by highly polluting businesses

The Commission decided today to refer Poland to the Court of Justice for allowing energy intensive businesses to be exempted from excise duty on coal and gas. Under Polish legislation and contrary to EU law, certain energy products, such as coal and gas, used by energy intensive businesses that fall under the European Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) are exempt from excise duty. Common EU energy tax rules (Council Directive 2003/96/EC) require businesses that benefit from such exemptions, if they have introduced environmental or energy efficiency improvements to go beyond what is required by binding EU instruments such as the EU ETS. However, the Polish legislation does not require such a level of energy efficiency. These rules favour highly polluting activities, and as such run against EU climate objectives and generate major distortions of competition within the EU. The decision to refer the matter to the Court follows Poland’s failure to bring its legislation into line with EU law following the Commission’s reasoned opinion. For more information, please refer to the full press release.

Reasoned opinions

Taxation: Commission requests that GERMANY update its capital gains taxation rules for certain real estate sales

The Commission decided today to send a reasoned opinion to Germany regarding its tax legislation, which treats sales of real estate by domestic and foreign companies without business activities in Germany differently for the purposes of capital gains taxation. According to the German Income Tax Act, a deferral of capital gains taxation on reinvestment is only granted if the real estate was attributed to the fixed assets of a domestic business for at least six years without interruption. Corporations established under German law without business activity in Germany are deemed to have such a permanent establishment, whereas non-resident corporations generally are not. This leads to a restriction of the free movement of capital in breach of Article 63 TFEU. If Germany 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 that SPAIN abolish unduly restrictive conditions for tax deferrals in case of divisions of companies.

The Commission decided today to send a reasoned opinion to Spain asking it to abolish conditions in Spanish law that run counter to EU rules on mergers, which are meant to ensure that business reorganisations such as mergers and divisions are not hampered by taxation issues at the time of restructuring. (Council Directive 90/434/EEC). Taxation of capital gains resulting from such reorganisation should be deferred to a later sale or disposal of the assets and shares. Spanish law however attaches unduly restrictive conditions for certain types of divisions of companies. The tax deferral is not granted if the shareholders of the divided company do not receive the same proportion of shares in all companies resulting from the division, unless the acquired assets are branches of activity. If Spain does not act within the next two months, the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Taxation: Commission requests that AUSTRIA and IRELAND transpose EU-wide interest limitation rules

The Commission decided today to send reasoned opinions to Austria and Ireland asking them to transpose into national law the interest limitation rule as required by the EU’s Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive (ATAD:Council Directive 2016/1164). Both Member States held that they had ‘equally effective’ interest limitation rules already in place and as such notified derogation requests under EU law. The Commission informed Austria and Ireland in July 2018 that it considers their national rules as not being ‘equally effective‘ to the interest limitation rule set out in EU law and thus not justifying the postponement of transposition of that provision until 1 January 2024. Neither were the Austrian and Irish measures on the list of national interest limitation rules which the European Commission did consider ‘equally effective’. So far, neither Austria nor Ireland has transposed or notified any national implementing measures for the relevant provisions. IfAustria and Ireland do not act within the next two months, the Commission may decide to bring the cases before the Court of Justice of the EU.

Taxation: Commission requests that ITALY align its rules on regional petrol tax for motor vehicles with EU law

The Commission decided today to send a reasoned opinion to Italy for levying, at regional level, an excise duty on petrol for motor vehicles (Imposta Regionale sulla Benzina per Autotrazione – IRBA) on top of the excise duty already levied on the basis of EU legislation. According to EU law (Council Directive 2008/118/EC), Member States may levy other indirect taxes on excise goods if two conditions are respected: the tax is levied for specific purposes and the tax complies with EU rules applicable for excise duty or value added tax. In the Commission’s opinion, these two requirements are not satisfied in the case of IRBA. If Italy 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: The Commission asks PORTUGAL to amend its discriminatory legislation on car registration tax.

The Commission decided today to send a reasoned opinion to Portugal for taxing used cars imported from other Member States more heavily than used cars purchased on the Portuguese market. Currently, the Portuguese legislation does not take fully into account the depreciation of cars imported from other Member States and therefore the Portuguese legislation is not compatible with Article 110 TFEU. The European Court of Justice already concluded on 16 June 2016 (Judgment C-200/15) that a previous version of this Portuguese tax was contrary to EU Law. If Portugal does not act within one month, the Commission may decide to bring the case before the Court of Justice of the EU.

