12/2018 – 12/2019
|Download print version (PDF)|
Member States are required to comply with EU rules. Governments have agreed to remove obstacles and to create opportunities in the Single Market for their companies and for foreign investors.
The EU treaties empower the Commission to take legal action, by initiating an infringement procedure, against any EU Member State that fails to implement EU law. The Commission may refer the issue to the Court of Justice, which can impose financial penalties in certain cases.
Monitoring infringements helps to make the Single Market work better. It highlights what Member States are doing to ensure that Single Market law is implemented properly and encourages them to improve their performance.
Find out more about Single Market infringements proceedings
Infringement and the Single Market – why does it matter?
In November 2018, Elżbieta Bieńkowska,
Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said:
The Single Market means freedom, opportunity and prosperity. But for people, services, products and capital to circulate freely –
physically or online – we need everybody in the EU to play by the commonly agreed rules. We need effective and consistent
enforcement. And just as we are resisting protectionism outside the EU, we should resist fragmentation inside the EU.
We need to continuously uphold our Single Market to preserve our best asset for future generations.
The March 2020 Long-Term Action Plan for better Implementation and Enforcement of Single Market rules addresses Member States’ concerns about this issue. Its second pillar is dedicated to a stronger cooperation between Member States and the Commission to ensure that Single Market directives are properly transposed and Single Market regulations applied. The aim is to prevent infringements of Single Market rules and find swift solutions where needed. It places particular emphasis on improving and expediting the handling of infringement cases, providing enforcement authorities with adequate powers, and improving monitoring of and reporting on the state of implementation of Single Market rules.
- The number of Single Market-related infringements has risen (800 pending cases), reaching the same level as in November 2014. With 57 cases (double the EU average), Spain has most pending cases. Belgium continued to make impressive progress, cutting its infringement cases from 109 cases in November 2010 to 28 in December 2019.
- The sectors with most Single Market-related infringement cases are environment (28 %), transport (17 %) and taxation (10 %).
A Member State’s overall performance across all indicators relating to infringements is calculated by scoring each of the 4 indicators in the “Performance per indicators” chart as follows:
- Red = -1
- Yellow = 0
- Green = +1
The colours on the map represent the sum of these scores:
- Green : 2 or higher = above average
- Yellow : -1, 0 or 1 = average
- Red : -2 or lower = below average
- Only Czechia has improved on its December 2018 performance while performance has worsened in 6 Member States (Ireland, France, Austria, Portugal, Slovakia and Finland). The remaining 21 Member States have matched their previous performance.
- Among the Member States whose performance stayed at the same level as in December 2018, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland and the UK remained in the red zone.
- Of the Member States given a “red card” in December 2018, only Czechia has succeeded in tackling the issue, and is now around the EU average. Ireland, France, Austria, Portugal and Slovakia are now below the EU average, as are another 8 Member States that were already in the red zone a year ago. Finland has left the green zone, but remains close to the EU average.
- The rise in the number of red cards from 8 in December 2018 to 15 today reflects a worsening situation. This negative trend is partly due to the growing number of infringement cases brought for non-conformity of national transposition measures notified to the Commission. The Member States concerned need to take vigorous measures to tackle such infringements.
| Number of pending infringement proceedings &  Duration of infringement proceedings (in months)||< average||average ± 10 %||> average|
| Change over the last 12 months (change in the number of infringement cases)||decrease||no change||increase|
| Duration since Court’s ruling (in months)||< 8 months||8-18 months||> 18 months|
- Total number of cases: 800 (up from 692 in December 2018)
- Average cases per Member State: 29 (up from 25)
- Member States where the number of cases has risen: 24 (up from 17)
- Member States where the number of cases has fallen: 2 (down from 10)
- Member States with no change: 2 (up from 1)
- The number of pending infringements has risen for the second consecutive year, returning to its November 2014 level. The total number of cases peaked at 800, 108 more than in the previous Scoreboard (+15.6 %). 173 cases (of the 692 cases pending 12 months ago) have since been resolved. Particular progress has been made in transport (47 cases closed), environment (32 cases), taxation (27 cases) and energy (17 cases).
