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Q: European Union Sanctions ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: European Union Sanctions
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: myoarin-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 23 Feb 2005 08:09 PST
Expires: 25 Mar 2005 08:09 PST
Question ID: 479384
The European Union can apply sanctions against member countries for
not implementing in national law directives by the Union or  - the
going debate -  exceeding the debt limits set by the Stability Pact,
or possibly for other reasons.
Has any country actually ended up paying such sanctions?  Which ones,
when, for what?
Thanks, Myoarin

Clarification of Question by myoarin-ga on 02 Mar 2005 09:13 PST
HI, any researchers looked at this?
I am really interested in the answer.  I think the EU's bark is worse
than its bite, and also thought that for the search profis the info
would not be hard to find.
Please let me know if you think  - or have discovered -  that it is a
more difficult question than I thought it was.
Thanks, Myoarin

Request for Question Clarification by leli-ga on 03 Mar 2005 02:44 PST
Hi Myoarin

Since you ask . . . 

I found two examples of fines imposed on governments for breaches of
EU law, a statement that such fines are "rare", and news articles
giving a strong impression that no government has ever been fined for
breaches of the Stability Pact.

This didn't seem like a very definitive answer, and I dropped it. Now
I know you're really interested and wondering why you haven't had a
response, so I'm offering a few thoughts.

There doesn't seem to be any ready-compiled list to help answer this
question, and so the research requires both background knowledge of
the EU and multiple searches as well. When I say "background
knowledge", I mean, for example, that a researcher working on this
question needs to know that EU law is enforced by the European
Commission, and that the Commission cannot impose penalties itself,
but has to apply to the European Court.

One of the challenges in searching is actually implied in your
question when you talk about bark and bite! How can a researcher
separate actual fines from threats of fines? Another challenge is how
to distinguish fines imposed on member governments from all the other
fines handed out by the European Court, and a third is using EU jargon
in searches: e.g "member state".

Hope this helps explain the lack of response to your question!

Best wishes  - Leli

Clarification of Question by myoarin-ga on 03 Mar 2005 14:09 PST
Hi Leli,
Many thanks for your efforts so far and your lucid explanations.
As you can see, I have upped the ante.  I was presuming that there
would be an EU specialist among the researchers that would just
delight at the opportunity to do his or her thing  - and that the task
would be simpler.
I did not know that the COmmission had to apply to the court.  If that
is true, then some kind of search for the court's decisions against
Member States should be the channel, but have these  - if they
occurred -  actually resulted in payments, or did the country manage
somehow "to pull its socks up" in the last minute?
No, under the Stability Pact, there absolutely have been no sanctions
yet, dirty letters to countries about their breaching the pact (I live
in Germany  - and you, where?), but the the ministers of finance have
to agree before sanctions can be applied, and I don't think they will
ever set a precedence of agreeing - it could backfire on too many of
I want to know if any countries actually ended up paying.  The threat
of sanctions seems to be expressed in terms of so many Euros per day
until the country impliments whatever it supposed to  - and the
court's decision may provide a grace period  - that the fine starts
next month or the like.
I will not insist on an all-inclusive list, but would like to know
more than if sanctions where put through by the court.  But even if no
payment resulted, that would be interesting ("bark - bite").
Still interested?  I hope so.
Good hunting and best regards,
Subject: Re: European Union Sanctions
Answered By: leli-ga on 04 Mar 2005 09:27 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi again, Myoarin. 

The short answer is that two member countries have been fined for not
complying with EU legislation. Greece and Spain had both failed to
comply with environmental regulations: Greece over a landfill site and
Spain over bathing water quality in lakes and rivers.

It turns out that you are in tune with current thinking in some EU
circles, when you say "The threat of sanctions seems to be expressed
in terms of so many Euros per day until the country impliments
whatever it supposed to  - and the court's decision may provide a
grace period". This issue is being pursued in the European Court in a
discussion about "lump sum" fines.

Advocate General Leendert Geelhoed has asked the Court to rule on
this. He implies that many countries are slow to comply with EU law.
(!) Governments often seem to be gambling on sanctions taking years to
happen. When penalties have actually been imposed, the fine has been X
euros per day or per year.

More on specific cases of governments being fined in a minute - but
first let me show you an article about this "lump sum" penalty
question. The context is France's non-compliance with EU fishing law
which has been going on since 1991.

"EU court adviser raises stakes on legal sanctions

A European court of justice advisor has launched a daring bid to
significantly increase the scope of sanctions that the EU can impose
on member states persistently flouting the bloc's legislation. If
successful, the new sanctions regime may soon be applied to
infringements of environmental legislation.

