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Single Market Scoreboard

Infringements

This report provides statistics on Single Market infringement proceedings that were open on 1 December 2020. All comparisons are made with the figures for the last reporting date, 1 December 2019, when the UK was still a Member State of the European Union. This should be kept in mind while reading the present report.

To make the Single Market work for all, common EU rules are put into place, eliminating barriers and facilitating the circulation of goods, persons, services and capital. These rules can only deliver the intended results if they are properly implemented and enforced throughout the EU.

To ensure that Single Market rules are complied with and that citizens’ rights are enforced, is a shared responsibility of the Member States and the Commission. Member States are required to comply with EU rules they have agreed to as European legislators. They have to detect and remedy violations of Single Market rules in their own territory. The Commission, in accordance with Article 17(1) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), is obliged to ensure that all Member States implement and comply with Single Market rules. The Commission can take legal action, by initiating an infringement procedure in line with Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), against any EU Member State that fails to implement EU law. The Commission may refer the issue to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which can impose financial penalties in certain cases.

Monitoring infringements helps to make the Single Market work better. It highlights the efforts that Member States are making to ensure that Single Market law is implemented properly and encourages them to improve their performance.

Infringements and the Single Market – why does it matter?

In March 2019, the European Council invited the Commission to develop a long-term action plan for better implementation and enforcement of Single Market rules, in close cooperation with the Member States. On 10 March 2020, The Commission adopted the so-called Enforcement action plan.

The Enforcement action plan seeks to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of the EU’s compliance and enforcement policy. The commitment of the Commission and the Member States to increase their joint efforts in order to achieve this objective was articulated in 22 concrete actions. These actions range from increasing the knowledge and awareness of the Single Market rules and making the best use of preventive mechanisms, up to strengthening enforcement on the ground and improving the handling of infringements.

The overall focus lies on stronger cooperation between Member States and the Commission, also to ensure that Single Market directives are properly transposed and Single Market regulations applied. The aim is to prevent infringements on Single Market rules and to find swift solutions where needed.

As a follow up to the long-term action plan, the Single Market Enforcement Task Force (SMET) was set up to offer a high level forum where the Commission and Member States collaboratively commit to devise and implement solutions for Single Market obstacles that are rooted in enforcement or implementation deficiencies. At the first SMET meeting in June 2020, Commissioner Breton said: ‘The coronavirus pandemic has clearly shown how interrelated our economies are. As the EU embarks on a clear path to recovery, we need to work collectively to remove existing barriers and prevent new ones from arising in our Single Market. A well-functioning Single Market is our best asset to help European businesses find new opportunities, strengthen key ecosystems of our economy and support European solidarity.

For further information on the Enforcement action plan and SMET, see in ‘More information’.

Key messages

  • The number of Single Market-related infringements has risen to 837 pending cases, thus rising one of its highest levels in the past 10 years. This increasing trend should be flattened by the more systematical use of the EU Pilot dialogue as announced in Action 21 of the March 2020 Long-term action plan for better implementation and enforcement of Single Market rules.
  • With 58 cases (almost double the EU average), Spain has the highest number of pending cases. It is followed by Italy and Greece (with respectively 50 and 49 cases).
  • The sectors with most Single Market-related infringement cases are environment (30%), transport (21%) and services including the free movement of professionals (13%).
  • The average case duration is now 37.3 months, up from 34.8 months one year ago. This increase is probably due to the extraordinary measures the Commission took to help alleviate the strain on national administrations, in particular in extending the Member States’ deadlines for replies to on-going cases.
  • The correct implementation of the Single Market rules will ensure its smooth-functioning and renders it an essential tool for the economic recovery of the EU and for consolidating Europe’s resilience and competitiveness. In this context, it appears essential that the national authorities devote sufficient resources to the application of the Single Market acquis and take measures to guarantee the required administrative capacity.

Overall performance (all 4 indicators combined)

 
 
Map legend

A Member State’s performance across all indicators is calculated by scoring each of the 4 indicators listed in the chart “Performance per indicators” below as follows:

  • red = -1
  • yellow = 0
  • green = +1

The colours on the map represent the sum of these scores:

  • green: 2 or higher = above average
  • yellow: -1, 0 or 1 = average
  • red: -2 or lower = below average

Performance indicators

 
[1] Number of pending infringement proceedings & [3] Duration of infringement proceedings (in months)< averageaverage ± 10%> average
[2] Change over the last 12 months (change in the number of infringement cases)decreaseno changeincrease
[4] Duration since Court’s ruling (in months)< 8 months8-18 months> 18 months

This table combines the most relevant indicators in order to provide a better overview of Member States' compliance with the implementation and application of Internal Market rules. The table shows that only a small number of Member States perform better than the EU average when all the indicators are taken into account: Denmark, Estonia and Croatia.

