Did EU know? is our series on the European Union, its institutions and processes, and their jargon. You may find the other articles here
If an EU Member State does not apply EU rules correctly or breaks them, this is called an infringement of EU law. The EU, and more specifically the Secretariat-General of the European Commission, can investigate those cases where EU rules have been broken. The official procedure is then called an “infringement procedure”. It is a tool to enforce EU law and can be seen as a “punishment” by the EU to make sure Member States follow the rules correctly.
Recent cases have for example been launched against Bulgaria, Germany, and Ireland for failing to correctly follow the EU’s Directive on Accessibility of Public Sector Bodies’ Websites and Mobile Applications related to the 112 emergency number. But infringement procedures can be launched in any policy area where the EU has competences to legislate. It can be started by the EU’s own investigation or by a complaint from the public. So anyone, including EDF members or individual citizens, can report a breach of EU law to the Secretariat-General and they will have to investigate whether an infringement procedure needs to be opened.
The procedure has several stages which are described on the website of the European Commission.. Starting with a formal letter, the case can be referred to the Court of Justice in more serious matters and also lead to financial penalties for the Member States.
All infringement procedures and decisions can be found in the database of the Secretariat-General of the European Commission, which is also available in all EU languages.
You can report a breach of EU law that may lead to an infringement procedure via the online complaint form or via mail – all the instructions as well as a model complaint form in all EU languages can be downloaded from the Commission website. To sum up:
- Infringement procedures are a tool to ensure that Member States apply EU law correctly
- You can make a complaint yourself in your own language
- The EU can impose fines and sanctions to “punish” Member States
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