Results

Europa-Kommissionen - Repræsentation i Danmark

02/18/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/18/2021 06:04

February infringements package: key decisions

Overview by policy area

In its regular 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 100 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 Q&A. For more detail on all decisions taken, consult the infringement decisions' register.

1. Environment

(For more information: Vivian Loonela - Tel.: +32 229 66712, Daniela Stoycheva - Tel.: +32 229 53664)

Letters of formal notice, Art. 260

Nature protection: Commission is calling on POLAND to implement the Court of Justice ruling on nature protection in the Białowieża Forest

The Commission is following up with Poland to implement the judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU regarding the country's failure to fulfil its obligations under the Directives on Habitats (Directive 92/43/EEC) and Birds (Directive 2009/147/EC) as regards the protection of the Białowieża Forest. The Directives include various obligations for Member States including taking measures to prevent the deterioration of habitats and disturbance of species, verifying whether a project is likely to have a significant impact on a Natura 2000 site before authorisation, and establishing a system of strict protection for a number of species. The European Green Deal and the European Biodiversity Strategy also both indicate that it is crucial for the EU to halt biodiversity loss by protecting and restoring biodiversity.

In its judgment of 17 April 2018 the Court ruled against Poland for failing to ensure that the forest management plan for the Białowieża Forest District would not adversely affect the integrity of the Natura 2000 sites. Poland had also failed to establish the necessary conservation measures for the protected species and habitats, and to guarantee the strict protection of protected species and of birds regarding their deliberate killing or disturbance, or the deterioration or destruction of their breeding sites or nests in the Białowieża Forest District.

Poland has still not fully complied with the ruling. Most importantly, Poland has not repealed and replaced the annex to the forest management plan for the Białowieża Forest District, introduced in 2016, with measures which would preserve the integrity of the site, ensure conservation and protect the species and habitats. Actions envisaged by Poland are not in line with the Directives nor with the Court ruling. Despite meetings and exchanges at technical level, at which the Commission has expressed its concerns and offered advice on the correct implementation of the judgment, the situation in Poland has not changed.

The Commission is therefore asking Poland today by letter of formal notice to take all required measures to remedy the situation. Poland has two months to reply to the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may refer the case back to the Court of Justice of the EU with proposed financial sanctions.

Letters of formal notice, Art. 258

Air Quality: the Commission calls on ROMANIA to improve its rules on industrial emissions

The Commission is asking Romania to bring its national legislation into line with the EU Directive on industrial emissions (IED) (Directive 2010/75). Industrial activities have a significant impact on the environment. The Directive on industrial emissions aims to prevent and reduce harmful industrial emissions across the EU while promoting the use of techniques that reduce pollutant emissions and that are energy and resource efficient. The European Green Deal, with its Zero Pollution ambition, puts emphasis on cutting air pollution, which is among the key factors negatively affecting human health. Full implementation of the air quality standards enshrined in EU legislation is key to effectively protect human health and safeguard the natural environment.

The Romanian legal system fails to guarantee the implementation of the key objectives of the directive, in particular that installations must only be allowed to operate if they have permits. On the one hand, the Romanian legal system, in its current state, introduces very low and inadequate penalties, which fail to ensure effectiveness, proportionality and dissuasiveness as required by the Directive. On the other hand, the Romanian authorities fail to implement the existing legislation in a coherent manner on an administrative level (e.g. suspend the operation of installations without permits), while the Romanian judiciary fails to enforce the sanctions, nullifying any effectiveness and dissuasiveness.

Therefore, the Commission is sending a letter of formal notice to Romania, which now has two months to address the shortcomings raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Nature: Commission calls on LITHUANIA to ensure the respect of EU nature protection laws

The Commission is calling on Lithuania to take further measures to protect and manage its Natura 2000 network, thus respecting its obligations under the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC).

The European Green Dealand the European Biodiversity Strategyboth indicate that it is crucial for the EU to halt biodiversity loss by protecting and restoring nature. Under the Habitats Directive, Member States are required to propose EU Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) which are then added to EU biogeographical lists. Within six years from such listing, Member States must establish conservation objectives and measures to maintain or restore the protected species and habitats to a favourable conservation status, designating the Sites as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). These are key requirements to protect biodiversity across the EU.

In Lithuania, the time limit for completing the necessary steps has expired for 406 Sites of Community Importance in the Boreal bio-geographical region. In addition to that, Lithuania has failed to establish sufficiently detailed and quantified site-specific conservation objectives and the necessary conservation measures for all 406 sites.

Therefore, the Commission is sending a letter of formal notice to Lithuania, which now has two months to address the shortcomings raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Nature: Commission calls on SPAIN to meet its obligation to protect the Delta del Llobregat

The Commission is calling on Spain to take further measures to protect and manage its Natura 2000 network, thus respecting its obligations under the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC). In particular, Spain must take the necessary steps to avoid any further deterioration of the Natura 2000 site 'Delta del Llobregat' as a consequence of the implementation of large infrastructure projects, such as the expansion of Barcelona International Airport and Seaport.

