The Effectiveness of the Enforcement Procedure in the European Community

University essay from Lunds universitet/Juridiska institutionen

Abstract: The Community relies upon the Member States to execute their obligations. When they fail to do this, there must be a system of enforcement. The topic of this master thesis deals with the main Community enforcement procedure found in Art 226-228 EC, evaluating its state of effectiveness and its development&semic making suggestions of possible improvements. The Treaty of Maastricht introduced an amendment in 1992 to the procedure that made it possible to resort to financial sanctions when Member States fail to fulfil their obligations. Even though the number of cases where the sanctions have been put to use is relatively small, an increase in the procedure's effectiveness can be seen. Nevertheless, there are still some problematic aspects left to deal with, for example, how the financial sanctions are used. In order to take advantage of the full effect of Art 228 and enhance the efficiency of the enforcement procedure to the uttermost, as well as to combat late compliance by Member States, it is crucial that the lump sum payment is applied systematically in every case when a Member State continues an infringement past the deadline laid down in the reasoned opinion. However, when it comes to infringements where the Member State is knowingly committing a breach in order to protect a national interest, it is doubtful whether the financial sanctions would have much impact. This is especially true since there is no collection mechanism - another problematic issue. Furthermore, in order to combat the strain caused by the enlargement of the Union, the effectiveness of the main Community enforcement procedure should be done through increasing the openness of the different stages of the procedure since an increase in publicity would lead to quicker compliance through the 'shame-factor'. Additionally, it is crucial that the length of the infringement procedure is shortened by keeping tighter deadlines&semic removing the Advocate General's opinion in simpler cases&semic and even by scrapping the first informal letter that is not mentioned in the Treaty. The Lisbon Treaty includes some welcomed changes to the further enhancement of the effectiveness of the enforcement procedure, even though limited in its practical use. By including the ability to impose a financial sanction under the first infringement procedure and by scrapping the reasoned opinion in the second infringement procedure, it will enhance the deterrent effect and cut the length of the procedures. The limitations of the changes introduced in the Lisbon Treaty are, however, a sign of the Member States' desire not to make the effectiveness too effective. If the protection of important national interests is threatened it could, in a worst-case scenario, lead to Member States leaving the Community. Therefore there is a limit to just how effective the main Community enforcement procedure should become.

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