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Judgment of the Court of 27 February 1992.

Commission of the European Communities v Kingdom of Belgium.

Failure of a Member State to fulfil its obligations - EEC directive - Failure to transpose within the prescribed period.

Case C-377/90.

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Judgment of 27 February 1992, Commission / Belgium (C-377/90, ECR 1992 p. I-1229) ECLI:EU:C:1992:102

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Commission of the European Communities v Kingdom of Belgium.

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Keywords

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Member States - Obligations - Implementation of directives - Failure to fulfil obligations - Justification - Not permissible

(EEC Treaty, Art. 169)

Summary

A Member State may not plead provisions, practices or circumstances existing in its internal legal system in order to justify a failure to comply with obligations and time-limits laid down in Community directives.

Parties

In Case C-377/90,

Commission of the European Communities, represented by Xavier Lewis, a member of its Legal Service, acting as Agent, with an address for service in Luxembourg at the office of Roberto Hayder, a representative of its Legal Service, Wagner Centre, Kirchberg,

applicant,

v

Kingdom of Belgium, represented by Jan Devadder, Adviser at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, acting as Agent, with an address for service in Luxembourg at its Embassy, Résidence Champagne, 4 rue des Girondins,

defendant,

APPLICATION for a declaration that, by failing to forward to the Commission the text of the main provisions of national law which it has adopted in the field governed by Council Directive 87/540/EEC of 9 November 1987 on access to the occupation of carrier of goods by waterway in national and international transport and on the mutual recognition of diplomas, certificates and other evidence of formal qualifications for this occupation, the Kingdom of Belgium has failed to fulfil its obligations under the EEC Treaty,

THE COURT,

composed of: O. Due, President, Sir Gordon Slynn, R. Joliet and P.J.G. Kapteyn (Presidents of Chambers), G.F. Mancini, C.N. Kakouris, G.C. Rodríguez Iglesias, M. Díez de Velasco and J.L. Murray, Judges,

Advocate General: C. Gulmann,

Registrar: H.A. Ruehl, Principal Administrator,

having regard to the report of the Judge-Rapporteur,

after hearing the Opinion of the Advocate General at the sitting on 28 November 1991,

gives the following

Judgment

Grounds

1 By application lodged at the Court Registry on 21 December 1990, the Commission of the European Communities brought an action pursuant to Article 169 of the EEC Treaty for a declaration that, by failing to forward to the Commission the text of the main provisions of national law which it has adopted in the field governed by Council Directive 87/540/EEC of 9 November 1987 on access to the occupation of carrier of goods by waterway in national and international transport and on the mutual recognition of diplomas, certificates and other evidence of formal qualifications for this occupation (Official Journal 1987 L 322, p. 20), the Kingdom of Belgium has failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 11 of that directive as well as under Articles 5 and 189 of the EEC Treaty.

2 Article 11 of Council Directive 87/540 provides that Member States are to bring into force the measures needed in order to comply with the directive at the latest by 30 June 1988 and are forthwith to inform the Commission thereof.

3 Since the Commission received no communication from the Belgian Government concerning the laws, regulations and administrative provisions adopted in order to comply with the directive, the Commission, by letter of 21 August 1988, gave the Belgian Government formal notice to submit its observations. As no reply was received to that letter of formal notice, the Commission delivered a reasoned opinion on 7 March 1990. Since it again did not receive a reply, the Commission brought the present action.

4 Reference is made to the Report for the Hearing for a fuller account of the facts of the case, the procedure and the pleas in law and arguments of the parties, which are mentioned or discussed hereinafter only in so far as is necessary for the reasoning of the Court.

5 The Belgian Government acknowledged that, because of numerous internal and institutional difficulties, the measures necessary in order to transpose the directive into national law had not been adopted.

6 The Court has consistently held that that kind of difficulty cannot justify a Member State not adopting the measures necessary to implement a directive (see in particular the judgment in Case C-290/89 Commission v Belgium [1991] ECR I-2851).

7 None the less, since the Commission has restricted the subject-matter of its action to the failure to communicate the measures adopted in order to implement the directive, the Court can allow the application only to that extent.

8 It must therefore be held that, by failing to forward to the Commission within the prescribed period the text of the provisions of national law adopted in the field governed by Council Directive 87/540/EEC of 9 November 1987 on access to the occupation of carrier of goods by waterway in national and international transport and on the mutual recognition of diplomas, certificates and other evidence of formal qualifications for this occupation, the Kingdom of Belgium has failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 11 of that directive.

Decision on costs

Costs

Under Article 69 (2) of the Rules of Procedure, the unsuccessful party is to be ordered to pay the costs. Since the Kingdom of Belgium has failed in its submissions, it must be ordered to pay the costs.

Operative part

On those grounds,

THE COURT

hereby:

1. Declares that, by failing to forward within the prescribed period the texts of the provisions of national law adopted in the field governed by Council Directive 87/540/EEC of 9 November 1987 on access to the occupation of carrier of goods by waterway in national and international transport and on the mutual recognition of diplomas, certificates and other evidence of formal qualifications for this occupation, the Kingdom of Belgium has failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 11 of that directive;

2. Orders the Kingdom of Belgium to pay the costs.

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