The European Commission today (3 June) decided to take six member states to court for breaking internal market rules. Its complaints against the countries mainly concern taxation and public procurement.
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The Commission is taking Germany, Austria and Portugal to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over what it described as “discriminatory tax provisions”.
The ECJ will be asked to rule on reduced tax rates and rebates granted by the German government on pension-fund payments. The Commission claims the reduced rates and rebates are discriminatory because they only apply to funds based in Germany.
The Austrian case concerns the country’s requirement that foreign investment funds, real estate funds and credit institutions appoint a representative to liaise with Austria’s tax authorities. This requirement is not imposed on Austrian funds, and the Commission said this is incompatible with EU law on freedom to provide services.
In the case of Portugal, the Commission is challenging the country’s practice of imposing higher tax rates on dividend payments to foreign companies than those imposed on payments to Portuguese firms.
The public procurement cases concern the awarding of a contract by the Dutch authorities to build a community centre in Eindhoven, and the awarding by the German authorities of a contract to build a waste water disposal facility in Hamm. The Commission claims that the authorities in both cases discriminated against businesses from other member states.
The Commission said that Germany had failed to comply with a previous ruling from the ECJ, in October 2009, on its public procurement procedures. The court ruled that the German authorities had acted illegally when they awarded a contract to build trade-fair premises in Cologne without organising a competitive tendering procedure. The court demanded that Germany organise such a procedure, and revoke contracts it had previously signed. The Commission said Germany would be fined if it did not comply with the court ruling.
The Commission announced that it was advancing several other infringement cases concerning taxation and public procurement, but that these had not yet reached the stage of being sent to the ECJ.
These cases include concerns about Belgian tax on dividends and foreign investment companies, redress procedures in Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Luxembourg and Spain for firms that have failed to win public procurement contracts, and the awarding of a procurement contract in Portugal to supply computers to schools.
The Commission said also that Sweden, Romania, Poland, Spain, Greece and Cyprus had failed to properly implement legislation to allow cross-border direct-debit payments in Europe. The deadline for implementing the legislation passed in November 2009. The Commission has initiated the first stage of infringement proceedings against these countries.