Reasoned opinion and a closure

Taxation: Commission requests that CYPRUS, CZECHIA, GERMANY, GREECE, ITALY, LUXEMBOURG and SPAIN communicate the national transposition measures on tax dispute resolution mechanisms and closes the case for LITHUANIA

The Commission decided today to send reasoned opinions to Cyprus, Czechia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain for their failure to communicate the national transposition measures on tax dispute resolution mechanisms in the European Union (Council Directive 2017/1852) by the deadline of 30 June 2019. If these Member States do not act within the next two months, the Commission may decide to bring the case before the Court of Justice of the EU. At the same time, the Commission decided today to close infringement proceedings against Lithuania which has now fulfilled its obligations in this regard.

Additional reasoned opinions

Taxation: Commission requests again that DENMARK bring its rules regarding taxation of dividends paid to non-resident investment funds into line with EU law

The Commission decided today to send an additional reasoned opinion to Denmark regarding its tax rules which provide for a difference in treatment between dividends paid to domestic and foreign undertakings for collective investment in transferrable securities. In Denmark, dividends distributed to funds registered as “investment institutes with minimum taxation” are exempted from tax, but only if the institute is Danish. The Commission already addressed this issue in a reasoned opinion of April 2013, but put the case on hold to wait for the outcome of a preliminary ruling procedure before the Court of Justice of the EU on the matter. In June 2018, the Court held that these rules constitute an unjustified restriction on the free movement of capital in breach of Article 63 TFEU in case C-480/16 Fidelity Funds. However, Denmark has still not taken the legislative action necessary to bring the rules into line with EU law. If Denmark does not act within the next two months, the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Taxation: Commission asks THE NETHERLANDS to change tax rules amounting to obstacles to the cross-border transfer of pensions

The Commission decided today to send an additional reasoned opinion to the Netherlands asking it to change three sets of tax rules amounting to obstacles to the cross-border transfer of pension capital and the cross-border provision of pensions. First, foreign pension service providers have to give guarantees, such as collateral or bank guarantee to the Dutch authorities if they transfer pension capital to a foreign provider or if foreign providers want to provide services on the Dutch market. Second, (former) employees have to provide guarantees if their pension capital is transferred to a foreign provider or if they want to buy pension services from a foreign provider. Third, transfers of pension capital to foreign providers by workers taking up employment outside the Netherlands are tax exempt only if the foreign providers assume the responsibility for any tax claims or the taxpayer himself provides that guarantee. These conditions restrict the free movement of citizens and workers, the freedom of establishment, the freedom to provide services and the free movement of capital (Articles 21, 45, 49, 56 and 63 TFUE). If the Netherlands do not act within the next two months, the Commission may decide to refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU.

A letter of formal notice

Taxation: Commission requests ROMANIA to align with EU law its rules on the VAT treatment of used objects containing precious metals or stones

The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Romania for failing to correctly implement EU rules (Council Directive 2006/112/EC) on the VAT treatment of used objects containing precious metals or stones. EU law prescribes special arrangements for VAT designed to facilitate trade of second-hand goods for these items. The Romanian rules exclude all used objects containing precious metals, precious stones or semi-precious stones from the special VAT scheme and create difficulties for businesses in this sector. If Romania does not act within the next two months, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion to the Romanian authorities.

Taxation: Commission requests ROMANIA to comply with the agreed timeline for the development of a new IT system for monitoring the circulation of excise goods

The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Romania for failing to fund and develop on time the new versions of an IT system for monitoring the EU-wide circulation of excise goods (alcohol, tobacco and energy products). EU rules (mainly Council Directive 2008/118/EC) allow excise goods to circulate under deferral of the payment of excise duties provided that the electronic documents are duly processed in the Member States of dispatch and of arrival. The IT system also allows Member States to communicate information on the operators authorised to engage in such movements and to cooperate between each other in order to fight fraud. Romania is already running an outdated version of the IT system and has not taken the necessary measures to use the new version. The failure for Romania to act in time could have serious internal market consequences, as excise goods would normally only be allowed to circulate duty paid to or from Romania. It can also harm all the other Member States who need to send and receive administrative information from Romania. If Romania does not act within the next two months, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion to the Romanian authorities.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

