Commission pursues legal action against Germany and France over biotechnology legislation

December 21, 2005

Brussels, 20 December 2005

The European Commission has sent final written warnings to Germany and France for failure to comply with judgements by the European Court of Justice from 2004. Despite the Court ruling and subsequent warnings from the Commission, the two Member States have still only adopted partial national legislation to give effect to an EU law on the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms into the environment. This should have been done by 17 October 2002

The Directive on deliberate release of GMOs into the environment [1] is the cornerstone of the EU’s new legislative framework on GMOs. The Directive covers both experimental and commercial releases of GMOs for cultivation, import and transformation into industrial products. It lays down authorisation procedures for the release of GMOs and for placing them on the market. For example, it requires a scientific safety check, an environmental risk assessment, information to the public and strict post-market monitoring.

The correct and full transposition of the Directive is crucial for the envisaged safeguards to apply fully.

In February 2005, Germany sent to the Commission its new law on genetic engineering. However, in doing so, it notified the Commission that a second law, dealing mainly with procedural rules, would be necessary to fully transpose the directive. Following reminders from the Commission, the German government recently confirmed that the missing legislation had not yet been adopted.

To date, France has only partially transposed the directive into national law and has not specified when it will transpose the rest, despite reminders from the Commission.

Legal Process

Standard procedure

Article 226 of the Treaty gives the Commission powers to take legal action against a Member State that is not respecting its obligations.

If the Commission considers that there may be an infringement of EU law that warrants the opening of an infringement procedure, it addresses a "Letter of Formal Notice" (first written warning) to the Member State concerned, requesting it to submit its observations by a specified date, usually two months.

In the light of the reply or absence of a reply from the Member State concerned, the Commission may decide to address a "Reasoned Opinion" (final written warning) to the Member State. This clearly and definitively sets out the reasons why it considers there to have been an infringement of EU law and calls upon the Member State to comply within a specified period, normally two months.

If the Member State fails to comply with the Reasoned Opinion, the Commission may decide to bring the case before the European Court of Justice. Where the Court of Justice finds that the Treaty has been infringed, the offending Member State is required to take the measures necessary to conform.

‘Follow-up’ procedure

Article 228 of the Treaty gives the Commission power to act against a Member State that does not comply with a previous judgement of the European Court of Justice, again by issuing a first written warning (“Letter of Formal Notice”) and then a second and final written warning (“Reasoned Opinion”). The article then allows the Commission to ask the Court to impose a financial penalty on the Member State concerned.
For current statistics on infringements in general see:
For rulings by the European Court of Justice see:

[1] Directive 2001/18 of 12 March 2001 on the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms in the environment.

Item source: IP/05/1638 Date: 20/12/2005 Previous Item Back to Titles Print Item

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