European Commission sends three infringement cases against Bulgaria to European Court of Justice

The European Commission said on April 19 that it has decided to refer Bulgaria to the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) in three ongoing infringement proceedings as part of its latest infringements package.

In the first case, the Commission said that Bulgaria failed to transpose rules on clean vehicle targets, specifically the framework for setting minimum national targets for the public procurement of clean vehicles, set out in Directive (EU) 2019/1161.

The Clean Vehicles Directive concerns in particular urban buses, where public procurement represents around 70 per cent of the market, the EC said. Despite receiving a letter of formal notice in September 2021 and a reasoned opinion in April 2022, Bulgaria remained in breach of the directive, the Commission said.

In the second case, Bulgaria was refferred to the ECJ for its lack of transposition of the European Electronic Tolling Service. The service is meant to allow EU road-users to pay tolls with a single subscription contract, through a single provider and a single on-board unit that would cover all member states.

Bulgaria’s failure to implement Directive (EU) 2019/520 was “an obstacle to interoperability between member states’ electronic road toll systems, and to cross-border enforcement of the obligation to pay road fees in the EU,” the Commission said.

In the third case, the Commission said that it was referring Bulgaria to the ECJ for its failure to correctly apply EU rules on the marketing of natural mineral water and spring water.

The EC said that Bulgaria did not comply with the rules set out in Directive 2009/54/EC, in particular since the Bulgarian legislation does not prohibit the marketing of natural mineral and spring waters, which originate from one and the same spring, under more than one trade description, as required by the directive.

If the ECJ rules that Bulgaria is in breach of EU law in any of those cases, the country would be required to comply with the judgment or risk being imposed financial penalties that scale up depending on the length of the breach.

Also in its April package, the Commission said that it was pushing forward with six existing infringement proceedings against Bulgaria by sending reasoned opinions, the second stage in the infringement process. Failure to address the EC’s concerns in the next two months may result in a referral to the ECJ.

The six cases concerned Bulgaria’s failure to implement EU rules regarding maritime spatial planning, port reception facilities, the opening of its rail transport market, roadside inspections, the internal electricity market and a uniform format for residence permits for third-country nationals.

The last of those cases refers to Bulgaria’s failure to implement Regulation (EU) 2017/1954, which introduced a new card format for residence permits, with upgraded security features and a new more secure design.

The deadline for implementing the rules was July 2020 and Bulgaria’s failure to do so could lead to increased cases of forgery, the Commission said.

(European Commission headquarters Berlaymont building. Photo: JLogan)

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