The European Commission has decided to refer Spain to the European Court of Justice because it imposes barriers to imports of heavy goods vehicles in breach of EU rules on the free movement of goods.
In particular, Spanish authorities refuse to authorise for commercial use the first vehicle in road haulage operators' fleets if it is more than five months old.
The Commission considers that this Spanish requirement disregards the fact that these vehicles comply with European and/or national technical requirements which make them technically fit for driving in the Member State of origin. This is why the Commission believes that this requirement breaches the principle of mutual recognition derived from EU rules on the free movement of goods (Article 34 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union - TFEU) and is disproportionate.
The Commission also believes that Spain has not justified this requirement on the basis of a legitimate justification such as environmental protection or road safety; it considers that less restrictive alternative measures would be available to the Spanish authorities to achieve such objectives.
As a result of this obstacle to importing heavy goods vehicles from other Member States, competition on the Spanish market is reduced and road haulage operators in Spain have less choice and risk having to pay more.
The Spanish legislation on road transport1 requires that the first vehicle in a heavy goods vehicles fleet - to be registered by a company or a private person - be not older than five months since its first registration in order to obtain the authorisation of "supplementary private transport".
In the autumn of 2011, the Spanish Government announced a legislative proposal to remove the obstacle. However, the proposal was not adopted due to general elections in Spain and the whole decision-making procedure has now been started again. In these circumstances, the Commission has decided to refer the matter to the Court, while continuing to discuss the issue with the Spanish authorities to seek an end to the infringement.
The free movement of goods is one of the fundamental principles of the Single Market. European Union law (Articles 34-36 of the TFEU) requires Member States to abstain from imposing restrictions on imports into or exports from other Member States unless there are legitimate public policy reasons for doing so (such as public health and safety). Even where such reasons exist, any restriction must be necessary and proportionate to the objective pursued.