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Enforcement of EU law

Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) states that the European Commission, as the guardian of the EU treaties, has the task of enforcing EU law, by monitoring the application of EU primary and secondary law and ensuring its uniform application throughout the EU. It gathers information to monitor EU Member States’ compliance.

Where an EU Member State fails to comply with EU law, the Commission may send it a ‘letter of formal notice’, which allows the Member State to submit its observations. If the Commission still believes that the violation of EU rules persists, it sends a reasoned opinion to the Member State. That reasoned opinion sets a deadline within which the Member State must comply with EU law. If the Member State does not comply within the deadline set, the Commission may bring the case before the Court of Justice of the European Union (under Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)).

The Court may impose a financial penalty on a Member State which fails to observe the judgment after a second Court procedure (Article 260(2) TFEU). However, where the Member State has failed to implement a directive, the Court may impose financial sanctions when passing its first judgment, under Article 258 TFEU (Article 260(3) TFEU).

Any individual or organisation may also lodge a complaint with the Commission if a measure or an administrative practice in a Member State appears to violate EU rules. However, it is only the Commission that may initiate the procedure under Articles 258 and 260 TFEU.