Coordination of the transposition of European legislation into Belgian legislation, including the informal European tools: EU Pilot and the Belgian SOLVIT centre.
Once EU directives are adopted, all EU Member States must transpose them into their national legislation within the foreseen timeframe. If a directive is not transposed in time or in the correct way or in case of an incorrect or incomplete application of the EU legislation, the European Commission can initiate infringement proceedings against the failing Member State, which may result in a conviction by the Court of Justice of the European Union. In the case of undue delays in the transposition of a directive or failure to comply with a judgement, serious financial sanctions can be imposed. In Belgium, each governmental body is responsible for the transposition of European directives and for possible infringement proceedings within its spheres of competence. At political level, the general follow-up and coordination of the transposition process and the infringement proceedings of the different governmental bodies is the responsibility of the Minister of European Affairs. At administrative level, it is the responsibility of the FPS Foreign Affairs (DGE/E3).
Objectives for Belgium
As the “guardian of European treaties”, the European Commission is responsible for the follow-up of the transposition process of all directives in the Member States. Each delay in the transposition of a directive can initiate infringement proceedings against the Member State, which may culminate in a conviction to severe financial penalties 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 ranked on the basis of their transposition results. For the timely transposition of directives, the European Commission tolerates a maximum deficit of 1% (between the number of “internal market” directives adopted at European level and the number of “internal market” directives transposed by the Member States). For directives with a transposition delay of 2 years or more, a zero tolerance norm is applied.
After having approached the 3% transposition deficit in 2015 (2.8%), Belgium was able to return, thanks to the continuous efforts of all actors who work on transposition, to an estimated score of 0.8% on the December 2019 Scoreboard. In doing so, Belgium was not only able to comply with the maximum deficit rule, but also to avoid transposition delays of two years or more. In spite of a marked improvement, the transposition work must continue in order to keep the deficit under the score of 1%, as accepted by the European Commission.
An incorrect transposition or implementation of EU law in general can have various consequences: if the European Commission considers that EU law has either been incorrectly transposed or is currently being implemented incorrectly, the Member State will be informally asked to rectify this. This can be done through informal questions, but also via the EU Pilot system. EU Pilot is an informal and confidential online information exchange system between the European Commission and the 27 Member States. It was designed to determine the conformity of transposition and implementation of national legislation and EU law, based on both 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 can be initiated by the European Commission.
Neither the importance of a timely transposition carried out as accurately as possible, nor the restriction of infringement proceedings should be underestimated. In the case of excessive transposition deficits or other problems, not only financial sanctions are (in certain cases) a potential risk, but also the legal certainty of the citizen is at stake. Thanks to the efficiency of the EU Pilot system and the joint efforts of the administrations involved, the number of infringement proceedings has decreased from more than 80 at the end of 2016 to less than 60 at the beginning of 2020.
Citizens and companies confronted with a misapplication of EU law by a Member State can contact SOLVIT. SOLVIT is a European mediation service created 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 wrongful implementation of European legislation by an authority in another Member State. There are SOLVIT centres in each European Member State as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. SOLVIT services are provided for free. More information on SOLVIT can be found on the website of the European Commission. SOLVIT aims to achieve a rapid, practical solution within 70 days, together with the authority of the Member State where the problem occurs.
The DGE adds value by bringing negotiators and transposers into contact with each other at an early stage. During the DGE coordination meetings, the feasibility of the transposition deadline must be discussed and awareness must be raised among the different transposition actors.
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