Member State not obedient to EU law? – a few words about financial sanctions

Anita Weprzędz


The possibility of imposing financial sanctions on a Member States was introduced in a Maastricht Treaty in Article 228. Each Member State may be brought before the Court of Justice in the case of act against EU law. Through years Commission adopted three communications on the application of Article 228 – in 1996, 1997 and in 2005. Actually about finacial sanctions on Member States that has failed to comply with a judgment which stated an infringement says an Article 260 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Lisbon Treaty amended Article 228). Those changes have one goal – strengthening mechanism introduced in Maastricht.

Little amendment

Procedure of Article 260(2) was changed by Lisbon Treaty which removes stage of issuing a reasoned opinion. Now, if Commission considers that a Member State has not complied properly with the jugdment of the Court of Justice of the European Union there is only one step. Commission have to send a formal letter notice, in which a Member State is requested to submit some comments. After that if Commission is not satisfied with answer or if Commission has not received any answer, it can refer the matter directly to the Court of Justice of the European Union. The main purpose of this intervention into European Union law was to speed up procedures.

Guardian of the Treaties and „substantial innovation”

In Article 260(3) completely new instrument was established – suggestion which Commission could give to the Court of Justice of the European Union about imposing a lump sum (it is a single payment of money, as opposed to a series of payments made over time) or penalty payment. The main goal of this change is to give stronger incentive to Member States to transpose directives. Implementation of directives according to the deadlines gives certitude that the European Union legislation is effective and it also gives a credibility of Union law. So the crucial point is that timely transposition of directives is not only about general interests but also and mainly about protecting European citizens. Like we could read in Commission’s Communication from 2011, the Commission considers that three fundamental criteria should always be taken into account when it comes to imposing financial sanctions:

the seriousness of the infringement,

its duration,

the need to ensure that the sanction itself is a deterrent to further infringements.” Also penalty must be predictable and proportional what means that it must be severe at the same level for each Member State. We could not forget about effectiveness – penalty should be decided in the amount in which it ensure the deterrent effect of the sanction. Using of that measure is motivated ‘when it deems appropriate’ .

Dead law?

After whole theoretical analysis I focused on practical aspect of those financial sanctions. And how much surprised I was when I found only eight cases which refer to Article 260(3). All those case were removed. Interesting issue is that six from eight was connected with approximation of laws and also the same amount was removed at 18th of July 2013. So actually provisions of Article 260 of the Treaty on Functioning of the European Union are not used but obvious thing is that this is good law created with respect of rules of European Union law. 


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