Infringement decisions in Europe: complying with the Union’s law

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In its regular package of infringement decisions, the European Commission pursues legal action against EU member states for failing to comply with their obligations under the Union’s 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 grouped by policy areas; in this article only some of them are covered.  

Background
In several communications on enforcing EU law, the Commission presents a variety of available “tools” used by the Commission to ensure that EU law is properly applied in all cases to meet its main objective: that people and businesses benefit as quickly as possible from the commonly agreed rules throughout the EU-27.
From prevention to sanctions, the communication sets out how the Commission has deepened and developed its work on enforcement, to ensure that the rights of European states and businesses are upheld equally, wherever they live in the EU.
Besides, the Commission closed 74 cases in which EU-states’ controversies have been solved without further EU actions.

More in: https://commission.europa.eu/law/application-eu-law/implementing-eu-law_en

Internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs
= Reasoned opinion. The Commission asks Spain to comply with EU rules on services and professional qualifications. The European Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion to Spain for failing to respect EU rules on services (Directive 2006/123/EC and Directive (EU) 2018/958) and professional qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC) in the construction sector. Those rules aim to reduce regulatory burden and make it easier for professionals to provide their services in different EU states, whilst guaranteeing a high level of protection for consumers and citizens. According to the Commission, Spain unjustifiably hinders companies carrying out works in the areas of gas installations, electricity, air conditioning works, etc., by preventing them from sub-contracting certain activities to qualified professionals and obliging them to have these competences in-house. Therefore, the Commission has decided to issue a reasoned opinion to Spain, which now has two months to respond and take the necessary measures. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
= Referral to the Court of Justice. The Commission decides to refer Greece to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to correctly transpose EU rules on proportionality of professional regulations. The Commission decided to refer Greece to the Court of Justice of the European Union for its failure to ensure the correct transposition of the Proportionality Test Directive (Directive (EU) 2018/958) into national legislation. This Directive governs the proportionality assessment of new or amended rules restricting access to, or pursuit of, regulated professions. The member states are required to ensure that any national regulation of professions pursues legitimate public interest objectives and is necessary and balanced. According to the Commission, Greece failed to ensure that all measures covered by the Directive, in particular those being initiated by professional bodies, parliamentary initiatives, and parliamentary amendments, undergo a prior proportionality assessment. In addition, Greece does not ensure continuous monitoring of adopted rules. The Directive requires a systematic or regular proportionality review over time and for all new or amended provisions. The Commission considers that the national authorities’ efforts have been insufficient and is therefore referring Greece to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Law and justice
= Letter of formal notice/reasoned opinion. The Commission calls on Italy and Poland to correctly transpose EU rules on the right of access to a lawyer and to communicate upon arrest. The Commission decided to open an infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice to Poland and to send a reasoned opinion to Italy for failing to correctly transpose into their national legislation the Directive on the right of access to a lawyer and to communicate upon arrest (Directive 2013/48/EU). The deadline for the states to transpose the Directive was 27 November 2016. The Directive is one of the six Directives that make up the EU’s legal framework on common minimum standards for fair trials, ensuring that the rights of suspects and accused persons are sufficiently protected. It strengthens the states’ trust in each other’s criminal justice systems and thus facilitates mutual recognition of decisions in criminal matters. The Commission considers that certain national transposition measures notified by the two mentioned states fall short of the requirements of the Directive. For instance, in both states, potential possibilities to derogate from the right of access to a lawyer go beyond the limits required by the Directive, and the requirement to inform the holder of parental responsibility or other appropriate adult of the deprivation of liberty of a child has not been correctly transposed. The Commission is therefore sending a letter of formal notice to Poland which now has two months to respond and address the shortcomings raised by the Commission. In the absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission may decide to issue a reasoned opinion. The Commission has also decided to issue a reasoned opinion to Italy, which now has two months to respond and take the necessary measures. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
= Reasoned opinion. Commission takes next step in infringement procedure against Hungary for violating EU law concerning legal aspects of “defence of sovereignty”. Commission sends a reasoned opinion to Hungary for violating EU law in adopting national rules on “defence of sovereignty”: the states’ law establishes the so-called Office for the Defence of Sovereignty, tasked with investigating specific activities carried out in the interest of another state or a foreign body, organisation or natural person, if they are suspected of violating and/or jeopardizing national sovereignty; as well as organisations whose activities using foreign funding may influence the outcome of elections or the will of voters. It also contains provisions and amendments to existing Hungarian legislation that prohibit candidates, political parties and associations participating in elections from using foreign funding to influence or attempt to influence the will of voters for the elections in question, and to punish under criminal law the use of foreign funding in the context of elections.
The Commission launched the infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice in February 2024; the reply received by Hungary did not alleviate the concerns raised by the Commission; this is why the Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion. Presently, Hungary has two months to respond and take the necessary measures; otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Energy and climate
= Letters of formal notice. The Commission calls on Bulgaria, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Romania and Slovenia to comply with these states’ obligations regarding the energy-efficient buildings. The Commission opens an infringement procedure by sending letters of formal notice to these member states to remind them of their obligations regarding the communication to the Commission of their third cost-optimal report under EU rules on the energy performance of buildings (Directive 2010/31/EU).
The EU states have to establish some minimum energy performance requirements for buildings to achieve the best combination between investments and savings, also known as ‘cost-optimal levels’. Calculating the cost-optimal levels is vital for the states to fully exploit the energy efficiency and renewable energy potential of the national buildings stock and to avoid people and businesses spending more money than necessary on efficiency improvements to their housing and offices. The Commission is therefore sending letters of formal notice to the concerned states, which now have two months to respond and address the shortcomings raised by the Commission. In the absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission may decide to issue a reasoned opinion.
= Reasoned opinion. The Commission urges Croatia to fully transpose the Renewable Energy Directive and sends an additional reasoned opinion to the states for not having fully transposed EU rules on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources set out in Directive 2018/2001. This Directive provides the legal framework for the development of renewable energy in the EU by e.g. setting the EU-wide binding targets for 2030 of at least 32% of energy from renewable sources in the Union’s gross final consumption of energy, as well as specific targets for the heating, cooling and transport sectors. The Directive also facilitates the participation of citizens in the clean energy transition. The deadline to transpose the Directive into national law was 30 June 2021; in July 2021, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Croatia followed by a reasoned opinion in May 2022. In February 2023, the Commission decided to refer Croatia to the EU Court of Justice for lack of transposition of the Directive, in particular for having failed to notify a correlation table or explanatory document specifying the ways the country had transposed each provision. After reception of a correlation table from Croatia, the Commission decided to suspend the procedure before the Court. Following the assessment of the table, the Commission came to the conclusion that the transposition of the Directive is still not complete. Therefore, the Commission has decided to issue an additional reasoned opinion to Croatia, which now has two months to respond and take the necessary measures. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.

