Commission to bring infringement proceedings against three member states

On 3 April 1997, the European Commission revealed that it is to bring infringement proceedings against France, Greece and Italy for failing fully to apply Community legislation in the social field. The 1996 report on the application of Community law showed that only Sweden and Finland had satisfactorily implemented all Community Directives in the areas of labour, equal opportunities, free movement, health and safety and public health legislation.

Padraig Flynn, the commissioner responsible for employment, industrial relations and social affairs, announced on 3 April 1997 that the Commission is to take infringement proceedings against three member states for their failure to apply certain Community legislation in the social field. Reasoned opinions outlining the Commission's view are to be sent to France, Italy and Greece. The details of the cases are as follows:

  • France- by refusing to grant certain non-contributory benefits to third-country nationals covered by a variety of cooperation agreements, the Commission argues that France is failing to respect the principle of equal treatment in social security;
  • Italy- the Commission is taking issue with the treatment of foreign language lecturers in Italian universities. For a number of years, EU citizens working as foreign language lecturers at Italian universities have claimed that they are being discriminated against, because they are being kept on short-term contracts. Italian legislation instituted following a ruling by the European Court of Justice is still considered to be insufficient to remove all forms of discrimination; and
  • Greece- the case against Greece revolves around employees of the National Institute of Social Security (IKA). The Commission believes that the way pensions are being calculated for employees at IKA discriminates against women and is therefore seen to be in contravention of Community legislation on equal treatment with regard to social security provisions.

The members states have two months to react to the Commission's reasoned opinions.

The implementation of Community law

The improvement of the application of EU social legislation is one of the priorities for action specified in the current Medium-Term Social Action Programme. Mr Flynn has underlined the importance of monitoring the implementation of EU legislation, arguing that the transposition of EU legislation into national law is fundamental to ensuring equal treatment and equity among member states, as well as making Community rights accessible to individuals.

The 1996 annual report on monitoring the application of Community law showed that only Sweden and Finland (two relatively new member states) had implemented all of the 45 Community Directives in the areas of labour law, equal opportunities, free movement, health and safety and public health, applicable at the end of 1994. For the remaining countries, percentages were as follows:

Austria 91%
Belgium 76%
Denmark 96%
France 87%
Germany 87%
Greece 82%
Ireland 89%
Italy 78%
Luxembourg 94%
Netherlands 96%
Portugal 80%
Spain 67%
UK 91%

These implementation rates were - in a number of countries - significantly higher than in the previous year. Since 1994, a further nine Directives were adopted in the social field, of which five have come into force. A further four Directives, including that implementing the framework agreement on parental leave and the posting of workers Directive will come into force before the end of 1999.

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