Record number of infringements of EU law

Member States compliance with EU law is not yet good enough according to a report published by the European Commission yesterday (6 July). The annual report for 2016 on monitoring the application of EU law shows a considerable increase (by 21%) of open infringement cases compared to the previous year, thus reaching a five-year peak. At the end of 2016, there were 1657 open infringement cases. Also the number of new late transposition cases increased sharply (by 56%), from 543 in 2015) to 847 in 2016.

A source in the European Commission told The Brussels Times that there was a higher number of directives in 2016 to be transposed and that this resulted in a higher number of infringement cases for non-communication of national transposition measures.

This is a concern because failure to correctly apply EU law denies citizens and businesses the rights and the benefits they enjoy under European law, the Commission says.

For example, the full transposition and implementation of EU rules on public procurement and concessions is essential to make it easier and cheaper for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to bid for public contracts.

Often, when issues come to the fore – be it car emissions testing, illegal landfills or transport safety and security – the reason is not a lack of EU legislation but rather the fact that Member States do not apply EU law correctly and effectively.

For late transposition cases, Cyprus and Belgium had the highest amount of open cases, whereas the fewest were open in Italy, Slovakia and Denmark. Germany and Spain had the highest number of cases pending for incorrect transposition and/or wrong application of EU law, while Estonia had the lowest total number of open cases last year.

Internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs as well as the environment remain the policy areas in which most infringement cases were opened in 2016.

Asked by The Brussels Times about the relationship between country-specific factors and the number of infringement cases, the Commission answered that “it always depends on the EU legislation to be transposed in combination with the particularities of the individual Member State”.

What should EU Member States do to avoid late transposition and incorrect implementation of EU law? There seems to be no lessons learned on good practice. “Member States are responsible for applying and implementing the EU legislation on which they agreed and by the deadlines they themselves decide in the legislation process.”

The Commission is striving to improve its legislative proposals and put forward clear and accessible texts, which contribute to legal certainty and better application. 

In December 2016, the Commission adopted a new Communication on enforcement policy (EU law: Better results through better application).  The Communication sets out how the Commission as guardian of the Treaties will increase its efforts to ensure compliance with EU law.

The new enhanced enforcement policy is built on a wide array of tools, ranging from preventive measures and early problem-solving to pro-active monitoring and targeted enforcement.

The Commission also encourages Member States and civil society to become involved at an early stage of the preparation of a legislative initiative, for example by publishing roadmaps and carrying out stakeholder consultations.

The Brussels Times

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