The Commission has set out how it will step up its efforts on the application, implementation and enforcement of EU law for the benefit of all citizens, consumers and businesses. Common European rules matter in daily lives – whether they increase food safety, improve air quality or make it easier and cheaper for SMEs to bid for public contracts.
However, rules are only as good as their practical application. Often, when issues come to the fore – think of car emission testing, water pollution or illegal landfills – the problem is not the lack of EU rules but rather the lack of their effective application by Member States.
That is why a robust and efficient enforcement system with the following components has been implemented: (a) making sure that Member States live up to their responsibility to respect and enforce the rules they themselves had jointly put in place; (b) focusing the Commission’s enforcement on those cases where it makes a substantial difference, and stepping up financial sanctions for Member States when they fail to transpose directives on time; (c) raising citizens’ and businesses’ awareness of their rights.
Working with Member States
Member States have the primary responsibility for the complete and correct transposition, application and implementation of EU legislation. They also must give their citizens access to rapid and effective redress when the latter’s rights under EU law are affected.
The Commission will continue helping Member States in their efforts in many different ways. For example, the Commission will set up high-level dialogues, networks and exchanges of best practice in partnership with national authorities and courts, and the European Network of Ombudsmen coordinated by the European Ombudsman. The Commission will also continue its focus on tackling potential breaches of EU law quickly and at an early stage.
Focus on cases that matter and step up financial sanctions
This Commission promised to be “bigger and more ambitious on big things, and smaller and more modest on small things“. Applying this promise to enforcement policy, the Commission’s handling of infringements will become more strategic and more focused, giving priority to the most important breaches of EU law affecting the interests of citizens and businesses. The Commission will act firmly when infringements obstruct the pursuit of key EU policy objectives.
Another priority will be to investigate cases where Member States incorrectly transpose EU law into national law or fail to do so at all. Such failures deny citizens and businesses the rights and the benefits they enjoy under European law.
The number of cases where Member States fail to transpose EU law on time has been rising recently. In order to incentivise earlier transposition and reduce the number of cases ending up before the Court of Justice of the EU, the Commission is proposing to align its approach in these cases with the one it applies already to other infringement cases entailing financial sanctions. In the future, when bringing a Member State before the Court of Justice of the EU for late transposition of EU legislation, the Commission will systematically request the Court to impose not only a periodic penalty payment, as is currently the case, but a lump sum as well.
Bringing benefits of EU law to citizens
Citizens and businesses contribute significantly to effective enforcement by reporting to the Commission shortcomings in the application of EU law by the Member States. The Commission values this essential role played by individual complainants in identifying wider problems with the enforcement of EU law. At the same time, citizens and businesses are also looking for simple, practical advice on their rights under EU law – and how to make use of them. When their rights are breached, it is important that they be guided towards easily finding and making use of the most appropriate problem-solving and redress mechanisms available at EU or national levels. Via the Single Digital Gateway, the Commission will provide a single access point for citizens and businesses to all Single Market-related information, including assistance, advice and problem-solving services.