This report provides statistics on single market infringement proceedings that were open on 1 December 2021. All comparisons are made with the figures for the last reporting date, 1 December 2020. The statistics do 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 “Transposition” governance tool.
To make the single market work for all, common EU rules are in place, facilitating the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. These rules can only deliver their intended results if they are properly implemented and enforced throughout the EU.
It is a shared responsibility of the Member States and the Commission to ensure that single market rules are complied with and that citizens’ rights are enforced. 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 (the Court), 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?
Incorrect transposition, implementation and application of EU rules creates barriers to a smooth functioning single market. This harms the EU economy and undermines the confidence people and businesses have in the single market and the EU in general.
The March 2020 Long-term action plan for better implementation and enforcement of single market rules intends to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of the EU’s compliance and enforcement policy. The commitment of the Commission and Member States to increase their joint efforts to achieve this objective was translated into 22 specific actions. They 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.
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 themselves to devise and implement solutions for single market obstacles that are rooted in enforcement or implementation deficiencies. In 2021, alongside the need to lift the remaining barriers related to COVID-19, SMET emphasised the importance of addressing specific systemic barriers that hamper the proper functioning of the single market and, consequently, undermine the recovery from the pandemic.
For further information on the Enforcement Action Plan and SMET, see “More information”.
- 11 Member States have improved on their December 2020 overall performance (Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Finland) while all other Member States have just matched it. The fact that no Member State has performed worse than previously is quite remarkable.
- The number of single market-related infringements has decreasedfor the first time in 4 years (to 739 pending cases, -12% in the last year). The explanation is the wider use of the early problem-solving mechanism (EU Pilot) requested by the Member States, combined with the impact of the pandemic on the work related to the application of EU law and on the use of compliance tools such as the dialogue with Member States.
- With 49 cases, Spain has the highest number of pending cases. It is followed by Germany (47 cases), Italy and Greece (46 cases each).
- The sectors with most single market-related infringement cases are environment (30%), transport (17%) and services & professions (11%).
- The average case duration is now 42.8 months, up from 37.3 months one year ago. This new increase in duration is in part due to the resolution of a number of quite recent cases combined with the limited number of new cases. Remaining cases get older and weigh more heavily on the calculation of the average duration.
- The correct implementation of the single market rules should ensure its smooth-functioning and render it an essential tool for the economic recovery of the EU and for consolidating EU’s resilience and competitiveness. In this context, it is essential that national authorities devote sufficient resources and efforts to applying the single market body of law and take measures to ensure the required administrative capacity is available.
- 11 Member States have improved on their December 2020 overall performance (Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Finland) while all other Member States have matched their previous performance. The fact that no Member State has performed worse than previously is quite remarkable.
- 6 Member States performed above the EU average: Denmark, Estonia, Croatia, Latvia, Malta and Finland. There were 3 in 2020 and none in 2019. For Latvia, Malta and Finland, this is an improvement compared to last year.
- Among the Member States whose performance stayed at the same level as in December 2020, Czechia, Germany, Spain and France remained in the red zone. For Spain, this situation has been going on for several years. However, Greece and Poland, which had also been below the EU average for a long time, have now improved their overall performance.
- Of the Member States given a ‘red card’ in December 2020 – in addition to Greece and Poland – Belgium, Bulgaria, Italy, Austria, Portugal and Romania have succeeded in tackling the issue, and now perform around the EU average.
- Last year, the return of ‘green cards’ was seen as a promising sign that the overall handling of infringements is improving. This positive trend continues.
| Number of pending infringement proceedings &  Duration of infringement proceedings (in months)||< average||average ± 10%||> average|
| Change over the last 12 months (change in the number of infringement cases)||decrease||no change||increase|
| Duration since Court’s ruling (in months)||< 8 months||8-18 months||> 18 months|
This table combines the most relevant indicators to provide a better overview of Member States' compliance with the requirement to implement and apply single 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, Croatia, Latvia, Malta and Finland.
- After steadily increasing in the last 3 years, the number of pending infringements hasstronglydecreased. The total number of cases is 739, 98 less than in the previous Scoreboard (-12%). 218 cases of the 837 cases pending 12 months ago have since been resolved. Particular progress has been made on transport (73 cases closed), environment (45 cases) and energy (26 cases).
- Besides the closure of 218 cases, the last year has seen the launch of 120 new cases (not including those for late transposition), which were still pending on 1 December 2021. Of these, 32 concerned employment, social affairs & inclusion (27%), 25 transport (21%) and 18 environment (15%).
- 71 of the new cases concerned incorrect transposition of directives (59%), while 41 had to do with their incorrect application (34%). The remaining 8 concerned incorrect application of regulations, decisions and the Treaties incorrectly and now account for only 7% of all cases (down from 48% last year).