Indicator [1]: Number of pending infringement proceedings

Note: This indicator shows the number of open infringements in different Member States compared with the EU average. It is not necessarily conclusive evidence of the degree of compliance with Single Market rules. This is because the number of infringements depends on several factors, including the size of the market in individual Member States.

Pending infringement proceedings on 1 December 2020. Spark line of the chart shows the development of pending infringement proceedings since December 2017. Bar gives the value in December 2020. EU-27 average is 31.

 
Main findings

Total number of cases: 837 (up from 800 in December 2019)

Average cases per Member State: 31 (up from 29)

Member States where the number of cases has risen: 18 (down from 24)

Member States where the number of cases has fallen: 5 (up from 2)

Member States with no change: 4 (up from 2)

Indicator [2]: Change over the last 12 months

Change in the number of pending infringement proceedings since December 2019 (July 2020 edition of the Single Market Scoreboard).

 
Main finding

The number of infringement cases is increasing in most Member States (18 out of 27).

Indicator [3]: Duration of infringement proceedings

Pending infringement cases not yet sent to the Court (i.e. at the pre-litigation stage) on 1 December 2020 (737 cases). Average duration is calculated in months from when the letter of formal notice is sent.

 
Main finding

New increase in average case duration: now 37.3months, up from 34.8 in December2019.

Indicator [4]: Time taken to comply with Court ruling

Cases closed between 1 December 2015 and 30 November 2020 where the Court has ruled against a Member State (96 cases). This graph shows the average time (in months) between the delivery of the Court’s judgment and the closure of the case confirming that the Member State has complied with the judgment (‘compliance time’).

 
Main finding

The average time lag is higher than it has ever been.

EEA EFTA countries

Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are also subject to Single Market rules under the EEA Agreement. They are monitored by the EFTA Surveillance Authority.

However, there is a time lag between when a legal act is adopted or repealed in the EU and when it is added to or removed from the EEA Agreement. The body of EU law applicable in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway may thus differ from that applicable in the EU. This should be borne in mind when comparing the Single Market Scoreboard and the EEA Scoreboard.

Number of pending cases

Infringement cases pending on 1 December 2020 arising from the incorrect transposition or application of Single Market rules. EEA EFTA average is 17.

 
Main findings

Total cases open: 165 (up from 121 in December 2019), of which:

  • incorrect transposition/application: 51 (see figure above) = 31% of all open infringement cases (Iceland 19, Liechtenstein 6 and Norway 26)
  • late transposition (directives): 13 (Iceland 7, Liechtenstein 4 and Norway 2) = 8%
  • late implementation* (regulations): 101 (Iceland 94 and Norway 7) = 61%

* Under Article 7 of the EEA Agreement, regulations incorporated into the Agreement ‘shall as such be made part of the internal legal order’ of the EEA EFTA countries. In Liechtenstein, however, regulations are directly applicable and do not have to be implemented.

Trends

Changes in numbers of infringement cases

 
  • The current report shows a new rise in the number of infringement proceedings (5% within the last year; 26% since December 2017 when the numbers were at their lowest). This is the third consecutive increase.
  • EU Pilot, the structured problem-solving dialogue between the Commission and Member States, roughly halved the number of cases between its launch in April 2008 and December 2016. In its Communication on EU Law: Better results through better application, the Commission recognised the effectiveness of EU Pilot, but noted that dialogue with national authorities was continuing for much longer than is reasonable and decided to launch infringement procedures without systematically relying on EU Pilot’s problem-solving mechanism. The consequence was a strong rise in the number of formal infringement cases.
  • More recently, the Commission corresponded to Member States’ request to re-establish a wider use of the EU Pilot mechanism as an early problem-solving mechanism. The March 2020 Enforcement action planthereforecalls for a more systematic use of EU Pilot, with a clear timetable, and in those cases where a rapid solution is likely to be found. A widespread use of EU Pilot should flatten the increasing number of infringement cases.
  • In the same time, the pandemic also had an impact on the work related to the application of EU law and on the use of compliance tools such as the dialogue with Member States.

