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December infringements package: key decisions

In its monthly package of infringement decisions, the EC is pursuing legal action against Member States for failing to comply with their obligations under EU law.  

These decisions, covering various sectors and EU policy areas, aim to ensure the proper application of EU law for the benefit of citizens and businesses.

The key decisions taken by the Commission are presented below and grouped by policy area. The Commission is also closing 130 cases in which the issues with the Member States concerned have been solved without the Commission needing to pursue the procedure further.

For more information on the EU infringement procedure, see the full MEMO/12/12. For more detail on all decisions taken, consult the infringement decisions' register. 

1. Digital Single Market

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

Referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union

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

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

A letter of formal notice

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

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

2. Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

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

Reasoned opinion

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

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

3. Energy

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

Letters of formal notice

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

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

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

The Commission has send letters of formal notice requesting Greece and Malta to ensure the correct implementation of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (Directive 2010/31/EU). The Directive requires Member States to establish and apply minimum energy performance requirements for new and existing buildings, ensure the certification of buildings' energy performance, and require the regular inspection of heating and air conditioning systems. The Directive also requires EU countries to ensure that all new buildings are 'nearly zero-energy' from 2021 onwards (from 2019 - for public buildings). 

4. Environment

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

Reasoned opinions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letters of formal notice

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

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

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

The European Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice to Hungary over its incorrect transposition of a number of provisions of EU rules on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (Directive 2010/63/EU) into Hungarian law. The Directive, which had to be transposed by 10 November 2012, ensures a high level of animal welfare while safeguarding the proper functioning of the internal market. It also aims to minimise the number of animals used in experiments and requires alternatives to be used where possible. The Hungarian authorities incorrectly transposed the Directive into national legislation and therefore need to address several matters of non-conformity. Although the Hungarian authorities have indicated their willingness to tackle most of these issues, the necessary legislative amendments have not been adopted to date. Hungary has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

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

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

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

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

5. Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

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

Referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The European Commission has decided to take Austria, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Spain to the Court of Justice of the EU over the failure to notify complete transposition of EU rules on public procurement and concessions (Directives 2014/23/EU2014/24/EU2014/25/EU) into national law. All Member States were obliged to notify the transposition of the latest public procurement rules by 18 April 2016. The Commission sent letters of formal notice to 21 Member States that had not transposed these rules in May 2016 and followed up with reasoned opinions addressed to 15 of those Member States in December 2016. The 4 Member States have still not notified the transposition of the following legislation: Austria and Luxembourg - Directives 2014/23/EU2014/24/EU2014/25/EU; Spain - Directives 2014/23/EU2014/25/EU; Slovenia - Directive 2014/23/EU. The Commission has thus decided to refer these 4 countries to the Court of Justice of the EU. The Commission will call on the Court to impose, depending on the Directive concerned, a daily penalty payment of € 52 972, € 42 377,6 and € 42 377,6 for Austria, of € 12 920, € 11 628 and € 11 628 for Luxembourg, of € 8 992,32 for Slovenia and of € 61 964,32 and € 123 928,64 for Spain, from the day of the judgement until these Directives are fully enacted and in force in national law. At the same time, the Commission is sending a letter of formal notice to the Netherlands, since it has not qualified the Dutch housing corporations as contracting authorities even though they are involved in public contracts. The Commission considers that the Netherlands breached the transparency obligation in Directive 2014/23/EU and Directive 2014/24/EU. The Netherlands has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion. For more information, please refer to the full press release. 

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

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

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

A letter of formal notice

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

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

Closures

Commission closes infringement procedures and complaints in the gambling sector

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

6. Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality

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

A referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union

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

Original article link: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-17-4767_en.htm

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