- Besides the resolution of 173 cases, the last year has seen the launch of 281 new cases (not including those for late transposition), which were still pending on 1 December 2019. Of these, 77 concerned the environment (27 %), 39 services (14 %), 30 free movement of professionals (11 %) and 30 transport (11 %).
- 54 of the new cases involved incorrect transposition of the relevant directives (55 %), while 62 had to do with incorrect application (22 %). The remaining 65 (23 %) involved applying regulations, decisions and the Treaties incorrectly. The proportion of cases relating to non-conformity of the transposition measures is increasing steadily. One reason for this is the new policy on using the EU Pilot tool set out in the December 2016 Communication on EU Law: Better Results through Better Application (see “Changes in numbers of infringement cases” in the Trends section for more information).
- The 3 Member States with most pending infringement cases are the same as a year ago: Spain, with 57 cases (double the EU average), followed by Italy (49) and Germany (47). The 5 Member States with most infringements account for 30 % of all cases.
- Belgium, which cut its cases from 31 to 28, achieved the best performance. It now has fewer cases than the EU average. Czechia also cut its cases, from 31 to 29. Unfortunately, some Member States recorded far more spectacular increases in infringements. The biggest increases were in Romania (+12 cases), Greece (+11), Poland (+9), Bulgaria, Croatia and Austria (+8).
- The number of infringements is increasing in most Member States (24 out of 28).
- The Member State that has cut most cases – in absolute numbers – since the December 2018 Scoreboard is Belgium (-3), followed by Czechia (-2). The biggest increases were in Greece (+11) and Romania (+12). While the number of infringement cases continues to rise at EU level, Belgium sustained impressive progress, cutting the number of its infringement cases from 109 in November 2010 to 28 in December 2019.
- The highest percentage increases were in Finland and Romania (+50 %), Croatia (+44 %) and Bulgaria (+38 %). Clearly, these changes should be viewed in relation to the total number of cases in each Member State (Indicator ).
- Further decrease in average case duration: now 34.8 months, down from 38.1 in December 2018.
- After a 51 % increase between December 2014 and June 2018, average case duration is now 34.8 months, down from 38.1 months in December 2018. Things are moving in the right direction.
- The average case duration has fallen in 18 Member States, compared with 17 in December 2018. The most impressive reductions are in Greece (-14.6 months), Bulgaria (-14) and Sweden (-13.8). All 3 Member States managed to solve cases that had been open for a long time (6 years for 1 Greek case, 7 years for 1 Bulgarian case, 7 and 11 years for 2 Swedish cases) while adding new recent cases (16, 13 and 10 respectively) to those pending.
- In 9 Member States (down from 11 a year ago), the average duration of cases is longer than 1 year ago. On average, duration has increased by 2.6 months since December 2018 but increases are higher in Czechia (+3.8 months), Luxembourg (+5.1) and the UK (+7.1). Although the goal is always to keep infringement proceedings as short as possible, an increase in duration is not necessarily negative. Generally, this happens when Member States resolve a number of quite recent cases. At the same time, as the remaining cases get older, they weigh more heavily on the calculation of the average duration.
- The December 2016 Communication on EU Law: Better Results through Better Application underlined the importance of close cooperation between the Commission and the Member States in enforcing EU law. This includes limiting any distortion of Single Market rules as much as possible. As the table above shows, cases involving Single Market law take just under 3 years to resolve on average. An average maximum of 36 months (to either close a case or send it to the Court) seems a reasonable initial target for all Member States to meet, as most are already below this threshold. On that issue, the March 2020 Long Term-Action Plan for better Implementation and Enforcement of Single Market rules proposes setting ambitious new indicators.
- The average time lag has increased by 50 % in 5 years.