Evolution of infringement cases broken down by Member State and EEA EFTA countries

 

Facts and figures

Cases by sector

This table shows the total number of infringement cases for each Member State on 1 December 2020, broken down by sector. Sectors with few infringement proceedings are included in ‘other sectors’. The highlighted figures show the sector(s) with most infringement cases in each Member State.

(#) Total number of infringement cases by sector

Member State
Air transport (80)
Atmospheric pollution (69)
Chemical substances, industrial
and biotechnological hazards (24)
Direct taxation (32)
Energy efficiency (23)
Energy markets and networks (35)
Environmental impact (30)
Financial services (30)

 

Free movement of goods and
market surveillance (21)
Free movement of
professionals (53)
Indirect taxation (33)
Nuclear safety and
radioactive waste (30)
Public procurement (27)
Road and rail transport (24)
Services (52)
Sustainable and
intelligent transport (33)
Transport safety (33)
Waste management (39)
Water protection and
management (60)
Other fields (109)
TOTAL
Spain43 711114211 22143101058
Italy461 111 12722221236650
Greece45 11112 4211122177649
Germany3423121 5271145 1 1548
Bulgaria341 111212 12 44432642
France4424 11 14  133  13739
Poland341 2222 2421231 12539
Belgium42 512   211  426 2638
Portugal52 1211  3213114222437
Romania251 13 3 2121 14 32637
Austria332 1132 222223 21 435
Hungary341 12121121113 122332
Czechia331 122131 1111 111731
Slovenia321 112112 1 113142128
Slovakia441  12322    11 11427
Croatia131 1311 2121113111126
Malta411 111  321  21212124
Netherlands31 31111 2 2111 111324
Sweden22 11112 2  2 2  32324
Ireland3 1 112 12 1  2 1 4423
Cyprus32  1 11 3  1 12112423
Latvia 12 11 1 2121 141 1322
Denmark2112 11    2212    419
Luxembourg32 4 11112    1 1 1 18
Lithuania311 11     1111   2417
Finland3 21 112 1  1 1    215
Estonia1 1  112 1 21 1   1 12
Main findings

Sectors with most infringement cases

  • Environment – 30% of all cases (especially atmospheric pollution, water protection & management and waste management)
  • Transport – 21% (especially air transport, sustainable & intelligent transport and transport safety)
  • Services including free movement of professionals – 13%
  • Energy – 11% (equally distributed between energy efficiency, energy markets & networks and nuclear safety & radioactive waste)

Problematic sectors by Member State

  • Environment – Slovenia and Greece (43% of all cases), Slovakia and Sweden (37%), Italy and France (36%)
  • Transport – Portugal (35% of all cases), Belgium (34%), Cyprus (30%)
  • Taxation – Luxembourg (22% of all cases), Germany (21%)

Average duration by sector

Pending infringement cases not yet sent to the Court (i.e. still in the pre-litigation phase) on 1 December 2020 (737 cases), broken down by sectors with at least 20 cases. Average duration is calculated in months from when the letter of formal notice is sent.               
(#) = number of cases in the sector

The duration of air transport cases is inflated by factors outside the control of either the national authorities or the Commission. Since it has not been possible to make any progress in any direction on most of the cases in this sector, it was decided not to include the sector in the below figure.

 
Main findings
Longest average duration (in months)
  • Indirect taxation (up from 37.9 months to 58.8)
  • Direct taxation (stable, from 45 months to 44.9)
  • Atmospheric pollution (down from 49.3 months to 40.1)
  • Waste management (up from 15.8 months to 35.3)
  • Water protection and management (down from 38.4 months to 34.4)

The comment under ‘Indicator [3] - Duration of infringement proceedings’ above on the increase in case duration by Member State is also relevant to case duration by sector. When a substantial number of quite recent cases are resolved (or if no new cases are launched), the remaining older cases have bigger impact on the calculation of the average duration. This is certainly the case for indirect taxation and waste management.

Types of cases

Number of pending infringement cases open for late or incorrect transposition of Single Market directives, plus the number of cases open for incorrect application of rules – situation on 1 December 2020 (1423 cases).

 
Main findings
  • 64% of cases involve late or incorrect transposition of directives (up from 58% in December 2019)
  • 82% of cases involve directives (up from 82%), while 15% concern regulations, decisions and Treaty articles (down from 19%)

More information

Single Market legislation includes acts and Treaty provisions considered to have an impact on the functioning of the internal market, as defined in Article 26(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). This includes the four freedoms (freedom of movement of persons, goods, services and capital across borders within the EU), and supporting policies with a direct impact on the Single Market, such as taxation, employment, culture, social policy, education, public health, energy, consumer protection, transport, environment (except nature protection), and the information society and media.