The European Green Deal and the European Biodiversity Strategy indicate that it is crucial for the EU to halt biodiversity loss by protecting and restoring nature.

Despite being one of the most densely populated regions on the Iberian Peninsula, the fragile lentic ecosystems of the Llobregat Delta hosts an outstanding biodiversity and plays a crucial role in the migratory routes of many European bird species, contributing thus to preserve the overall coherence of the Natura 2000 Network.

The deterioration and possibilities to mitigate and compensate for the environmental damage caused by large infrastructure projects have been discussed with the Spanish authorities since 2013. However, the commitments on mitigation and compensation taken by the authorities, e.g. the adoption and implementation of a Special Plan for the protection of the natural areas and landscape of Llobregat Delta and an extension of the Special Protected Area to protect the most suitable territories for the conservation of birds, have not been followed up sufficiently.

Therefore, the Commission is sending a letter of formal notice to Spain, which now has two months to address the shortcomings raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Additional letters of formal notice

Environmental impact assessment: Commission asks FRANCE to improve its national rules

The Commission is calling on France to bring its national legislation in line with the Directive on environmental impact assessment (Directive 2011/92/EU), which requires public and private projects to be subject to an environmental impact assessment before being authorised. EU Member States adopted new EU legislation in April 2014 (Directive 2014/52 /EU) reducing administrative burden and improving the level of environmental protection, while making economic decisions on public and private investments more predictable and more sustainable. The European Green Deal stresses the importance of Europe remaining on track to meet its environmental objectives.

The Commission had already sent a letter of formal notice to France on 7 March 2019. Analysis of subsequent legislative and regulatory provisions revealed a number of additional transposition issues. The French legislation transposing the amended directive is lacking in certain aspects. In particular, the transposition of the obligation on the competent authority to take into account the criteria in Annex III of the directive to determine whether a project related to an installation classified as subject to registration must be subject to an environmental impact assessment. The transposition of the obligation on Member States to ensure that the competent authorities carry out their missions objectively and do not find themselves in a position of a conflict of interest, is also problematic.

Given that environmental governance plays an essential role in allowing the proper functioning of the various sectoral rules, the Commission has decided to send an additional letter of formal notice to France, to which it has two months to respond. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Reasoned opinions

Air Quality: Commission calls on BELGIUM, CZECHIA and POLAND to protect their populations against air pollution

The Commission is calling on Belgium,Czechia and Poland to comply with the requirements of Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe. When limit values set by Directive are exceeded, Member States are required to adopt air quality plans to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to keep the exceedance period as short as possible. The European Green Deal, with its Zero Pollution ambition, puts high emphasis on cutting air pollution, which is among the key factors affecting human health. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) results mostly from human activities, such as road traffic, in particular from diesel vehicles, and industry. This type of pollution is the cause of serious illnesses such as asthma and reduced lung function. Full implementation of the air quality standards enshrined in EU legislation is key to effectively protect human health and safeguard natural environment. EU legislation on ambient air leaves to the Member States the choice of instruments to comply with the agreed air quality standards. Despite the Member States' obligation to ensure good air quality for their citizens, air pollution remains a problem in many places, with the situation being particularly serious in urban areas.

In Belgium, the limit values for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) have been exceeded in the air quality zone of Brussels since 2010 and in the air quality zone of Antwerp since 2015. Additionally, in the air quality zone of Charleroi, a sampling point needs to be established targeting air pollution caused by traffic.

In Czechia, the annual limit values for NO2 have been exceeded in the agglomeration of Praha and there is currently no valid air quality plan for the Praha agglomeration.

In Poland, the annual limit values for NO2 have been exceeded in four agglomerations (Warszawska, Krakowska, Wrocławska and Górnośląska). Reports show that the measures taken to tackle the NO2 exceedances are not sufficient to keep the exceedance periods as short as possible.

As the countries have not yet complied with their obligations, the Commission is now sending them reasoned opinions. Belgium, Czechia and Poland have two months to reply and take the necessary measures, otherwise the Commission may refer the cases to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Environmental Impact Assessment: Commission calls on CYPRUS to enhance national rules on environmental impact of public and private projects

The Commission is urging Cyprus to fully transpose into national law the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (Directive 2011/92/EU) on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. The European Green Deal stresses the importance of Europe remaining on track to meet its environmental objectives.

Cyprus has not correctly transposed some parts of the Directive which means that projects in Cyprus for which environmental impact assessments need to be carried out may be approved while not fully respecting the Directive. For example, Cyprus has not transposed its obligation to ensure that practical information is made available to the public on access to administrative and judicial review procedures. Neither has it transposed the obligation to lay down detailed arrangements for consultation.

