Infringement Proceedings

The College of Commissioners met yesterday in Brussels to discuss what new infringement proceedings to start against Member States (MS) who for one reason or another have failed to comply with Community Law or failed to implement/transpose certain parts of EC law. This kind of meeting falls within the ambit of the Commission’s role as guardian of the treaties – in this case it is monitoring the MS in order to ensure that they fulfill their obligations as outlined in the Treaty.

This work is fundamental to the working of the EU system as a whole since it helps ensure that the corpus of EU law (including packages of rights and obligations that affect citizens, consumers, vendors, states, state entities) is uniformly and universally applicable within the EU. When the Commission begins infringement proceedings against a State this is usually because the Commission strongly believes that such State is not fulfilling its obligations in a particular field.

The College yesterday decided to initiate 550 infringement proceedings against 27 member states. On average this should yield around 20 cases per member state. Malta has got seven proceedings initiated against it. A number that is positively surprising. The issues vary from Air Pollution to not getting up to date with adapting various laws to reflect the accession of Bulgaria and Romania. The number is low and what is more, at first glance, one could say that most of the issues are “non-controversial” in that Malta’s default lies in a bureaucratic failure to implement in time rather than a fundamental or principled disagreement with the content of the law that should have been applied.

One infringement stands out for interesting analysis. The Commission has berated Malta (and several other Member States) for continuing to reserve the profession of the Notary to nationals and not allowing nationals of other member states to take up such profession. Without wanting to enter too deeply in the merits of the issue (particularly since our cabinet at the ECJ might be involved in one of these cases later on) I think it is safe to say that there will be an interesting discussion on the nature of the profession – such as it is seen in countries like Malta and Italy and the “public servant” facet of the Notary that might allow such states to argue in favour of a public interest exception.

Pleasures yet to come as a certain professor at University was wont to repeat ad nauseam!

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