Infringement procedure

Early settlement

If a possible infringement of EU law is identified by the Commission or reported in a complaint, the Commission attempts to quickly resolve the underlying problem with the Member State concerned by means of a structured dialogue (EU Pilot).

Member States can provide further factual or legal information on a potential case of violation of Union law – the goal being to find a quick solution in compliance with EU law and thus to avoid the need for formal infringement procedure.

Formal procedure

If the Member State does not agree with the Commission or fails to implement a solution to rectify the suspected violation of EU law, the Commission may launch formal infringement procedure. These contain a number of steps foreseen by the Treaties, each of which is laid down in a formal decision:

1. letter of formal notice
  • Commission requests national government to comment on non compliance problem within 2 months or less.
2. reasoned opinion
  • No reply? Unsatisfactory reply? Commission states reasons why it believes the Member State has breached EU law.
  • National government has 2 months or less to comply.
3. referral to Court of Justice
  • No reply? Unsatisfactory reply? Commission asks Court to open litigation procedure.
  • Things rarely go this far. The last few years, > 85% of cases were resolved before litigation stage.
  • If a Member State fails to notify measures to implement a directive, Commission may at this stage ask Court of Justice to impose lump sum and/or penalty payment .
4. judgment by Court of Justice
  • After an average of 2 years, Court decides whether the Member State has breached EU law.
  • National Government is responsible to adapt its laws or practices and to resolve initial dispute as soon as possible.
5. case returned to Court of Justice
  • Member State still does not comply? Commission sends another letter of formal notice.
  • No reply? Unsatisfactory reply? Commission may return matter to Court and proposes lump sum and/or penalty payment.

Decisions and annual reports

Legal basis

Financial sanctions

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