This document does not include cases of late transposition (known as ‘non-communication cases’) – except in the pie chart entitled ‘Types of cases’. This is to avoid such cases being counted twice, as they are already covered in the ‘Transpositiongovernance tool.

The Commission always initiates infringement proceedings if a Member State has not transposed an EU directive correctly or on time. It may also initiate proceedings if it considers that a Member State is applying Single Market rules incorrectly. Infringement proceedings start when the Commission sends a letter of formal notice to the Member State concerned. However, only the Court of Justice can rule definitively that a breach of EU law has occurred.

In March 2019, the European Council invited the Commission to develop a long-term action plan for better implementation and enforcement of Single Market rules, in close cooperation with the Member States. Since then, Member States have repeatedly stressed their commitment to stronger enforcement, for instance in a letter signed by all Member States and submitted at the Coreper II meeting on 29 November 2019.

In January 2020, 14 Member States addressed to the Commission a joint position paperStrengthening the Single Market through dialogue on implementation, application and enforcement of EU law’. It said that ‘Single Market rules are of economic importance for businesses, citizens and the EU economy at large. However, a lack of clarity, consistence, inadequate implementation, poor enforcement and lack of compliance undermine the EU’s credibility and effectiveness. […] We believe that, next to enhancing the quality of the Single Market acquis, improving implementation and securing compliance with Single Market rules should remain one of the priorities of any future strategy for the Single Market.’

On 10 March 2020, the Long-term action plan for better implementation and enforcement of single market rules - the so-called Enforcement action plan - addresses Member States’ concerns regarding this issue. It is the expression of a renewed partnership between Member States and the Commission which seeks to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of the EU’s compliance and enforcement policy. The commitment of the Commission and the Member States to increase their joint efforts in order to achieve this objective was articulated in the 22 concrete actions of the Enforcement action plan. These actions range from increasing the knowledge and awareness of Single Market rules and making the best use of preventive mechanisms, up to strengthening enforcement on the ground and improving the handling of infringements.

The overall focus lies on stronger cooperation between Member States and the Commission, also to ensure that Single Market directives are properly transposed and Single Market regulations applied. The aim is to prevent infringements on Single Market rules and to find swift solutions where needed.

The adoption of the Enforcement action plan coincided with the emergence of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The negative consequences of the crisis brought the importance and the general interest of proper compliance and enforcement of Single Market rules even more to the fore. At the same time, the pandemic also had an impact on the work related to the application of EU law and on the use of compliance tools such as the dialogue with Member States. At the European Council of 26 March 2020 Europe's leaders gave clear guidance to remove all internal bans or restrictions to the free movement of goods.

As a follow-up to the Long-term action plan, the Single Market Enforcement Task Force (SMET) was set up to offer a high level forum where the Commission and Member States collaboratively commit to devise and implement solutions for Single Market obstacles that are rooted in enforcement or implementation deficiencies. The work of the new Task Force was kick-started in April 2020 in light of the urgency of a number of issues hampering the correct functioning of the Single Market. These include intra-EU export restrictions of vital protective, medical and medicinal supplies, border controls and the need to increase production of essential equipment (Report [PDF])

With its judgment of 8 July 2019 in Case C-543/17, Commission v Belgium, the Court of Justice clarified the scope of Article 260(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) by stating that its sanction mechanism may also be applied in case of a partial failure to adopt and to communicate the transposition measures. In this context, the Court refers to the obligation of the Member States not only to notify transposition measures as such, but also to supply sufficiently clear and precise information as to which provisions of national law transpose which provisions of a directive. In the absence of such indications and in full respect of the principle of proportionality, the Commission can continue to pursue an infringement procedure based on Articles 258 and 260(3) TFEU.

On 16 July 2020, the Court of Justice reconfirmed its position in rulings C-549/18, Commission v Romania, and C-550/18, Commission v Ireland, and clarified further the calculation and imposition of daily penalties and lump sums for the non-communication cases. Consequently, the Commission proposals under article 260(3) TFEU are binding as regards the maximum amount of the penalty. In the context of the calculation of the lump sum, the Court clarified that the calculation of the duration of the infringement starts from the transposition deadline of the Directive.

Here is more information on the infringement procedures.

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