Effective application of European Union law is essential to meet the Union goals as set in the treaties and enhance the credibility of the UE institutions in the eyes of the citizens and the public at large.
Member States are responsible for transposing directives on time, correctly and accurately. And connected to the prior, the Commission has a unique and essential role: oversee the application of EU law by member states. The objective is both to improve the implementation and enforcement of existing legislation and to enhance the quality of new legislation.
If the Commission detects a possible infringement, it begins bilateral dialogue with the Member State, which is invited to solve the problem quickly. If not, the Commission may start a formal infringement procedure under the Article 258 of the TFEU. Finally if the Member State fails to comply with the Commission’s “opinion”, the Court of Justice will know about the case, with possible financial penalties.
There are three main types of infringement of EU law:
– Failure to notify: a Member State has not notified the Commission on time of its measures to transpose a directive;
– Non-conformity: the Commission considers a Member State’s legislation is not in line with the requirement of EU legislation;
– Incorrect application: Union law is not applied correctly or not applied at all.
A revision to the current situation in EU
Before and infringement procedure started
Despite the common efforts and work of the European institutions, the sad reality shows that in 2014, members of the public, business and other organizations remained very active in reporting potential breaches of the UE law, rising from 3141 complaints in 2012 to 3715 in two years, being Spain, Italy and Germany the main infringer’s States in environment, energy, transport and justice areas.
Of the 3744 complaints processed in 2014, 223 led to infringement procedures after the Commission rejected the responses provided by the Member State in EU Pilot. UE Pilot is a Commission initiative aimed to asking Member State to answer questions and to find solutions to problems related to the application of EU law. The number of files in EU Pilot increased between 2011 and 2013, but it has decreased in 2014 by 20%.
At the end of 2014, the most EU Pilot files still open concerned Italy, Spain Greece and Poland in areas of environment, transport and justice.
Complaints that led to discussion in EU Pilot most frequently related to the internal market and services, taxation and customs union. They mainly concerned Italy (66 files), Spain (37 files), France (33 files) and Germany (33 files).
Following the theory, if the Member State does not solve the alleged breach of EU law the Commission may launch infringement procedures under article 258 TFUE and bring the case to the Court of Justice. In 2014 the Commission launched 893 new infringements, being Spain in the sixth position with 42 cases, and followed by France.
The policy areas which most infringement cases were open in 2014 are the following, graphically:
Referrals to the Court of Justice
After all the previous, if the Member State does not correctly agree with the Commission’s opinions and inform, the last launch the case to the Court of Justice under the Article 260 TFEU. In 2014, the Court delivered 38 judgments, of which 35 were in favor of the Commission. However, at the end of 2014, 61 infringements still remained open after a court ruling because the Commission considered the Member State concerned had not yet complied with the judgment under the article 258 TFEU.
Transposition of directives
Late transposition of directives by Member States remains a persistent problem which prevents people and businesses from receiving the tangible benefits of Union law. So, combating late transposition is a long-established priority for the Commission.
421 late transposition cases were still open at the end of 2014, which represents a 7.4% increase on the 390 cases at the end of 2013, and taking into consideration that in 2014 there were fewer directives to transpose than in the previous years.
The most famous case is the late transposition of the directive of energy efficiency (Directive 2012/27/EU), which 24 Member State are currently involved (among them, of course, Spain – CHAP (2015)02103-).
Moreover, on 31 December 2014, Spain still had 19 of the 24 late transposition cases of directives opened in the same year.
As a conclusion, effective application of EU law continued to face major challenges in 2014. Timely and correct transposition of EU law into national legislation and a clear domestic legislative framework should be a priority for the Member States. This should considerably reduce breaches of EU law and hence the number of complaints, thereby benefiting people and businesses.