As the country has not yet complied with its obligations, the Commission is now sending a reasoned opinion. Cyprus has two months to reply and take the necessary measures, otherwise the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union

Air Quality: Commission refers SLOVAKIA to the Court of Justice over poor air quality

The European Commission has today decided to refer Slovakia to the Court of Justice of the European Union over poor air quality due to high levels of particulate matter (PM10). When the limit values set by the EU's ambient air quality legislation (Directive 2008/50/EC) are exceeded, Member States are required to adopt air quality plans to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to keep the duration of the exceedance period as short as possible. The European Green Deal with its Zero Pollution ambition puts emphasis on cutting air pollution, which is among the key factors negatively affecting human health. Full implementation of the air quality standards enshrined in EU legislation is key to effectively protecting human health and safeguarding the natural environment. Slovakia has not respected the daily limit values for PM10 concentrations, which have been legally binding since 2005. Data provided by Slovakia confirms systematic exceedances of the daily limit values for PM10 in the air quality zone Banskobystrický kraj over the period 2005-2019 (except for 2016) and in the agglomeration Košice over the period 2005-2019 (except for 2015 and 2016). The air quality measures, presented by Slovakia, have not proven to be timely and effective to reduce pollution within the agreed limits and contribute to keeping the exceedance periods as short as possible, as required under EU law. Slovakia has therefore not taken adequate measures for the reduction of the PM10 concentrations in the air quality zone Banskobystrický kraj, the agglomeration Košice and the air quality zone Košický kraj. The Commission is therefore referring Slovakia to the Court of Justice of the EU. More information is in the press release.

Nature protection: Commission refers GERMANY to the Court of Justice over failure to properly implement the Habitats Directive

The European Commission has today decided to refer Germany to the Court of Justice of the EU for not respecting its obligations under the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC) on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora. Under the Directive, Member States must designate Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) where they establish site-specific conservation objectives and corresponding conservation measures to maintain or restore a favourable conservation status of the species and habitats therein. The European Green Deal and the European Biodiversity Strategy both stress how crucial it is for the EU to halt biodiversity loss by protecting and restoring biodiversity. The time limit for completing the necessary steps for all sites in Germany expired more than 10 years ago in some cases. According to the latest information provided by the authorities, Germany is still failing to establish conservation measures, usually adopted in management plans for individual sites, for around 15% of its Sites of Community Importance. In addition to the above delays, the Commission considers that the conservation objectives set for the individual Sites of Community Importance are not sufficiently quantified, measurable and reportable. In conclusion, the Commission considers that there has been a general and persistent practice of failing to set sufficiently detailed and quantified conservation objectives for all 4606 Sites of Community Importance, in all Länder and at federal level. This has a significant impact on the quality and effectiveness of the conservation measures established. The Commission is therefore referring Germany to the Court of Justice of the EU. More information is in the press release.

Noise: Commission refers POLAND to the Court of Justice over non-compliance with the Noise Directive

The European Commission has today decided to refer Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU over its failure to comply with its obligations under the Noise Directive (2002/49/EC). The European Green Deal sets a zero pollution ambition for the EU, which benefits public health as well as the environment and strives for climate neutrality. In this context, adopting action plans is necessary to combat noise that is detrimental to human health. The Polish national law does not guarantee the establishment of action plans, which are required under the Directive regardless of whether noise limit values in the area are exceeded. Action plans for 20 major railway sections and for 290 major road sections are still missing, despite the deadline for adopting such action plans having passed. Moreover, the national law does not require action plans to include all necessary elements that are provided for in the Directive, in particular a record of public consultations, measures to preserve quiet areas and long-term strategy. Through the public consultations over the action plans the public can verify and have their say on whether authorities take adequate measures to reduce noise levels where they may be harmful, or to prevent existing levels from becoming harmful. This is why, not only action plans need to be adopted, but the national law must require all elements to be included. As Poland has not addressed the concerns set out in the Commission's reasoned opinion, the Commission is referring the case to the Court of Justice of the EU. More information is in the press release.

Urban Waste Water: Commission refers SLOVENIA to the Court of Justice over waste water treatment

The European Commission has today decided to refer Slovenia to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failure to comply with the requirements of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (Directive 91/271/EEC). The Directive requires Member States to ensure that urban agglomerations (towns, cities, settlements) properly collect and treat their waste waters, thus eliminating or reducing all their undesirable effects. The European Green Deal steers the EU towards a Zero Pollution ambition. Full implementation of the standards enshrined in EU legislation is important to effectively protect human health and safeguard the natural environment. Slovenia should have been fully compliant with the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive requirements since 2016, according to its agreements under the Accession Treaty. However, four agglomerations with over 10 000 population equivalent (Ljubljana, Trbovlje, Kočevje, and Loka) do not comply with such requirements because urban waste water entering collecting systems is not subject to the appropriate level of treatment before being discharged. In addition, the agglomerations Kočevje, Trbovlje, and Loka fail to meet additional requirements of the Directive related to sensitive areas, as urban waste water entering collecting systems is not subject to more stringent treatment before being discharged into those areas. Although the Slovenian authorities have shared monitoring data aimed to show compliance with the requirements of the Directive, the deficiencies and gaps therein identified lead the Commission to conclude that the authorities have failed to prove compliance for the above-mentioned agglomerations. Therefore, the Commission is referring Slovenia to the Court of Justice of the European Union. More information is in the press release.

2. Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

(For more information: Sonya Gospodinova - Tel.: +32 229 66953; Federica Miccoli - Tel.: +32 229 58300)

Letters of formal notice

Late payments: Commission urges BELGIUM, GREECE and SLOVAKIA to comply with the Late Payment Directive and ensure that businesses and SMEs are paid on time

The Commission is taking further steps against Belgium, Greece and Slovakia to ensure the correct application of the Late Payment Directive (Directive 2011/7/EU) and to prevent losses for businesses, particularly, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), in these countries. Late payments have negative effects on businesses, as they reduce their liquidity and prevent them from growing. Businesses and SMEs rely on regular payments to operate and keep employment, which is even more true in the current context of health crisis and economic distress. The Late Payment Directive obliges public authorities to pay their invoices within 30 days (or 60 days for public hospitals). Public authorities have the obligation to pay their suppliers on time and lead by example in the fight against delayed payment culture in the business environment. In this context, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion to Slovakia due to excessive payment delays in the public health sector, a letter of formal notice to Greece due to excessive payment delays in the health sector and a letter of formal notice to Belgium for excessive payment delays in the public sector. The three Member States have now two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Slovakia to the Court of Justice and send a reasoned opinion to Greece and Belgium.

Reasoned opinions

Recognition of professional qualifications: Commission asks CZECHIA to comply with EU rules

The Commission has sent today an additional reasoned opinion to Czechia regarding non-compliance with EU rules on the recognition of professional qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC as amended by Directive 2013/55/EU). In July 2020, the Commission decided to refer Czechia to the EU Court for not remedying breaches of EU law on professional qualifications, in particular for rules on establishment, temporary provision of services and specific requirements for certain healthcare professions and the status of professionals. The Commission is sending today an additional reasoned opinion to substantiate and clarify some of the grievances raised in the initial phase of the infringement procedure. In the meantime, the execution of the referral to the EU Court has been postponed awaiting the reply of the Czech authorities. Czechia has now two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission.

3. Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union

(For more information: Daniel Ferrie - Tel.: +32 229 86500, Aikaterini Apostola - Tel.: +32 229 87624)

Letters of formal notice

Anti-Money Laundering: Commission urges GERMANY, PORTUGAL and ROMANIA to correctly transpose the 4thAnti-Money Laundering Directive*

The Commission has today sent letters of formal notice to Germany, Portugal and Romania for incorrectly transposing the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AML D4). The transposition deadline for AMLD4 was 27 June 2017. Following an assessment of the notified transposition measures by these Member States, the Commission has concluded that several provisions of the Directive have not been correctly transposed into national law. The fight against money laundering and terrorist financing is key to ensuring financial stability and security in Europe. In order to step up these efforts the Commission published a six-point Action Plan on 7 May, to further strengthen the EU's fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. Nevertheless, in recent times, money laundering scandals have revealed the need for stricter rules at EU level. Legislative gaps occurring in one Member State have an impact on the EU as a whole. That is why EU rules should be implemented and supervised efficiently in order to combat crime and protect our financial system. In this respect, the Commission decided today that the concerned Member States need to address fundamental aspects of the anti-money laundering framework, such as the proper exchange of information with Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs), requirements of customer due diligence and adequate cooperation between FIUs, or the transparency of the central beneficial ownership registers. Germany, Portugal and Romania have two months to reply with a satisfactory reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to address a reasoned opinion.

4. Mobility and Transport

(For more information: Stefan de Keersmaecker - Tel.: +32 229 84680, Stephan Meder - Tel.: +32 229 13917)

Letters of formal notice

Road transport: Commission calls on SLOVENIA to accept European Electronic Toll Service providers in its market

Today, the Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice to Slovenia, for failing to fulfil its obligations under Directive 2004/52/EC and Decision 2009/750/EC related to the acceptance of European Electronic Toll Service (EETS) providers for the Slovenian toll domains. The European rules concern the entry onto the market of electronic tolling providers, and play a key role in the creation of a common market for EETS services in Europe, as well as interoperability for users. They require the conclusion of contractual negotiations between the Toll Chargers and the service providers without delay, so that fair and non-discriminatory access to the tolling market for the EETS providers is ensured. Slovenia now has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion.

