Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Commisioner Barnier on Progress in the Internal Market: "Best Results Ever!"

Zhaneta Kuyumdzhieva, March 18, 2013

This year's Internal Market Scoreboard from February will probably remain the best piece of news in the first quarter of 2013. The scoreboard of the European Commission, which studies progress in the transposition of European directives in national legislation, reports the highest score for the past 15 years, meaning from its first publication in 1997. The scoreboard makes a quantity analysis of the member states' progress in four areas:

- Achieving the minimum level of non-transposed directives;
- Application of the so called "zero tolerance" towards directives the transposition of which has been delayed for more than two years:
- Reducing the transposition period for the EU rules;
- Enhancing the efforts for transposition of the European rules into national legislation.

The percentage of directives about the single market that have not been transposed in due time in national legislation (the average transposition deficit) has dropped from 6.3% in 1997 to the record low level of 0.6%. This result is under the minimum threshold of 1% agreed by the European heads of state and government in 2007 and is even close to the proposed deficit of 0.5% in the Single Market Act I from April 2011. The number of countries that have reached the target of 1% has increased from 16 (by September 2012) to 23.

In this issue of the Scoreboard, in terms of transposition Ireland is with the best result - complete transposition of the European directives. In the same "discipline" the best performer in 2008 was Bulgaria. One or two directives separate Estonia, Malta and Sweden from the zero deficit and with highest progress in this regard are Romania and Italy. Our northern neighbour has achieved a reduction of the non-transposed directives from 1.1% to 0.4% while the Mediterranean state has succeeded to reduce its deficit from 2.4% to 0.8% in six months.

The non-implementation of the national governments in terms of transposition of the EU rules, related to the single market, is less than 5% which means that the member states cannot take advantage of 73 directives. The most relative is the success in the areas transport, environment and financial services. There is visible progress in the last years in terms of reduction of the directives whose deadline for transposition has expired more than two years ago - from 22 in May 2009 to 2 in November 2011. And in the previous issue of the scoreboard of the internal market Belgium and Poland were among the five countries that cannot apply "zero tolerance" to long delayed EU rules.

In the past six months, Bulgaria, which together with Belgium delayed the directive for the inclusion of aviation activities in the trade scheme for gas emissions, has managed to transpose it and no longer has directives the transposition of which has been delayed for more than two years. The delays and the period necessary for the introduction of the EU rules into the national legislation are essential for the correct functioning of the single market. On average, the member states need 9.6 months additional time after the deadline has expired to transpose the directives.

In spite of the reduced transposition deficit, since May 2012 only eight countries have managed to reduce the delay in transposing the internal market rules. Those are Ireland (with zero delay), followed by Spain, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Romania, Denmark, Slovakia and The Netherlands. In that regard, negative trend scores Poland which has increased the transposition period after the deadline has expired from 10.7 months to 16.6 months and Belgium - with an extension of the transposition time of almost 5 months (to over 11.3 months).

The number of infringements is also gradually declining in terms of transposition of EU legislation. Since 2007, the ongoing infringement procedures are with 38% less. The Commission has opened the highest number of infringement procedures against Italy, Spain and Greece and those are mainly in the area of environment. Belgium, for its part, has reduced the infringement procedures by 50% for the past two years, but still meets significant difficulties with the directives related to taxation. The reasons for half of the infringements are incorrect transposition of the EU legislation (primary or secondary). Around a third are due to delays of transposition of directives and 15% are due to incorrect transposition. The average duration of the infringement procedures is between 10 and 26 months.

According to the data in the Scoreboard, the most prepared member states for the next scoreboard are Estonia and Latvia. In the next period of reporting, in order to achieve a 1% deficit the two countries will have to transpose accordingly 1 and 6 directives. To compare, this result will require from Belgium and Poland the transposition of 31 directives. Although it is highly unlikely such a reduction of the number of non-transposed EU directives in the area of the internal market to happen without drastic measures, the results which Romania, Cyprus and Italy show are an evidence that a significant progress is possible, moreover for a short period of time.