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Justice and Home Affairs: ECJ Annuls Directive on Refugee Status
Contact Philip Bentley
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has annulled a directive on the status of refugees on the basis that the EU Council of Ministers adopted the Directive under the incorrect legislative procedure. The Council adopted the Directive to enable it to adopt and amend a list of countries deemed to be safe countries of origin for EU Member States handling applications from refugees. This safe list could be adopted or amended by a directive by the Council after consulting the European Parliament. However, the European Parliament challenged this provision as it considered that it had a right to decide jointly on such matters with the Council and not merely to be consulted. The ECJ agreed, finding that the Directive ought to have been adopted by co-decision between the European Parliament and Council.
Internal Market: Commission Targets Belgium on Health Insurance
The European Commission has asked Belgium to amend its national rules to ensure that EU insurance directives are applied to private sickness funds when they offer complementary health insurance cover outside the scope of the mandatory social security requirements. The Commission’s view is that the EU First and Third Non-Life Insurance Directives are applicable to Belgian private sickness funds and that, by excluding these funds, Belgium has not implemented the Directives properly. The concern is that this distorts the market and results in differing levels of policyholder protection. Failure to provide an adequate response within two months would enable the Commission to refer the matter to the European Court of Justice.
Telecommunications: Final Warning to Belgium Regarding Broadcasting “Must-Carry” Rules
The European Commission has sent a reasoned opinion to Belgium regarding its “must-carry” rules imposed on broadcasters. "Must-carry” rules require network operators, such as cable companies or telecommunications operators, to carry specified radio and television broadcast channels and services where a significant number of consumers use them as their principal means of receiving broadcasts. Under the EU Universal Service Directive, Member States may set clear and transparent “must-carry” rules for legitimate public policy reasons. In the view of the Commission, the procedures in Belgium for designating “must-carry” channels lack transparency and clarity. At present, network operators and broadcasters are uncertain about their obligations and rights under this regime. The Commission may refer Belgium to the European Court of Justice if Belgium’s provisions are not properly amended.
Environment: Commission Warns Spain and Portugal over Environmental Protection
The European Commission is sending formal letters to Spain and Portugal for failing to take sufficient measures to protect the environment. Portugal is being warned over its failure to carry out proper environmental impact assessments for tourist developments in designated Sites of Community Importance (SCIs). The Habitats Directive requires Member States to designate SCIs for the conservation of natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna. Spain is being warned over its failure to comply with a European Court of Justice ruling which found that the country had not classified an adequate number of Special Protected Areas (SPAs) for birds. The Birds Directive requires Member States to designate and maintain SPAs for certain wild birds. The SCIs and SPAs together form the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, described by the Commissioner for the Environment as "critical if the EU is to meet its target of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010".
Taxation: Commission Challenges Taxation of Dividends in Four Member States
The European Commission has sent reasoned opinions to Spain and Portugal concerning their taxation of dividends paid to foreign pension funds. Spain and Portugal are taxing dividends paid to foreign pension funds higher than the dividends paid to domestic pension funds. Formal notices were also sent to Bulgaria and Romania for levying a higher withholding tax on dividends paid to foreign shareholders compared to those paid to domestic shareholders. According to the Commission, the higher taxation of dividends paid to foreign pension funds or shareholders may result in a restriction of the free movement of capital. As the Commission is unaware of any justification for these taxation measures, these four Member States have been asked to reply within two months.
Telecommunications: Public Consultation on EU Roaming Regulation
The European Commission is inviting mobile operators, businesses, consumer associations and any other interested stakeholders to review the functioning and effectiveness of the EU Roaming Regulation. This Regulation, which entered into force on 30 June 2007: (i) requires operators to offer customers a "Eurotariff" for voice calls when roaming in other Member States; and (ii) introduced ceilings (excluding VAT) of EUR 0.49 per minute for making calls and EUR 0.24 per minute for receiving calls. The consultation will close on 2 July 2008.
Internal Market: Commission Takes Steps Against Spain Regarding Excise Duty on Mineral Oils
The European Commission has formally notified Spain that the excise duty in the form of a tax on motor fuels sold at petrol stations (the IVMDH) does not comply with Community Law. Excise duties on mineral oils are harmonised at EU level but Member States are allowed to impose additional indirect taxes for specific purposes and under certain defined conditions, as set out in Directive 92/12/EEC. However, the Commission has taken the view that Spain’s IVMDH does not fully comply with the requirements set out in Directive 92/12/EEC. The Commission may refer Spain to the European Court of Justice if it does not bring its national legislation in line with Community Law.
Environment: Commission Takes Action Against Italy Regarding Waste Crisis
The European Commission is continuing two actions against Italy for its failure to adequately deal with its much publicised waste problems. The Commission had previously opened infringement proceedings against Italy in June 2007 in relation to the Campania waste management crisis, for violation of the European Union’s Waste Framework Directive. The Commission subsequently sent a final warning to Italy in February 2008. The Commission is still not satisfied that Italy has an acceptable waste management plan in place for the region, nor that any such plan is scheduled for implementation in the foreseeable future, and thus has decided to take Italy to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for failure to comply with the Directive. Furthermore, the Commission is sending Italy its first warning letter for failure to adopt a waste management plan, following Italy’s non-compliance with a recent ECJ judgment. This could lead to fines being imposed upon Italy.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 12 May – Friday 16 May 2008
Eurogroup (13 May 2008)
Economic and Financial Affairs Council (14 May 2008)
COURT OF JUSTICE
Joined Cases C-147/06, C-148/06 SECAP
Environment and consumers
C-503/06 Commission v Italy
C-442/04 Spain v Council
Freedom of establishment
C-414/06 Lidl Belgium
Freedom of movement for persons
C-341/07 Commission v Sweden
C-510/06 P Archer Daniels Midland v Commission
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
No judgments scheduled for next week.