- The average time Member States take to comply with a Court of Justice ruling continues to increase (to 29.5 months, from 28.2 months a year ago and 19.7 months 5 years ago). For 7 Member States (up from 6 in December 2018), it is now over 3 years. The Communication on EU Law: Better Results through Better Application notes that infringements must be dealt with promptly. An average maximum duration of 18 months for the Member States to comply with a Court judgement could be proposed as a first incentive threshold.
- 7 Member States (Belgium, Czechia, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Cyprus and the UK) cut their average compliance time: compared with 3 in December 2018. The most impressive reduction was in the UK (-13.5 months).
- 13 Member States had longer average compliance times than a year ago. The one with the biggest increase is Sweden (+30 months), followed by Slovakia (+23.1) and Luxembourg (+19.5). This statistic is based on cases closed in the last 5 years. Taking a case closed over 5 years ago out of the statistics, or adding a recently closed one, can have a major impact on the results, especially for Member States with only a few cases. Consider the significant increase in the Swedish time lag: 1 case in the water protection sector, which took almost 10 years to solve, was closed within the last year and is now part of the calculation.
- The time taken to comply with the Court’s rulings is not necessarily linked to their number. Spain (11 rulings) and Italy (4 rulings) are lagging by a similar amount (around 20 months). Sweden, Slovakia and Denmark all have 3 rulings but very different compliance times (57.5, 31.4 and 15.8 months respectively).
EEA EFTA Countries
However, there is a time lag between when a legal act is adopted or repealed in the EU and when it is added to or removed from the EEA Agreement. The body of EU law applicable in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway may thus differ from that applicable in the EU. This should be borne in mind when comparing this Scoreboard and the EEA Scoreboard.
Total cases open 121 (up from 98 in December 2018), of which:
- incorrect transposition/application: 48 (see figure above) = 40 % of all open infringement cases (Iceland 16, Liechtenstein 4 and Norway 25)
- late transposition (directives): 20 (Iceland 13, Liechtenstein 4 and Norway 3) = 16 %
late implementation* (regulations):
53 (Iceland 42 and Norway 11)
= 44 %
* Under Article 7 of the EEA Agreement regulations incorporated into the Agreement “shall as such be made part of the internal legal order” of the EEA EFTA countries. In Liechtenstein, however, regulations are directly applicable and do not have to be implemented.
- 48 infringement cases have to do with incorrect transposition or application. This represents a decrease of 5 cases since the last report (-9 %), while total infringement cases have risen from 98 to 121 (+23 %).
- There is a marked increase in the number of cases concerning the late transposition of directives: 20 pending infringement cases, compared to 12 in December 2018 (+67 %).
- Cases dealing with the incorporation of regulations increased by 20, from 33 to 53 (+61 %).
- Problematic sectors: food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, transport, social security and services-other.
- The chart current report shows a new rise in the number of infringement proceedings (15.6 % within the last year; 20.5 % since December 2017).
- EU Pilot, the structured problem-solving dialogue between the Commission and Member States, roughly halved the number of cases between its launch in April 2008 and December 2016. In its Communication on EU Law: Better Results through Better Application, the Commission recognised the effectiveness of EU Pilot, but noted that dialogue with national authorities could continue for much longer than is reasonable. As EU Pilot was not intended to add a time-consuming step to the infringement process (in itself a tool for entering into a problem-solving dialogue with a Member State), the Commission decided to launch infringement procedures without systematically relying on EU Pilot’s problem-solving mechanism. Since January 2017, it has therefore been restricting use of EU Pilot to particular cases in which a pre-litigation dialogue is considered useful.
- In addition, in line with its commitment to be “bigger and more ambitious on big things and smaller and more modest on small things”, the Juncker Commission decided to focus its enforcement efforts on major breaches of EU law affecting the interests of citizens and business.
- The combination of the 2 factors mentioned above (reduced use of EU Pilot and more political checks on infringements) seems to have resulted in more infringements procedures. The March 2020 Long-Term Action Plan for better Implementation and Enforcement of Single Market rules therefore calls for a more systematical use of EU Pilot, with a clear timetable, and in cases where a rapid solution is likely to be found.
