'Could do better'
For a grouping founded on the principles of peace and harmony, it’s surprising just how much conflict there is between the various constituent parts of the EU.
Of course, some conflicts are higher profile than others – witness the fracas over the Stability Pact. But there is other evidence of member states not toeing the line. The Commission talks of an ‘implementation deficit’ to describe the lack of progress towards putting community legislation into national law.
“It is disappointing that some member states appear to consider that it is acceptable to regularly implement directives late and to incorrectly apply commonly agreed rules,” says internal market commissioner Frits Bolkestein.
“This is unfair to those member states that do get laws on to their statute books on time and then apply them properly. It gives rise to a real opportunity cost and so harms the competitiveness of the EU economy.
Carrying on the ‘could do better’ theme, Bolkestein adds: “It is time ministers took personal responsibility for their member state’s performance. Ireland’s halving of its implementation deficit in only eight months shows what can be done when there is political will and commitment.” Bolkestein is worried the problem will get worse with enlargement.
The commission says that 131 directives (around 8.5% of Internal Market Directives) have still not been implemented into national law in every member state – even though the deadlines agreed by the member states themselves have passed.
It says that Denmark, Spain, Finland and the UK have a “generally good record” of implementing directives on time. Indeed, they have hit the target of keeping their “implementation deficit” under 1.5%.
But France, Germany, Luxembourg, Greece and Italy, have persistently had a deficit of more than double the 1.5% target, the Commission says. Belgium’s implementation deficit has almost doubled since May 2003 – it has more than 10 times the number of directives overdue as Denmark.
Italy alone has almost as many infringement cases against it as Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg and Portugal combined. The number of cases open against France is more than double that against the UK.
The Commission says that the average “implementation deficit” per member state is 2.3% – a marginal improvement on the May 2003 figure of 2.4%. It wants member states to reduce the number of infringement cases by at least 50% by 2006.