Dutch advocate general Leendert Geelhoed wants the court to set a
legal precedent in a case where the European Commission accuses France
of failing to apply EU fish conservation measures, despite a court
ruling against it dating back to 1991.

Under the EU treaty member states face financial sanction once the
court finds them guilty a second time of the same breach of law.
According to treaty article 228 the court must then impose "a lump sum
or penalty payment". In practice the court has imposed ongoing penalty
payments starting from the day of the judgement, such as the daily
fines on Greece four years ago for flouting EU waste law.

But Mr Geelhoed says the deterrent effect of these payments is too
weak. Member states can continue to break the rules until a second
judgement and then avoid heavy financial sanction by complying
quickly. The added spectre of an immediate and much larger lump-sum
fine will encourage more rapid compliance, he says."

Now for the first fine ever imposed by the European Court on a member state:


EU slaps landmark fine on Greece
BBC - July, 2000

"The European Court of Justice has imposed its first ever fine on an
EU government for failing to comply with an earlier court ruling.
The Greek Government had been ordered to close a waste tip on the
island of Crete but still has not obeyed.
The court fined them 20,000 euros ($19,000) a day, to be paid from
Tuesday until the tip is closed. "

So how long did it take Greece to comply with EU law and what were the
total fines? About 7 months after the final court ruling, with 4.78
million Euros due, the landfill site was closed. This was more than 13
years after the issue was first raised.

"Fines on Greece brought to an end after ?4.78 million 	

The case of the polluting waste dump at Kouroupitos in Crete can be
regarded as closed. Greece was condemned on 4 July 2000 to pay a fine
of ?20,000 a day because the dump near Hania did not meet standards
laid down by EU legislation. On March 8 Greece informed the Commission
that the dump had been closed down on February 26. The Commission has
checked this information and has now been able to confirm the closure
of the dump. This means that Greece has to pay ?4,780,000 in total, of
which ?3,600,000 has already been paid. The Commission expects to
receive the outstanding sums for January and February in April and May
21.03.2001 - EU Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection

Spain was the next country to be fined:


"Spanish bathing water: Commission welcomes European Court penalty decision
Brussels, 25 November 2003

The European Commission welcomes today's decision of the European
Court of Justice to impose fines on Spain for not meeting EU water
quality standards in certain Spanish inland bathing waters, i.e.
rivers and lakes. The Court has ordered that Spain pay ?624,150 per
year for every 1% of inshore Spanish bathing waters that continue to
fail to meet the quality stardards set in the Bathing Water Directive.
To date, there has been only one other judgment of the Court in which
a Member State was fined. That also related to EU environmental
legislation. "

In November 2004 a press release from the European Court stated that
only two member states had ever been fined. (Quoted at the end of this

At first, I believed that Italy had also been fined, but it doesn't
actually seem to have happened. More than a year ago the Commission
said that it would ask the Court to impose a penalty payment, but
there is no recent information about this at the European Court
website - or anywhere else I've looked. Is it going to happen? Or has
Italy complied and been spared sanctions?
If you want to look for future activity in this case on the European
Court website, the reference number is C-212/99:


"Italy gets [?] 200,000 a day fine in pay row
The Times - February 4, 2004

THE European Commission will announce a record fine on Italy today
because of its persistent refusal to give more than 1,000 university
foreign language lecturers the same pay and employment rights as their
Italian colleagues.

The fine of ?310,000 (211,000) a day dwarfs the ?20,000 daily
sanction that the European Court of Justice imposed on Greece a few
years ago for failing to implement European environmental legislation.

. . .

Now, 30 months after the last court ruling, the Commission has lost
patience and taken the rare step of demanding that Italy be fined. The
actual size of the penalty will be determined by the European Court of
Justice, but its decision will be closely based on the Commission?s

" Italy fined [?] over foreign lecturers' rights
The Guardian - February 4, 2004

The European Commission is today due to fine Italy a record 310,000
euros (211,000) a day for failing to give foreign university
lecturers the same employment rights and pay as their Italian

The ruling is the latest in an 18-year battle by more than 1,000
"lettori" and reflects the impatience of the commission at what it
sees as the continued intransigence of Italian universities. The fine
is higher than the Italian government feared - last year it warned
universities not to continue their discriminatory practices.

In June 2001 the court ruled that Italian universities were
discriminating on grounds of nationality - breaking one of the EU's
bedrock principles. More than two years after that ruling the
commission appears to have lost patience and said that Italy must be
fined. ",12576,1141174,00.html

EU press release:

"The European Commission has taken a decision to ask the Court of
Justice to impose a ?309.750 per day fine on Italy for non execution
of a judgement relating to the discriminatory treatment of former
foreign language lecturers in several Italian universities."

