Select Committee on European Communities Second Report


Commission's internal guidelines on enforcement
and use of Article 169

Conclusions of the Document on improving the Commission's working methods for infringement procedures adopted by the Commission on 30 July 1996

On the basis of the above considerations, it is proposed that the Commission decide

-    in order to speed up the processing of files:

    (a)    to give the following priority in dealing with complaints:

      -    infringements which cause the greatest damage to the Community legal order, i.e. failure to transpose legislation and failure of national legislation generally to comply with Community law;

      -    horizontal cases of incorrect application, in particular when these are detected on the basis of a series of specific complaints by individuals:

      -    infringements which seriously harm the interests which the transgressed law is intended to protect.

    (b)    to bring greater flexibility to dealing with the complaints deemed to be well-founded by asking the departments concerned to find alternatives to initiating infringement proceedings;

    (c)    to publish in the Official Journal, C series, an updated version of the model complaint published in OJ No C 26 of 1989, p.6, in order to provide objective information on the role and powers of the commission regarding infringements of Community law;

    (d)    to remind departments that the Article 169 letter is equivalent to a request for comments and instruct them

      -    to revise the working of such letters in order

            -  to make them less threatening;

            -  to lighten the content wherever possible;

      -    to invite departments to propose issuing Article 169 letters more quickly in order to strictly observe the maximum one-year time limit;

      -    to organize contacts with the Member States taking this one-year time limit into account, knowing that the dialogue may continue after the Article 169 letter has been sent;

    (e)    to provide for the possibility of refusing to accept a proposal of postponement, if this would extend beyond the one-year time limit:

    (f)    to strictly limit the duration of the internal inquiry procedures to the time limits set in point 2.1.1.

    (g)    to have the Secretariat-General distribute, with each "Infringements" report, the list of cases on which a decision is being made, stating the stage that each case is at;

    (h)    to ask the Secretariat-General to systematically mention in all the lists of cases entered on the agenda of the periodic reports those which exceed the current time limits in the infringement procedures;

    (i)      to ask the Directors-General to step up coordination of monitoring the implementation of Community law within their DG;

    (j)      to ask the lead departments to consult the associated departments as far upstream in the procedure as possible, including DG XVI when the infringement case is connected with Community funding;

    (k)    to maintain the current frequency of the periodic reports, while providing for the possibility for the departments to include an "A" case in a "B" report and vice versa, as long as the case is ready for a decision on the content, without prejudice to the possibility of recourse to the bimonthly "state aids" meetings for duly justified cases and as long as it does not disrupt the agenda of these meetings;

    (l)      to make it obligatory to have the Article 169 letter translated into the language of the Member State to which it is addressed before the proposal is submitted to the Commission;

    (m)    that the departments must draw up a preparatory note of analysis for the reasoned opinion in cases other than cases of failure to communicate the national measures implementing the directives;

    (n)    that the proposed reasoned opinion may be submitted to the Commission only after drawing up a draft reasoned opinion (which must be finalized before the preparatory meeting). This reform will be implemented starting from the "A" meeting 1/97;

-    in order to simplify the rules of procedure:

    (o)    to ask the departments to use simplified terminology as far as possible;

    (p)    to group the procedures together, as far as possible;

    (q)    to simplify-and hence speed up-implementation of the Commission's decisions by the following measures:

          -  the lead department sends the Secretariat-General (SG/B/2) a single document: after approval by the competent cabinet, the final version of the text of the Article 169 letter or the reasoned opinion is sent by e-mail only;

    (r)    to distribute via the Secretariat-General the timetable of "Infringements" reports at least six months in advance;

-    in order to increase the transparency of the Commission's decisions on infringements:

    (s)    to postulate the principle that, with regard to reasoned opinions and referrals, publication should become the rule, in the sense that, unless the Commission decides otherwise, a press release can always be put out without waiting for the reasoned opinion to be issued or the appeal to be lodged;

    (t)      to confirm the well-established rule according to which, before any press release is issued concerning a Commission decision on an infringement, the Member State concerned must first be informed by fax and receive a copy of the press release.

Unless specified otherwise (see point (n) above), these measures shall apply immediately.

previous page contents next page
House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1997
Prepared 21 July 1997