Rail Transport: Commission asks LITHUANIA to correctly transpose the priority rules in cases of congestion under Directive 2012/34/EU

The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Lithuania regarding the incorrect transposition and implementation of the articles of Directive 2012/34/EU establishing a single European railway area on priority rules in cases of congestion. Priority rules are the rules enabling the infrastructure manager to attribute train paths when the infrastructure is congested. The contested priority rules have been found to go beyond what is allowed under the Directive and to be discriminatory in that they favour the incumbent railway undertaking. Lithuania has now two months to reply to the concerns raised by the Commission; otherwise the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Single European Sky: Commission urges eight Member States to comply with EU rules on the provision of data link services

The Commission has decided to send an additional letter of formal notice to Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal and Slovakia for failing to provide and operate data link services for all operators of aircraft flying within airspace under their responsibility, and which are capable of data link communications. This follows letters of formal notice sent on 15 May 2020. Each Member State is required by Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 29/2009, in conjunction with Article 4(3) TEU, to take the measures necessary to ensure that the air traffic services providers have the capability to provide and operate these services. Data link services are communications between aircraft and the ground that are conveyed through data links, complementing the voice communications used traditionally within air traffic control. The deployment of this interoperable technology in Europe is essential to improving the efficiency of communications between pilots and controllers, thereby increasing air traffic control capacity. The deadline for providers of air traffic services to provide and operate data link services expired on 5 February 2018. A lack of equipment in certain control centres is effectively preventing aircraft operators from using data link services - that is why operators were required to equip themselves as of 5 February 2020. The Member States concerned now have one month to address the Commission's concerns. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Reasoned opinions

Seafarers: Commission calls on SPAIN to comply with EU rules on minimum level of training for seafarers

The Commission today decided to send a reasoned opinion to Spain for failing to take the necessary measures to comply with EU rules on the minimum level of training for seafarers (Directive 2008/106/EC, as amended). These rules aim to ensure that seafarer training standards are respected across the EU and are in line with standards already agreed at international level. The Commission urges Spain to take corrective actions with regard to: seafarer certification; the quality management of maritime education and training institutions; the design, review and approval of maritime programmes and courses; the monitoring and evaluation of training and assessment by the maritime administration; the qualification and training of assessors, instructors and supervisors; on-board training; and the use of simulators. Spain has now two months to address the concerns raised in the reasoned opinion, otherwise the Commission may refer to the Court of Justice of the EU.

5. Justice and Home Affairs

(For more information: Christian Wigand - Tel.: +32 229 62253; Adalbert Jahnz - Tel.: + 32 229 53156; Katarzyna Kolanko - Tel.:+32 229 63444; Jordis Ferroli - Tel. +32 229 92729; Laura Bérard - Tel.: + 32 229 55721; Ciara Bottomley - Tel.: +32 229 69971)

Letters of formal notice, Art.260

NGO Law:Commission is calling on HUNGARY to implement the Court of Justice ruling on the Hungarian law on foreign-funded NGOs

The Commission is sending a letter of formal notice to Hungary for failing to comply with the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Case C-78/18 Commission v Hungary. This is an infringement procedure based on Article 260 (2) TFEU, meaning that the Commission can refer the matter back to the Court and ask for financial sanctions, after giving the Member State the opportunity to explain itself. In its ruling of 18 June 2020, the Court found the Hungarian law on NGOs ('Transparency Act') to be in breach of EU rules on the free movement of capital (Article 63 TFEU) and the fundamental rights to protection of personal data and freedom of association, protected by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. In particular, the Court highlighted that the right to freedom of association constitutes one of the essential bases of a democratic and pluralist society and includes the rights of civil society organisations to seek, secure and utilise resources. The Court concluded that the Hungarian legislation threatens the role of civil society as an independent actor in democratic societies, undermining their right to freedom of association, creating a climate of distrust towards them as well as limiting the privacy of donors. Judgments of the European Court of Justice are immediately binding on the Member State concerned. The Commission considers that Hungary has not taken the necessary measures to comply with the judgment, despite repeated calls from the Commission to do so as a matter of urgency. In particular, Hungary has not repealed the Transparency Act, which was found contrary to EU law. As a result, the Commission is asking Hungary today by letter of formal notice to take and implement all required measures to remedy the situation. Hungary has two months to reply to the concerns raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case back to the Court of Justice of the EU with proposed financial sanctions.

Letters of formal notice

Combatting racism and xenophobia: The Commission calls on BELGIUM, BULGARIA, FINLAND, POLAND, and SWEDEN to fully transpose EU law criminalising hate speech and hate crimes

The Commission decided today to send letters of formal notice to Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland,Poland, and Sweden as their national laws do not fully or accurately transpose EU rules on combating racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law (Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA). The Framework Decision aims to ensure that serious manifestations of racism and xenophobia are punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties throughout the EU. The Belgian and Bulgarian legal frameworks do not ensure that the racist and xenophobic motivation is taken into account by national courts as an aggravating factor for all crime committed, therefore failing to ensure hate crimes are effectively and adequately prosecuted. Bulgaria has failed to transpose correctly the criminalisation of specific forms of hate speech, which incite violence or hatred, namely the public condoning, denial or gross trivialisation of international crimes and the Holocaust. The Polish criminal legal framework fails to transpose correctly hate speech inciting to racist and xenophobic violence and restricts the scope of the criminalisation of incitement to hatred. Additionally, Poland has incorrectly transposed the criminalisation of specific forms of hate speech, by omitting the conduct of gross trivialisation of international crimes and the Holocaust and by restricting the criminalisation of the denial and condoning of those crimes only to cases where such crimes were committed against Polish citizens. The Finnish and Swedish legislation incorrectly transpose hate speech inciting to violence and fail to criminalise hate speech when addressed to individual members of a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin. In addition, Finland and Sweden fail to criminalise the specific forms of hate speech, namely the public condoning, denial or gross trivialisation of international crimes and the Holocaust. Finland has also failed to ensure that the criminal offences concerning racism and xenophobia can be investigated and prosecuted without a report or an accusation made by the victim. Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Poland, and Sweden have two months to reply to the points raised by the Commission; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion. The Commission sent letters of formal notice to Estonia and Romania on this matter in October 2020, and these cases remain open. The Commission is continuing to assess the transposition of this Framework Decision in other Member States.

European Arrest Warrant: Commission opens infringement procedures against CYPRUS, GERMANY and SWEDEN

Today, the Commission decided to send letters of formal notice to Cyprus, Germany and Sweden, for the incomplete and/or incorrect transposition of the Framework Decision on the European arrest warrant (2002/584/JHA). The European arrest warrant provides for simplified cross-border judicial surrender procedures: if a judge or magistrate of any Member State issues a warrant for the arrest and detention of a suspect who has committed a serious crime, this warrant is valid in the entire territory of the EU. Operational since 1 January 2004, the warrant has replaced the lengthy extradition procedures that used to exist between EU Member States. To ensure the proper functioning of the European arrest warrant, it is essential that all Member States fully and correctly incorporate all provisions of the Framework Decision into their national law. Cyprus, Germany and Sweden have failed to do so, in particular by treating their nationals more favourably in comparison to EU citizens from other Member States or providing additional grounds for refusal of warrants not provided for in the Framework Decision. This is why the Commission decided today to send letters of formal notice to these three Member States. They have two months to take the necessary measures to address the identified shortcomings. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion. The Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Ireland in October 2020 and to Austria, Czechia, Estonia, Italy, Lithuania and Poland in December 2020. The Commission continues with its assessment on the completeness and correctness of the transposition of the Framework Decision in other Member States. More information about the European arrest warrant is available here.

Criminal Law: Commission calls ESTONIA, FINLAND and POLAND to fully transpose EU rules on presumption of innocence

The Commission decided to send letters of formal notice to Estonia, Finland and Poland for failing to fully transpose the EU rules on strengthening the presumption of innocence and the right to be present at the trial in criminal proceedings (Directive (EU) 2016/343). The Directive is one of the key elements of the EU's legal framework on common minimum standards for fair trial ensuring that the rights of suspects and accused persons are sufficiently protected. The Directive strengthens Member States' trust in each other's criminal justice systems and thus facilitates mutual recognition of decisions in criminal matters. The Commission considers that Estonia, Finland and Poland have only partially transposed the Directive with some provisions not reflected in national legislation at all. In particular, the Commission has identified shortcomings in relation to public references to guilt, for example, when public authorities prematurely or falsely refer to a person as being guilty in public statements, and the availability of appropriate measures if this happens. These three Member States have two months to respond to the letters of formal notice; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send reasoned opinions. More details about the Directive can be found in this factsheet.

Drug policy: Commission launches infringement procedure against HUNGARY for voting against Union position in UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

The Commission decided today to open an infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice to Hungary for failure to follow the Union position when voting on the World Health Organisation recommendations on cannabis and cannabis-related substances at the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in December 2020. The Union position - adopted by the Council in November 2020 - is binding on EU Member States, who have to vote accordingly in the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, in line with Article 218(9) TFEU. Hungary voted contrary to the Union position twice during the vote on the WHO recommendations. Cannabis remains a drug subject to international control. The WHO recommendations aimed to ensure that cannabis and cannabis-related substances are subject to the most relevant international control reflecting current scientific and medical knowledge. Hungary now has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Reasoned opinions

