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Infringement of EU law



Articles 258, 259 and 260 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)


They set out the action to be taken if the European Commission or an EU government considers that a particular EU country has not fulfilled its obligations under EU law.


Failure to meet EU obligations may be due to:

  • legislative or administrative decisions or practices;
  • positive action (adopting measures contrary to EU law or not repealing any that are);
  • negative action (delays in implementing EU law or failing to inform the Commission of the implementation).

The infringement procedure

The legal proceedings before the Court of Justice of the European Union are:

  • usually brought by the Commission, but may also be initiated by another EU country;
  • directed at the EU country, even if the perceived failings are the responsibility of its government, parliament, federal or subnational bodies.

The procedure works as follows:

  • The Commission or an EU country indicates that a given EU country may not be meeting its obligations.
  • The Commission sends a letter of formal notice to the country in question requesting further information. That country must send a detailed reply by a given deadline, usually 2 months.
  • On the basis of this reply, the Commission may:
    • issue a reasoned opinion (a formal request to comply with EU law, calling on the EU country in question to inform it of the measures taken to comply within a specified period, usually 2 months); or
    • close the case, in which the issues with the EU country concerned have been solved without the Commission needing to pursue the procedure.
  • If the country concerned fails to comply with the Commission’s opinion within the timetable given, the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice.
  • If another EU country has initiated the procedure, it may refer the case to the Court even if the Commission does not deliver a reasoned opinion.
  • The Court can instruct an EU country it considers is breaking EU law to take certain measures.
  • If the Commission believes the country is not complying with the legal ruling, it can refer the case to the Court a second time, recommending the size of fine it considers should be paid.
  • If the Court finds that the judgment is still not being respected, it can impose a lump sum and/or penalty payment.
  • In the event that the Commission refers an EU country to the Court for failure to communicate national measures implementing EU law, it may at the same time ask the Court to impose financial sanctions. In that case, the Court can impose penalties at the stage of the initial judgment.


Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union — Part Six — Institutional and financial provisions — Title I — Institutional provisions — Chapter 1 — The institutions — Section 5 — The Court of Justice of the European Union — Articles 258, 259 and 260 (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, pp. 160-161)

last update 12.07.2016