Saturday, 25 April 2009

EU: Application of Community Law

Yesterday the European Parliament fired a broadside against the Commission’s handling of its responsibilities and its failures to remedy the problems the EP had remarked upon earlier.

The application of Community law is a cornerstone of the European Union. As “guardian of the Treaties”, the Commission has a duty to monitor the correct implementation of Community legislation, which is crucial for EU citizens and businesses engaged in cross-border activities.

Yesterday’s resolution is an example that seemingly dull reports can be both “hot stuff” and important for citizens and businesses.


European Parliament

On Friday, the European Parliament voted on a resolution based on a report by the Committee on Legal Affairs (rapporteur Monica Frassoni) with regard to the application of Community Law. The resolution was adopted by 297 votes, against 13, with 7 abstentions.

At this stage, you can find the adopted resolution in the compilation of texts adopted Friday 24 April 2009 (from page 311).

The exact references are:


25th annual report from the Commission on monitoring the application of Community law (2007)

European Parliament resolution of 24 April 2009 on the 25th annual report from the Commission on monitoring the application of Community law (2007) (2008/2337(INI))


Parliamentary scrutiny

The main document under scrutiny was the 25th annual report from the Commission on monitoring the application of Community law (2007) (COM(2008)0777).

The accompanying Commission staff working documents (SEC(2008)2854 and SEC(2008)2855), as well as the Commission Communication of 5 September 2007 entitled “A Europe of results – applying Community law” (COM(2007)0502), and the Commission Communication of 20 March 2002 on relations with the complainant in respect of infringements of Community law (COM(2002)0141), formed the basis for the EP’s own initiative report.

The resolution is critical of the Commission’s activities as the “guardian of the Treaties”.

The European Parliament regrets that, unlike in the past, the Commission has not responded in any way to the issues raised by Parliament in its previous resolutions, in particular its resolution of 21 February 2008; notes the lack of significant improvement with regard to the three fundamental issues of transparency, resources and the length of procedures.

The rest of the resolution lists specific criticisms of the Commission’s handling of one of its core tasks.


Citizenship Directive

I would like to pick out one detail, of concrete interest to EU citizens and their families, the resolution text concerning the so called Citizenship Directive 2004/38/EC (point 15), where the criticism is aimed more at the member states than at the Commission:

Notes that the Commission has declared that a fundamental directive such as Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States has for all practical purposes not been properly transposed in any Member State; notes that the Commission has received more than 1 800 individual complaints in relation to that directive, registering 115 of them as complaints and opening five cases of infringement on the grounds of failure to apply the directive properly, recognises that the Commission has worked with Parliament to useful effect and in a spirit of openness where Directive 2004/38/EC is concerned; endorses the Commission’s proposed approach, whereby the directive is to be kept under continuous and exhaustive review, support, in the form of guidelines to be published in the first half of 2009, is to be provided to help Member States apply the directive fully and properly, and infringement proceedings are to be instituted against Member States whose legislation does not conform to the directive; expresses grave concern, however, as to the Commission’s ability to perform its role as “guardian of the Treaty” and the opportunity afforded to Parliament to check the complaint registration policy implemented by the various Commission departments;


The resolution is instructive reading for everyone interested in the rights of EU citizens and businesses, and together with the Commission documents it offers a number of avenues for reasearch.

Even if an own initiative report is not legally binding, it would be surprising if the Commission does not spring into action after the broadside delivered by the European Parliament.

Ralf Grahn