Migration: Commission calls on HUNGARY to respect EU asylum law

The Commission decided today to send a reasoned opinion to Hungary concerning legislation, adopted in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, that the Commission considers unlawfully restricts access to the asylum procedure. According to the legislation, before being able to apply for international protection in Hungary, non-EU nationals must first make a declaration of intent stating their wish to apply for asylum at a Hungarian Embassy outside the European Union and be issued with a special entry permit for that purpose, delivered at the discretion of the Hungarian authorities. The Commission considers that new asylum procedures set out in Hungarian law are in breach of the Asylum Procedures Directive interpreted in light of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. On 30 October 2020, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Hungary concerning the new legislation. The response from the Hungarian authorities did not adequately address the Commission's concerns. The Commission continues to consider that such a legislation breaches EU law, as it precludes persons who are on Hungarian territory, including at the border, from applying for international protection. The Hungarian authorities have two months to notify the Commission of actions taken to address these concerns. Otherwise, the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Victims' Rights: Commission urges MALTA to transpose the Victims' Rights Directive

The Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion to Malta for failing to transpose the EU rules on victims' rights (Directive 2012/29/EU). The Directive applies to victims of all crimes regardless of their nationality and regardless of where in the EU the crime happens. The rules give victims clear rights to access information, to participate in criminal proceedings and to receive support and protection adapted to their needs. This also includes additional protection for vulnerable victims during criminal proceedings. The Commission launched the infringement procedure against Malta in July 2019 for not implementing several provisions of this Directive. As the Commission's concerns have not yet been addressed, the Commission is taking the next step in the infringement procedure by sending a reasoned opinion to Malta. Infringement proceedings for incomplete transposition are currently ongoing also against Belgium, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland and Romania. Malta has now two months to take the necessary action; otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU. At the same time, the Commission also decided to close the infringements that were open against Czechia, Estonia, Germany and Italy, since these countries have fully transposed the Directive.

EU Business Register Tool: Commission urges BULGARIA to connect its national business register

The Commission sent today a reasoned opinion to Bulgaria, for its continued failure to connect its national business register to the Business Registers Interconnection System (BRIS). Businesses increasingly operate across borders, which makes it essential for them to have easy access to information on companies in different Member States. To link national business registers and thus facilitate cross-border trade, the Commission launched a specific tool, established under the Directive (2012/17/EU) on interconnection of EU business registers (BRIS), in June 2017. BRIS allows for transparency of information on companies, thus facilitating operations across the internal market and reducing unnecessary burden on companies and business registers. The business environment has become safer for consumers, creditors and other business partners. Bulgaria's failure to connect to BRIS makes it complicated for EU citizens, companies and professionals to obtain relevant information on Bulgarian companies. Furthermore, without BRIS, business registers cannot cooperate in cross-border mergers that involve Bulgarian companies or in procedures related to cross-border branches of Bulgarian companies. The deadline for Bulgaria to connect their national business register to BRIS was 8 June 2017. On 2 July 2020, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Bulgaria, France and Ireland requesting them to take the necessary action. France and Ireland have since taken satisfactory measures. Unless Bulgaria takes the necessary action within the next two months, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Consumer protection: Commission urges CYPRUS to provide adequate and effective means to protect consumers from unfair contract terms

The European Commission today decided to send a reasoned opinion to Cyprus for failing to properly implement and enforce EU law on unfair contract terms (Council Directive 93/13/EEC) and unfair commercial practices (Directive 2005/29/EC). The Commission opened this infringement case in 2013 based on a series of complaints from EU citizens who had bought real estate in Cyprus and had allegedly been misled by real estate developers, banks and lawyers. The Commission found that the Cypriot authorities were not effectively enforcing either of the two relevant EU Directives. In the framework of the infringement procedure, the Cypriot authorities responded constructively to several of the concerns raised by the Commission on the transposition and implementation of the two Directives. However, the matter has not been fully resolved so far: there are still no adequate and effective means in Cyprus to prevent the continued use of unfair terms in consumer contracts. The decisions of the Cypriot Consumer Protection Service are not enforceable and the Law Office of the Republic fails to follow up on its decisions, as it does not lodge applications for injunctions with the relevant civil courts. In addition, lawyers are not subject to the rules on unfair commercial practices. Cyprus now has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer this case to the European Court of Justice.

6. Energy

(For more information: Tim McPhie - Tel.: +32 229 58602; Ana Crespo Parrondo - Tel.: +32 229 81325)

Letters of formal notice

Euratom Drinking Water Directive: Commission calls on BULGARIA and MALTA to transpose EU radiation protection legislation

The Commission decided today to send letters of formal notice to Bulgaria and Malta for not complying with all the requirements of the Euratom Drinking Water Directive (Council Directive 2013/51/Euratom) related to the monitoring of radioactive substances. The Directive lays down requirements for the protection of public health with regard to radioactive substances in water intended for human consumption. It sets out parametric values, frequencies and methods for monitoring those substances and provides for the establishment of monitoring programmes to check that drinking water meets the requirements of the Directive. In addition, this Directive also requires that citizens are adequately and appropriately informed of the quality of the water they consume. The Member States concerned have two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send them a reasoned opinion.

