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International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Friday, 10.04.2020, 06:31

Infringement procedures: referring EU states to the Court of Justice

Eugene Eteris, BC International Editor, Copenhagen, 17.02.2020.Print version
The European Commission usually sends initially a letter of formal notice to a member state violating the EU legislation, which is followed by a reasoned opinion and finally bringing “the case” to the Court of Justice. This time it was, for example, Portugal for taxation issues and Italy concerning access to genetic resources from non-EU countries.


According to the EU legislation, no EU member state can impose internal taxation of any kind – whether directly or indirectly – on the products of other member states in excess of that imposed directly or indirectly on similar domestic products.

The Portuguese legislation in question does not fully take into account the depreciation of cars imported from other EU states and is, therefore, not compatible with TFEU, art. 110. The European Court of Justice already concluded on 16 June 2016 (Judgment C-200/15) that a previous version of this Portuguese tax was contrary to the EU law.

Since Portugal has not yet complied, the Commission is now bringing the matter before the Court of Justice of the European Union, CoJ.

Reference to:

On 12.02.2020, the Commission decided to refer Portugal to CoJ for taxing used cars that are imported from other EU states more heavily than used cars purchased on the Portuguese market.

The decision to refer the matter to the CoJ follows Portugal's failure to bring its legislation into line with the EU law following the Commission's reasoned opinion.


Note: Every year, the European Commission draws up an annual report on its monitoring of the application of EU law in response to requests from the European Parliament and the EU countries.



The European Commission is referring Italy to the Court of Justice of the EU (CoJ) because its system of access to genetic resources from non-EU countries is considered to be dysfunctional. These dysfunctionalities damage the ability of companies established in Italy to tap the benefits of such access for research, production and trade. Genetic resources are valuable genetic material of plant, animal, or microbial origin, such as medicinal plants, agricultural crops and animal breeds. The Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) requirements represent the guarantee that once a country facilitates access to its genetic resources and traditional knowledge (for example in relation to some active ingredient in a specific plant) it will have a share in the final product (new medicines etc.) developed on that basis.

Following a letter of formal notice sent by the Commission in January 2018 and a reasoned opinion in January 2019, Italy notified in July 2019 the designation of the national competent authorities. However, to date, Italy has not notified any legislation establishing the sanctions applicable for the violation of the rules.
The Commission has therefore decided on 12.02.2020, to refer Italy to the CoJ.



Regulation (EU) 511/2014 (entered into force on 11 June 2014) is the EU’s implementation of the measures on compliance for users from the Nagoya Protocol on “Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation in the Union”. Following entry into force of the Nagoya Protocol, the Regulation entered into application on 12 October 2014.

On the EU Regulation in:

In accordance with Article 6(1) of the Regulation, each EU state is obliged to designate one or more competent authorities responsible for the application of the Regulation, and to notify the Commission of the names and addresses of those competent authorities as of the date of entry into force of the Regulation. However, the Italian authorities have not done that.

Pursuant to Article 11 of the Regulation, the EU states are to lay down the rules on penalties applicable to infringements of Articles 4 and 7. Those rules, in line with Article 11(3) of the Regulation, were due to be notified to the Commission by 11 June 2015.


For more information in the following links: 

= On the key decisions in the February 2020 infringements package, see full INF/20/202

= On the general infringements procedure, see MEMO/12/12

= On the EU infringements procedure.

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