- In parallel with the strong decrease in the number of cases at EU level, all Member States – with the exception of Czechia – have cut or maintained their previous number of cases. With 49 cases, Spain is still the Member State with most pending infringement cases. It is followed by Germany (47), Greece, Italy (46 each) and France (39). These 5 Member States with most infringements account for 31% of all cases.
- With the exception of Czechia, all Member States have cut (23) or maintained (3) their number of cases. Only 9 were in this situation last year. The Member States that have cut most cases – in absolute numbers – since December 2020 are Spain and Portugal (-9), followed by Romania (-7). In 2020, Member States added an average of 3 cases to their backlog; in 2021, they managed to reduce their backlog by an average of 4 cases.
- The 12% decrease in the overall number of infringement cases is logically reflected in a lower number of cases for most Member States. 4 Member States have cut their number of cases by 25% or more: Estonia (-33%), Luxembourg (-28%), Finland (-27%) and Sweden (-25%). Czechia is the only Member State to have added to its previous number of cases, albeit moderately (+6%). Clearly, these changes should be viewed in relation to the total number of cases in each Member State (Indicator ).
- Rapid action to bring to an end breaches of single market rules is vital for people and businesses in the EU who wish to exercise their rights in the single market. However, after a 13% decrease between December 2017 and December 2019, the average case duration is now 42.8 months, up from 37.3 months one year ago.
- The average case duration has fallen in only 2 Member States,compared with 8 in December 2020. The reductions amount to 5.6 months for Greece and 4.7 months for Hungary. On the one hand, 3 very old cases against Greece were closed (including 1 case lasting for more than 16 years) while Hungary resolved a case overdue for more than 15 years. On the other hand, Greece and Hungary are the Member States with the highest number of new cases with a short duration (respectively 12 and 9), which also has a significant impact on the average duration of cases.
- In 25 Member States (up from 19 a year ago), the average duration of cases is longer than 1 year ago. For those Member States, duration has increased by 7 months on average but, increases are higher in 13 Member States, in particular in Latvia and Luxembourg (both +14.5 months), Estonia (+13.4 months) and Slovenia (+12.3 months). Although the goal is always to keep infringement proceedings as short as possible, an increase in duration is not necessarily negative. Generally, this happens when Member States resolve a number of quite recent cases. At the same time, as the remaining cases get older, they weigh more heavily on the calculation of the average duration. This is particularly the case this time: in comparison with the previous Scoreboard, a bigger number of cases have been resolved and a lower number of new cases have been launched.
- The December 2016 Communication on EU Law: Better Results through Better Application underlined the importance of limiting any distortion of single market rules as much as possible. This issue was also reflected in the March 2020 Enforcement Action Plan that proposes setting ambitious additional indicators. An average maximum of 36 months (to either close a case or send it to the Court) seems a reasonable initial target for all Member States (in collaboration with the Commission) to meet. However, while half of them (13) were below this threshold one year ago, only 6 are below it now.
- Article 260(1) TFEU, as interpreted by the Court of Justice, requires that after a Court ruling establishing a breach of EU legislation, the Member State concerned takes swift action to ensure compliance with EU law. The Communication on EU Law: Better Results through Better Application notes that infringements must be dealt with promptly. An average maximum duration of 18 months for the Member States to comply with a Court judgement could be proposed as a first incentive threshold.
- However, the average time Member States take to comply with a Court ruling continues to increase (to 46.8 months, from 31.7 months a year ago and 21 months 6 years ago). For 15 Member States (up from 9 in December 2020), it is over 3 years. Only 2 Member States (Czechia and Italy) met the 18-month compliance threshold (down from 5 one year ago).
- 4 Member States (Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary and Portugal) have cut their average compliance time (down from 7 in December 2020). The most impressive reduction was in Bulgaria (-24 months). The average compliance time of 6 Member States has remained unchanged.
- 12 Member States had longer average compliance times than a year ago (when there were 9 of them). The Member State with the biggest increase is Sweden (+105 months), followed by Denmark (+51.8 months) and Slovakia (+46.1 months).
- When interpreting these results, one must factor in that the above figures are based on cases closed in the last 5 years. Taking a case closed more than 5 years ago out of the statistics, or adding a recently closed one, can have a major impact on the results, especially for Member States with only a few cases. Two thirds of the Member States with longer compliance times thus managed to close cases for which a Court ruling had been issued a particularly long time ago (from 5 to 18 years).
- Considering the significant increase in the Danish time lag: one case on air transport, which took more than 18 years to solve, was closed in the last year. This huge compliance time must be added to that of the 3 other cases (15.8 months). In the same way, the single Finnish case, which has been the subject of a Court ruling and which has been closed in the last 5 years, is also a case on air transport in which it took more than 18 years until compliance was achieved.
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 the adoption of repeal of a legal act in the EU and its addition to or removal 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.
- 48 infringement cases have to do with incorrect transposition or application. This represents a decrease of 3 cases in one year (-6%). However, the total number of infringement cases has strongly increased from 165 to188 (+14%).
