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Co-ordination of the transposition of European legislation into Belgian legislation, including the informal European tools: EU Pilot and the Belgian SOLVIT centre.
Following approval, a directive must be transposed into national legislation by each EU Member State within the period of time provided for. Where a directive is not transposed in a correct or timely manner or where EU law is improperly or incompletely applied, the European Commission may begin infringement proceedings against the defaulting Member State, which may lead to a conviction by the Court of Justice of the European Union. Where this involves the late transposition of a directive or the failure to abide by a judgement, considerable financial sanctions may follow! In Belgium, each governmental body is responsible for the transposition of the European guidelines and any infringement proceedings within its spheres of competence. At a political level, the responsibility for the general monitoring and co-ordination of the transposition processes and the infringement proceedings for the various governmental bodies lies with the Minister for European Affairs, and at an administrative level with the FPS Foreign Affairs (DGE/E3).
As the “guardian of the European treaties”, the European Commission is responsible for monitoring the transposition process for all directives in the Member States. Each delay in the transposition of a directive may lead to infringement proceedings, which may culminate in a ruling of heavy financial sanctions by the Court of Justice of the European Union. In the context of this audit, the European Commission publishes a semi-annual Single Market Scoreboard, in which the Member States are specifically ranked based on their transposition process. As regards the temporary transposition of directives, the European Commission will tolerate a maximum deficit of 1% (between the number of Single Market directives adopted at a European level and the number of Single Market directives transposed by the Member States). For guidelines with a transposition delay of two years or more, a zero-tolerance standard is applied.
After Belgium had approached a transposition deficit of 3% (2.8%) in 2015, the protracted efforts of all the actors working on transposition ensured that this country could chalk up a score of 0.8% in the December 2019 scoreboard. In doing so, Belgium was not only respecting the maximum deficit, but also had no further directives with a transposition delay of two years or more. The period without a government with full powers and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis have led to a poorer transposition deficit for Belgium once more, owing to shifting priorities. This is why Belgium needs to make every effort to reach a smaller transposition backlog.
An incorrect transposition or implementation of EU law in general can have several consequences: if the European Commission considers that EU law has either been transposed or is currently being executed incorrectly, the Member State concerned will be informally asked to correct this. This can be done through informal queries, as well as through the EU Pilot system, as it is known. EU Pilot is an informal and confidential online system of information exchange between the European Commission and the 27 Member States. It serves to determine the conformity of transposition and implementation of national legislation with EU law, based on either complaints and information requests by civilians and companies or on investigations initiated by the European Commission itself. If no solution or consensus is found using the EU Pilot system, infringement proceedings may be initiated by the European Commission. The importance of transposing directives in a timely manner and as accurately as possible, and the limitation of infringement proceedings, cannot be underestimated. Not only are financial sanctions at stake (in certain cases), but citizens' legal certainty is also threatened in the event of an excessive transposition backlog or other shortcomings. In recent years, the number of infringement proceedings has been relatively stable, despite the period without a government with full powers and the COVID-19 crisis.
Citizens and companies dealing with an incorrect application of EU law by a Member State can turn to SOLVIT. SOLVIT is a European mediation service founded by the European Commission (DG GROW) which, in an informal manner, solves complaints of European citizens and companies confronted with cross-border issues caused by a misapplication of European law by an authority in another Member State. SOLVIT's services are free to use. You can find the SOLVIT complaint form on the website of the European Commission.
The DGE adds value by putting the negotiator and transposer in touch with each other at an early stage. During the co-ordination meetings within the DGE, the feasibility of the transposition deadline must also be discussed and awareness must be raised among the various transposition actors.
Transposition of European directives
- The Single Market Scoreboard
- EUR-Lex - European Union directives
- European Commission - Decision-making process
- European Commission - Infringements
- European Commission - Financial sanctions
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