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EC infringement procedures reach various stages

The European Commission (EC) on Thursday took the next step in an infringement procedure against Hungary over air quality, while launching another procedure over nuclear waste legislation. In addition, it stepped up a third procedure over spirits taxation.

In the infringement concerning air quality, the EC said it is referring Hungary to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) over persistently high levels of particulate matter, state news agency MTI reported. The EC also referred France, Germany, Italy, Romania and the U.K. to the CJEU because of air pollution.

At an air quality ministerial summit in Brussels in January, European Commissioner for Environment Karmenu Vella gave Hungary and eight other EU members states a tight deadline to submit finalized plans for complying with EU air quality laws. All nine member states were earlier issued a "reasoned opinion," the second step in an infringement procedure, over their failure to comply with particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide thresholds.

Also Thursday, the EC launched a new infringement procedure against Hungary, urging it to correctly transpose EU rules on nuclear waste.

The EC sent Hungary a letter of formal notice - the first step in an infringement procedure - for failing to correctly transpose certain requirements of the Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management Directive. Hungary has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the EC, or the procedure could be stepped up.  

The EC launched infringement procedures over the same matter against Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania and the U.K.

Finally, the EC took another infringement procedure against Hungary over the taxation of spirits to the next level.

The EC decided to send Hungary a reasoned opinion for granting an exemption from the public health tax to fruit distillates, such as pálinka, as well as to herbal liqueur which are mostly produced domestically.

The EC noted that other spirits, such as vodka, whisky, gin and brandy are not exempt from the tax. Such a practice violates Article 110 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which prohibits member states from imposing on the products of other member states, directly or indirectly, any internal taxation of any kind in excess of that imposed directly or indirectly on similar domestic products.

Hungary has two months to take action on the matter or the EC may decide to refer the case to the CJEU.