Basic safety standards: Commission calls on CZECHIA and DENMARK to transpose EU radiation protection legislation

The Commission decided today to send letters of formal notice to Czechia and Denmark requesting the complete transposition of the revised 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 Commission considers that the abovementioned countries have not done so in a complete manner. The Directive, which modernises and consolidates EU radiation protection legislation, lays down basic safety standards to protect the general public, workers 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 Member States concerned have two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send them a reasoned opinion.

Reasoned opinions

Security of gas supply: Commission calls on CROATIA and ROMANIA to correctly implement EU rules

The Commission has today decided to send reasoned opinions to Croatia and Romania for failure to comply with certain provisions of the Security of Gas Supply Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2017/1938), in particular with respect to notification obligations and the application of the solidarity mechanism. The Regulation lays down requirements to prevent and respond to potential gas supply disruptions in the EU. In this context, having risk assessments, preventive action plans and emergency plans in place is essential. The Commission is closely monitoring the implementation of the Regulation across all Member States, including the efforts towards implementation of the solidarity mechanism. In May 2020, the Commission decided to send letters of formal notice to Member States. Since then, all of them have submitted their plans, except for Croatia and Romania. These Member States have now two months to reply to the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

7. Taxation and Customs Union

(For more information: Daniel Ferrie - Tel.: +32 229 86500, Nerea Artamendi Erro - Tel.: +32 2 29 90964)

Letters of formal notice

Taxation: Commission asks FRANCE to change its withholding tax rules on dividends to insurance companies in other EEA Member States

The Commission has today sent a letter of formal notice to France urging it to change its withholding tax rules on dividends paid to 'Unit Linked insurance' companies established in other European Economic Area (EEA) Member States. Unit Linked insurance is a live insurance scheme where the premiums paid by the policy-holder are used to purchase units in investment funds selected by that person, and where the dividends paid out by the funds are passed on by the insurer to the policy-holder. Unit Linked insurance companies established in EEA Member States are required to pay a final withholding tax on French dividends received. However, Unit Linked insurance companies established in France either pay no withholding tax on these dividends, or can credit the withholding tax paid against French corporation tax, which amounts to zero. This is because the dividends received constitute deductible provisions or technical reserves. The Commission deems that these rules infringe on the free movement of capital (Article 63(1) of the TFEU and Article 40 of the EEA Agreement). France has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

Taxation: Commission requests SWEDEN to amend its rules on taxation of dividends to non-resident public pension institutions

The Commission has today sent a letter of formal notice to Sweden drawing its attention to the potential incompatibility of its legislation with EU law on taxation of dividends paid to public pension institutions. Whereas Swedish public pension funds are, as government agencies, entirely exempt from tax liability, dividends paid to equivalent non-resident public pension institutions are subject to a withholding tax, commonly at a reduced rate of 15% as provided for in the tax treaties concluded between Sweden and other EU/EEA countries. The Commission considers that such a fiscal scheme under which dividends paid to foreign public pension institutions are subject to less favourable treatment than similar distributions in purely domestic situations may infringe the free movement of capital (Article 63(1)of the TFEU and Article 40 of the EEA Agreement). Sweden has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission after which the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.

8. Digital economy

(For more information: Johannes Bahrke - Tel.: +32 229 58615, Charles Manoury - Tel.: +32 229 13391)

Reasoned opinions

The Commission urges POLAND to comply with EU rules on electronic communications networks and services

The Commission sent today a reasoned opinion to Poland for breaching EU law safeguarding the independence of the national regulatory authority (NRA), a key principle of the EU's telecom law. More specifically, the legal provisions amending the Polish Telecommunications Law that resulted in the early termination of the mandate of the Head of the Polish NRA - the Office for electronic communications, raise concern. According to EU law, i.e. the then applicable Framework Directive, recently reinforced by the European Electronic Communications Code, heads of national regulatory authorities may be dismissed only if they no longer fulfil the conditions required for the performance of their duties which are laid down in advance in national law. These rules aim to remove any doubt as to the neutrality of that body and its imperviousness to external factors. The Head of the NRA was dismissed as a result of changes to the rules on the appointment and dismissal of NRA Heads, which the Polish government applied retroactively to the ongoing mandate of the NRA President. Hence, Mr. Cichy's mandate was terminated because the selection procedure did not comply with requirements introduced many years after he took office. The Commission's reasoned opinion follows the letter of formal notice sent on 2 July 2020. Poland now has two months to reply and take the necessary measures, otherwise the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

*Updated on 18/02/2021 at 12:30