EU legal procedures
The Infringement Procedure
Each Member State has to implement EU Law - primar (EU Treaties) as secondar (EU Directives, Regulations, Decisions...). When a Member State failed to apply a EU legislation or applies it inadequatly, EU Commission, on its own initiative or on the ask of another Member State can decide to open an infringement procedure against this State.
The infringement procedure is set up by Article 258 of the TFEU. It can concern one Member State or several.
The infringement procedure has three steps:
- First Step: EU Commission send a Letter of Formal Notice to the Member States who have failed to fill out their obligations. Member States have two months (sometimes three months) to answer and convince EU Commission that they will be very soon in compliance.
- Second Step: if EU Commission estimates that the Member States are still not in compliance, it can send to them a Reasonned Opinion. Then Member States have two months to submit to EU Commission the measures they have taken to be in compliance.
- Third Step: If after the two previsous steps, the Member States are still not in compliance, EU Commission can refer the case to the EU Court of Justice which may condemn the Member State for infringement.
Charges can be dropped by EU Commission at each step of the infringement procedure.
The references for preliminary rulings
In this procedure, the EU Court of Justice cannot condemn a State or a Personn, but only give a binding opinion. This is a procedure between national judges and EU judges.
Any national judge of a court of last resort to which a case in which the application of a rule of European law raises questions has been submitted can decide to refer to the Court of Justice to resolve these questions.
Two kind of reference for a preliminary ruling can be done:
- a reference for a ruling on the interpretation of the European law: the national judge asks how to interprete a piece of European law to apply it correctly to the case he has to judge
- a reference for a preliminary ruling on the validity of the European legislation: the national judge requests the Court of Justice to check if a European legislation, involved in the case he has to judge, is valid or not regarding the EU treaties.
The action for annulment
Any EU citizen who has a serious and personnal interest to take action, any Member State or any EU institutions can ask to EU Courts annulment of a piece of EU legislation (Directive, Decision or Regulation) if they estimate that this one is not in line with EU Treaties.
If the action is well-founded, the EU Courts may annul the act in its entirety or certain provisions only. The result is that the concern act or provisions will no longer have legal effect.
Proceedings for failure to act
This is the less used EU Procedure.
Any EU citizen who has a serious and personnal interest to take action, any Member State or any EU institutions can ask to EU Courts to condemn an EU Institution for not having act as it had to.
To be accepted, the plaintiff should first proove that
- The concerned EU Institution was forced to act according to EU legislation
- The plaintiff have asked to the EU Institution to act
- The inaction of the concerned EU Institution harmed the plaintiff
If the action is well-founded, the EU Courts can only recognized the failure to act and asked within a reasonned opinion to this EU Institution to act.