The Europeans with a job diminish dangerously

Global climate change: consequences for human health in Brazilian cities

We need new tools for the Big Data era

Climate change is exacerbating hunger in some of the world’s poorest countries. And those most at risk are the least to blame

This man swam under the East Antarctic ice sheet to highlight the impact of climate change

5 ways students can graduate fully qualified for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Urgently address ‘defining challenges of our time’, to empower youth worldwide, top UN official tells forum

UN makes ‘declaration of digital interdependence’, with release of tech report

“Cyber security is a shared responsibility: stop, think, connect”, a Sting Exclusive by EU Commissioner Gabriel

New round of bargaining for the 2014 EU budget late in autumn

Security spillovers from Trump’s trade wars: China, Germany prepare for global disorder

Foreign investment to be screened to protect EU countries’ strategic interests

Commission proposes fishing opportunities in the Atlantic and North Sea for 2019

Women still struggle to find a job, let alone reach the top: new UN report calls for ‘quantum leap’

There is a forgotten solution to climate change that we must invest in – nature

UN chief pays tribute to ‘enduring contributions’ to regional, international diplomacy of Oman’s late Sultan Qaboos

This chart shows the fall in coal-power plants being planned around the world

Foreign Investment Screening: new European framework to enter into force in April 2019

We are on the edge of a new ‘cyber’ space age. This is how we make it a success

Corporations must help shape a better world – or risk being left behind

Can technology save life on Earth?

India’s strategy in space is changing. Here’s why

Connected Claims Europe on 18-19 September 2019, in association with The European Sting

New rules make household appliances more sustainable

Ocean Conference has potential to be a ‘global game-changer’

Why Nordic nations are the best places to have children

Lessons from the Global Entrepreneurship Index

EU Parliament: Follow the fraudulent money and confiscate it

Citizens to be the cornerstone of the Conference on the Future of Europe

First-ever EU defence industry fund to finance joint development of capabilities

Joint OECD and World Bank report urges governments to improve resilience to disasters and related fiscal risks

Further reforms needed for a stronger and more inclusive Argentine economy

Northern Ireland: Parliament wants to secure post-Brexit regional funding

People are scared of artificial intelligence – here’s why we should embrace it instead

Want to cut greenhouse gas emissions? Look to digital technologies

Scores killed in ‘barbaric’ attack on Mali village, UN chief urges restraint, calls for ‘dialogue’ to resolve tensions

Taxation: Commission refers Hungary to the Court for failing to apply the minimum EU excise duty on cigarettes

Vĕra Jourová, European Commissioner in charge of Justice

The New EU-US “Shield” for data privacy is full of holes

Veteran public official from Portugal elected to lead UN migration agency

US Tariffs on Steel and Aluminium: Statement of Trade Committee Chair

Meet the Junior Enterprise network at JEWC 2014!

Quality education an ‘essential pillar’ of a better future, says UN chief

Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Zhang Ming At the Reception in Celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China

Investors have a role in securing our shared digital future

European Labour Authority ready to start working in October as decision is taken on new seat

Chart of the day: These countries have the largest carbon footprints

Nuclear non-proliferation treaty an ‘essential pillar’ of international peace, says UN chief

Mixed news about the Eurozone economy

Mental Health Policy, a significant driver for growth

Joint EU-U.S. statement following the EU-U.S. Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting

SCADA Security Conference 2017 in Prague, Czech Republic

Electronic cigarette – is it really a safer alternative to smoking?

Pharmaceuticals conceal drug side effects with the EU’s Court blessing

AIESEC Vlog

Rehn ready to sacrifice part of the real economy

Here are three ways blockchain can change refugees’ lives

How the gender commuting gap could be harming women’s careers

Economic Outlook: Weak trade and investment threaten long-term growth

Following week of bloodshed, ‘suffering of the Afghan people must end’: UN mission chief

UN General Assembly celebrates 20 years of promoting a culture of peace

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s