Taxation and Customs Union
= Letters of formal notice. The Commission calls on Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania to fulfill their obligation to cooperate with other EU states on tax transparency of income realized through digital platforms. The Commission decided to open an infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice to mentioned EU states for failing to exchange timely information on income earned by individuals and companies through the use of online platforms. Directive 2021/514 of 22 March 2021 amending Directive 2011/16/EU on administrative cooperation in the field of taxation (DAC7) introduced, as of 1 January 2023, new tax transparency rules for transactions on digital platforms. The objective is to better identify situations where tax should be paid; the reporting should happen at two stages: first, online platforms were obliged to collect the information about the income earned by individuals and companies throughout 2023 and report it to the state of the platform. Then, that state had to exchange that information by 29 February 2024. The timely reporting and exchange is essential for ensuring a level playing field in the Union and the smooth functioning of DAC7 across all EU states; the mentioned states have failed to fulfill their obligation in exchanging the necessary information with tax authorities of other states which hinders them to enforce local tax laws. The Commission is therefore sending a letter of formal notice to these states which have two months to respond and address the shortcomings raised by the Commission. In the absence of a satisfactory response by the mentioned states, the Commission may decide to issue a reasoned opinion.
= Reasoned opinion. The Commission requests Greece to change its legislation on car taxation and registration by sending a reasoned opinion for failing to amend its rules on car registration and taxation. According to the case-law of the Court of Justice (art. 110, TFEU), a state is infringed where the taxes on imported cars are calculated differently from that of the similar domestic cars, leading to higher taxes being imposed on the imported product. Under the provisions currently in force in Greece, the registration tax, imposed on all vehicles, is higher for certain categories of imported second-hand vehicles than for similar domestic second-hand vehicles. Moreover, the Greek environmental tax, imposed on certain categories of vehicles, discriminates between domestic second-hand vehicles and second-hand vehicles purchased in another EU state and subsequently registered in Greece. The Commission considers that the Greek legislation is not compatible with the Treaty (art.110), since vehicles imported from another EU state are taxed more heavily compared to domestic vehicles. At the same time, Greece prohibits the registration of certain second-hand vehicles imported to Greece, while no similar prohibition is imposed to the corresponding categories of domestic vehicles. This prohibition is a clear restriction to the free movement of goods and contrary to articles 34 and 36 TFEU. Therefore, the Commission has decided to issue a reasoned opinion to Greece, which now has two months to respond and take the necessary measures; otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Digital economy
= Letters of formal notice. European Commission calls on 18 EU states to comply with the EU Data Governance Act, DGA; the Commission decided to open infringement procedures by sending a letter of formal notice to: Belgium, Czechia, Germany, Estonia, Greece, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Sweden which did not designate the responsible authorities to implement the DGA, or that they have failed to prove that these authorities are empowered to perform the tasks required by the act. The DGA facilitates data sharing across economic sectors in the EU states for the benefit of citizens and businesses; it aimed at increasing trust in data sharing by establishing rules for neutrality of data intermediaries that connect individuals and companies with data users. Data intermediation activities have to be strictly independent of any other services that they provide, be registered and can be identified by a common EU logo. The DGA also facilitates the reuse of certain data held by the public sector and stimulate voluntary sharing of data. So-called “data altruism” allows citizens to give their consent to make available data that they generate for the common good, for example for medical research projects; thus, data altruism organisations can decide to be included in a public register and use the common EU logo. They must have a not-for-profit character and meet transparency requirements as well as offer specific safeguards to protect the rights and interests of citizens and companies that decide to share their data. Applicable since 24 September 2023, the responsible authorities are in charge of the registration of data altruism organisations and of monitoring the compliance of data intermediation services providers. The Commission is therefore sending a letter of formal notice to mentioned 18 states which now have 2 months to respond and address the shortcomings raised by the Commission; in absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission may decide to issue a reasoned opinion.

More infringement cases, as well as all references and citations from: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/da/inf_24_2422

Information about Commission decisions on infringements in: https://ec.europa.eu/atwork/applying-eu-law/infringements-proceedings/infringement_decisions/?lang_code=en

 

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