Fact and figures
Cases by sector
This table shows the total number of infringement cases for each Member State as of 1 December 2017, broken down by sector. Sectors with only few infringement proceedings are included in “Other sectors”. The highlighted figures show the sector(s) with the highest number of infringement cases in each Member State.
(#) Total number of infringement cases by sector.
Air transport (73)
Atmospheric pollution (52)
Chemical substances, industrial and
and biotechnological hazards (18)
Direct taxation (32)
Environmental impact (30)
Financial services (34)
Free movement of goods and
market surveillance (34)
Free movement of professionals
Indirect taxation (48)
Information society and media (22)
Nuclear safety and radioactive
Public procurement (44)
Road and rail transport (44)
Waste management (55)
Water protection and management
Other fields (94)
Sectors with the biggest number of infringement cases
- Environment: 27.6 % of all cases (especially atmospheric pollution, water protection and management and waste management)
- Transport: 16.5 % (especially air transport and road & rail transport)
- Taxation: 10.3 % (direct and indirect taxation)
- Energy 8.9 % (especially energy efficiency and nuclear safety & radioactive waste)
Problematic sectors by Member State
- Environment: Slovenia (53 % of all cases), Greece (43 %), Slovakia (37 %)
- Transport: Belgium (36 % of all cases), Luxembourg (27 %), Malta (25 %)
- Taxation: the UK (24 %), Germany (23 %)
Longest average duration (in months):
- Free movement of people and EU-Citizenship (down from 80.1 months to 79.6 – new in the ranking, owing to a slight increase in the number of cases)
- Employment, social affairs and inclusion (up from 49.7 to 50.6)
- Atmospheric pollution (up from 48.2 to 49.3)
- Direct taxation (up from 40.8 to 45)
- Water protection and management (down from 40.3 to 38.4)
- The comment under “Indicator  - Duration of infringement proceedings” above on the increase in case duration by Member State is also relevant to case duration by sector. When a substantial number of quite recent cases are resolved (or if no new cases are launched), the remaining older cases have more of an impact on the calculation of the average duration
- 58 % of cases involve late or incorrect transposition of directives (down from 59 % in December 2018)
- 82 % of cases involve directives (up from 81 %), while 18 % concern regulations, decisions and Treaty articles (down from 19 %).
- The number of pending infringement cases for late transposition (421) is much higher than the 161 cases in which a lack of complete transposition measures was notified to the Commission. This is because the Commission needs time to assess the completeness of the measures notified, and, if applicable, to close non-communication proceedings. For more on this see “Indicator  - Transposition deficit” in the “Transposition” governance tool.
- Good cooperation between Member States and the Commission, and the use of compliance promotion tools such as explanatory documents, implementation plans, workshops and sectoral dialogues can help reduce the time needed to assess national legislation implementing a directive. This in turn can reduce the number of pending cases.
Single Market legislation includes acts considered to have an impact on the functioning of the internal market, as defined in Articles 26 and 114(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). This includes the 4 freedoms (freedom of movement of persons, goods, services and capital across borders within the EU), and supporting policies with a direct impact on the Single Market, such as taxation, employment, culture, social policy, education, public health, energy, consumer protection, transport, environment (except nature protection), and the information society and media.
This document does not include cases of late transposition (known as “non-communication cases”) – except in the pie chart entitled “Types of cases”. This is to avoid such cases being counted twice, as they are already covered in the “Transposition” governance tool.
The Commission always initiates infringement proceedings if a Member State has not transposed an EU directive correctly or on time. It may also initiate proceedings if it considers that a Member State is applying Single Market rules incorrectly. Infringement proceedings start when the Commission sends a letter of formal notice to the Member State concerned. However, only the Court of Justice can rule definitively that a breach of EU law has occurred.
Here is more information on the infringement procedures.