There are also milk quota fines, but I don't think you're really
asking about these.


"05/10/2004  - Nine EU member states will pay a total of ?388 million
in fines this year for milk quota overruns, nearly ?70 million more
than in 2003.


In a statement this week, the European Commission said that Austria,
Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands
and the UK had all exceeded their quotas for deliveries to dairies,
producing a combined 1.08 million tonnes more than the quota figure
and thus incurring a charge of ?384 million."

So, Myoarin, that seems to be it. Apart from milk quota fines, there
have been only two fines on member states, both for breaches of
environmental legislation. There may be another fine coming up for
Italy's discrimination by nationality, and there's an ongoing case
about hake fishing which may lead to a lump sum fine for the French

Of course, I've only given you excerpts on this page. Clicking the
links under the stories above will lead to more complete information,
and I'll add a few more links below.

By the way, I'm in the UK, where stories of other countries' tussles
with EU legislation are not exactly front page news!

Hope you find this answer helpful and perhaps interesting too - Leli

Press release explaining the Advocate General's opinion that France
deserves harsher treatment than Greece or Spain:

"In relation to the principle of equal treatment, Advocate General
Geelhoed states that the situation in this case is not comparable to
the previous two cases where the Court has imposed a fine.  He
considers the infringement by France to be a serious infringement
which had consequences, not only within France, but also adversely
affected other Member States and their fisherman. Imposing sanctions
of a different type are therefore justified by the different character
and consequences of the infringement."

Most recent hearing at the European Court on the question of lump sum fines:

delivered on 18 November 2004 
Case C-304/02

Commission of the European Communities
French Republic

(Failure by a Member State to fulfil its obligations, Article 228 EC ?
Failure to comply with the judgment of the Court of 11 June 1991 in
Case C-64/88 ? Failure to ensure compliance with technical
conservation measures relating to the minimum size of fish, in
particular hake ? Failure to record infringements which the national
authorities could have found to exist and to charge offenders ?
Penalty payment)

European Court cases by year

Publication Date: 17-APR-03
Publication Title: Europe Environment

Despite being ordered by the EU courts in July 2000 to pay fine
totalling Euro 4,780,000 for non-compliance with EU standards on waste
tipping in Kouroupitos in Crete, the Greek Government is still very
much in the firing line for poor management of municipal waste.

25 November 2003
Judgment of the Court of Justice in Case C-278/01
Commission of the European Communities v Kingdom of Spain
Spain is ordered to pay EUR 624,150 per annum and per percentage of
inshore bathing areas not complying with the limit values of the
Directive with effect from the 2004 bathing season.

Lecturer could land Italy 200,000-a-day fine


Searched BBC website for leads

Followed up on Google

Terms used in various combinations:
eu european commission court
fines fined fine "penalty payment" penalties sanctions
names of countries
"member state" government member countries

Searches of European Court website

Clarification of Answer by leli-ga on 04 Mar 2005 09:30 PST
One of those links doesn't seem to work.
Try this instead for the press release about the Italian case:
myoarin-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
Dear Leli,  wow, and I have some idea how long you had the question locked.
Many thanks and a $10 tip and five stars!  I haven't read the websites
yet, but will.  And, of course, I like that the results confirm my
impression that the EU barks for a very long time before it bites, and
what is 4+ million € to a national government?  The sanction implicit
in the Stability Pact are much more frightening, but for that very
reason less likely to be implemented, especially when one wonders what
would happen if a net payer to the EU like Germany simply refused. 
...!?  Ditto for the UK if the special status arranged by Thatcher is
ended ... ?  The EU isn't yet much of a central government, somewhat
like the US federal government prior to the Civil War ...
Again, many thanks for your great researching.  Seems there was/is an
EU specialist, or maybe one that now also knows a lot more about.  I
hope you found it interesting.  :-) !

Subject: Re: European Union Sanctions
From: leli-ga on 06 Mar 2005 01:28 PST
Thank you very much indeed, Myoarin!
I appreciate your generosity.

I did find it interesting, yes. That's partly thanks to you, since you
encouraged me to find these illustrations of the EU creaking slowly
along. The way the Italian lecturers' case was reported here in the UK
was educational for me, since I was convinced that the Italian
government had already been fined - but apparently not.

GA's probably not the place to find qualified experts in EU law.
They're more likely to be shuttling between the courts in Luxembourg
and Strasbourg and the Hague!

Best wishes - Leli
Subject: Re: European Union Sanctions
From: myoarin-ga on 06 Mar 2005 08:52 PST
but you were there, thanks, and can now be THE EU reasearcher.

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