- There is a decrease in the number of cases concerning late transposition of directives: 10 infringement cases are pending, compared to 13 in December 2020 (-23%).
- Cases dealing with the incorporation of regulations have also further increased, from 101 to 130 (+29%).
- Problematic sectors are transport, right of establishment, social security, miscellaneous goods and persons-other.
Facts and figures
Cases by sector
This table shows the total number of infringement cases for each Member State on 1 December 2022, 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.
Air transport (51)
Atmospheric pollution (61)
Chemical substances, industrial
and biotechnological hazards (19)
Direct taxation (26)
Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (42)
Environmental impact (28)
Financial services (37)
Indirect taxation (17)
Nuclear safety and
radioactive waste (26)
Public procurement (23)
Road and rail transport (32)
Services and Professions – compliance issues (83)
Services and Professions – sectoral issues (18)
Transport safety (23)
Waste management (31)
Water protection and
Other sectors (98)
Sectors with most infringement cases
- Environment – 30% of all cases (especially atmospheric pollution, water protection and management and waste management)
- Transport – 17% (especially air transport, road and rail transport and transport safety)
- Services and professions – 11%
- Energy – 10%
Problematic sectors by Member State
- Environment – Slovenia (46% of all cases), Slovakia (44%), Greece and Romania (37%), Poland and Italy (35%)
- Transport – Cyprus (26% of all cases), Belgium and Portugal (25%), the Netherlands (24%)
- Energy – Croatia (23% of all cases)
- Taxation – Germany (21% of all cases)
- The number of pending infringement cases for late transposition has strongly increased in a year. This is mainly due to the higher number of single market directives to be transposed by the Member States: 51 in 2020 and 45 in 2021. Member States have difficulties in transposing directives by the agreed deadlines and this leads to infringement procedures for non-(timely) communication of national transposition measures being launched systematically. For more on this see “Facts & figures – Focus on short overdue directives” in the “Transposition” governance tool.
- The number of pending infringement cases for late transposition (763) is much higher than the current number of missing transpositions and transpositions declared partial by the Member States or by a College decision (426). This is because the Commission needs time to assess the completeness of the measures belatedly notified, and, if applicable, to close non-communication proceedings. For more on this see “Indicator  – Transposition deficit” in the “Transposition” governance tool.
- In its judgment of 8 July 2019 in Case C-543/17, Commission v Belgium, the Court refers to the obligation of the Member States to not only 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. This should avoid the launch of a number of infringement cases. For further information on the outcome of the judgment in Case C-543/17, see in “More information” in the “Transposition” governance tool.
- To make its support to Member States more effective in this area, the Commission – in its Better Regulation Guidelines of November 2021 – proposed implementation strategies to assist Member States and monitor the transposition of new directives. Implementation strategies identify the challenges that the Member States will face during the implementation process and explain how the Commission will support Member States, for example by preparing guidance documents, organising expert groups, workshops and dedicated websites, or promoting training for practitioners. Good cooperation between Member States and the Commission and the use of compliance promotion tools can facilitate the complete and correct transposition of a directive into national legislation. In turn, this can also reduce the number of pending infringement cases.
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 legislation covers the four freedoms (freedom of movement of people, 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 “Transposition” governance 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 can rule definitively that a breach of EU law has occurred.
In March 2019, the European Council invited the Commission to develop an 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, and in a joint position paper “Strengthening the Single Market through dialogue on implementation, application and enforcement of EU law” signed by 14 Member States in January 2020.
On 10 March 2020, the Commission adopted the Long-term action plan for better implementation and enforcement of single market rules the so-called enforcement action plan – which addresses Member States’ concerns about this issue. It is the expression of a renewed partnership between Member States and the Commission that 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 translated into the 22 specific 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 of single market rules and to find swift solutions where needed.
The adoption of the enforcement action plan coincided with the start 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. 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 EU's leaders gave clear guidance to remove all internal bans within the EU and all restrictions on the free movement of goods.
As a follow up to the enforcement 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 themselves 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 caused by the COVID-19 crisis and hampering the correct functioning of the single market.
In 2021, alongside the need to lift the remaining barriers related to COVID-19, SMET emphasised the importance of addressing specific systemic barriers that hamper the proper functioning of the single market and, consequently, undermine the recovery from the pandemic. These include restrictions on export within the EU of vital protective, medical and medicinal supplies, border checks, and the need to increase production of essential equipment.
As stated in its first report published in September 2021, the joint effort into SMET demonstrated that unjustified remaining barriers can be discussed together, raising awareness of their effects on the single market and helping to take appropriate action. The work of SMET builds on positive cooperation, experience and commitment to improve the functioning of the single market, which is one of the main assets to accelerate EU’s economic recovery and the green and digital transitions, and serves as a springboard to compete globally.
Here is more information on the infringement procedures.