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Internal Market: European Commission Acts To Ensure Eleven Member States Implement EU Laws

Date 17/12/2003

The European Commission has decided to pursue a total of fifteen infringement cases involving eleven Member States - all except Germany, Denmark, Austria and Italy - in order to ensure that they live up to the commitments they have made to implement various Internal Market laws agreed by the European Parliament and the Council. The Commission is sending formal requests - known as a "reasoned opinions" - to France and Ireland to comply with previous judgements of the European Court of Justice requiring them to implement a 1998 Directive on recognising lawyers' qualifications. If they still do not comply, the Commission can ask the Court to impose a daily fine. It will already ask the Court to impose such a fine over Ireland's failure to comply with a separate Court judgement requiring it to ratify the Paris Act on the copyright protection of artistic and literary works. The Commission is also referring to the Court nine countries which have not implemented the 2001 Directive on copyright and related rights in the information society. It is in addition bringing Greece and Finland before the Court for not bringing their legislation into line with a Directive agreed in 2000 on the exchange of financial services information with third countries. Finally, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion asking Belgium to implement the 2001 Directive simplifying the overall system for the recognition of professional qualifications. If the Belgian authorities do not give a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court.

Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said: "As long as even one Member State has not implemented a Directive, citizens and businesses across Europe are denied the full benefit of the measures their governments have agreed to break down national red tape and unlock the full wealth creation potential of the Internal Market. So Member States need to shoulder their responsibilities and respect the implementation deadlines that they themselves have set, in their own interests and that of the credibility of the Union as a whole. The Commission does everything it can to help with that but will continue to act decisively where necessary, including by further referrals to the Court."

In May 2003, the average implementation deficit (the percentage of Directives that have not been implemented in national law in due time) for the EU as a whole was up to 2.4%, from 1.8% in May 2002 (see IP/03/621). The target set by Heads of Government at successive European Councils is 1.5 %. The next set of figures will be published in January 2004 and early indications are that they are unlikely to show a substantial improvement.

Lawyers France and Ireland

The European Commission has decided to remind France and Ireland of their obligation to implement the European Court of Justice judgments of 26 September 2002 (Case C-351/01, France) and 10 December 2002 (Case C-362/01, Ireland), which require them to implement at national level Directive 98/5/EC concerning the establishment of lawyers. If this is not done, the Court may apply a financial penalty to France and Ireland.

Directive 98/5/EC (see IP/97/1128) is intended to make it easier for lawyers to establish themselves under their original professional title, to acquire the professional title of the host Member State and to practice the profession. More specifically, the Directive enables lawyers to become established in a Member State and to practise the host country's law immediately after simply proving that they are already registered as a lawyer in another Member State, without either a test or adaptation period. Moreover, after effectively and regularly pursuing an activity involving the law of the Member State in question, including Community law, for three years, lawyers are entitled to gain admission to the profession in the host Member State and so acquire the professional title of that Member State. For example, under the Directive, a Danish "advokat" could become established in Germany, practise German law as an "advokat" immediately, and, after three years, obtain the German title of "Rechtsanwalt". The deadline for implementing Directive 98/5/EC was 14 March 2000. The fact that France and Ireland have not implemented it is an obstacle to the establishment of lawyers. Moreover, the national authorities' failure limits the opportunity for individuals residing in the countries in question to freely choose qualified lawyers from other Member States.

Professional qualifications - Belgium

The Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to Belgium for failure to notify the Commission of the measures transposing Directive 2001/19/EC (see IP/01/253) on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications. The deadline for transposition was 1 January 2003.

This Directive, which was put forward by the Commission in 1997, is part of the SLIM ("Simplified Legislation in the Internal Market") initiative. It makes it considerably easier to update the lists of degrees, diplomas, certificates and other educational qualifications to which automatic recognition may apply. The operation of the general system for the recognition of professional qualifications has also been improved.

Similar reasoned opinions have already been sent to France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom (see IP/03/1406).

Exchange of financial services information Greece and Finland

Directive 2000/64/EC on the exchange of securities markets information amends the provisions of several previous financial services Directives in so far as co-operation between supervisory authorities for financial services is concerned. It requires that Member States should conclude co-operation agreements with supervisory authorities of third countries only if professional secrecy rules applicable to the staff of supervisory authorities are also covered by such agreements.

In approving the Directive in the Council, Member States agreed to bring their national legislation into line with it by 17 November 2002.

Greece has not yet informed the Commission of any measures taken to do so. Finland has partly implemented the Directive but has not applied it to the insurance sector. Therefore, the Commission has decided to bring both Member States before the European Court of Justice.

Copyright and related rights in the Information Society - Belgium, Spain, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, UK

The European Parliament and the Council adopted in May 2001 the Directive on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the Information Society (see IP/01/528). By adopting the Directive in the Council, Member States agreed to implement it by 22 December 2002. Only Greece and Denmark met this deadline. In addition, Italy, Austria, Germany and the United Kingdom have in the course of 2003 implemented the Directive (see IP/03/1005).

The Commission has now decided to refer the other eight Member States (Belgium, Spain, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Finland and Sweden) to the Court of Justice for non-communication of the national implementing measures. It has also decided to refer the UK to the Court because the UK national law does not apply to the territory of Gibraltar. The Commission has decided not to refer Ireland to the Court because the Irish copyright law was adopted in 2000 based on an earlier draft of the Directive and therefore it was notified to the Commission on the basis that it was in substantial compliance and only minor adjustments are necessary.

The Directive is the European Union's response to the digital environment as it updates copyright protection to keep pace with technology. It aims to ensure that all copyright material including books, films and music is adequately protected. It provides a secure environment for cross-border trade in copyright protected goods and services, and will facilitate the development of electronic commerce in new and multimedia products and services.

Moreover, it is the means by which the European Union and its Member States implement the two 1996 World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) "Internet Treaties", the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, which have adapted copyright protection to digital technology. This makes implementation all the more urgent.

Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Paris Act) - Ireland

On 19 March 2002, the European Court of Justice declared that, by failing to adhere before 1 January 1995 to the 1971 Paris Act revising the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic works (1886), Ireland had failed to fulfil its obligations under the EC Treaty. The Convention ensures that nationals from one country may also enjoy protection for their works in other countries.

Despite receiving a further reasoned opinion from the Commission in line with Article 228 of the Treaty, Ireland has still not yet adhered to the Paris Act and, therefore, has not complied with the Court's ruling. The Commission is now referring Ireland for the second time to the Court and is asking for the payment of a penalty of 3600 euros for each day it delays in complying with the first Court's judgment.

For the latest information on proceedings concerning all Member States, consult the following site: