New member states prove good EU citizens

By bne IntelliNews October 9, 2014

bne -


Member states in Central and Eastern Europe often receive a regular bashing from Brussels for their failure to implement policy. However, a new report on infringements of EU legislation shows that they are better than most at respecting the bloc's rules, with Latvia the most obedient of all.

The relatively larger role of the state in the economy, dirty energy, corruption and human rights protection are all issues that might be expected to increase tensions between the new member states to the east and Brussels. Yet a new report from the European Commission on cases brought for violations of EU law in 2013 shows them outperforming the old EU-15.

"The correct application of EU law is a cornerstone of the EU treaties and at the heart of the Commission's regulatory fitness programme (REFIT)," the report comments. As in 2012, most infringements (62% of all cases) concern compliance with EU law on the environment, taxation, transport and internal market and services.

Latvia presented the fewest problems for EU regulators, racking up just 20 instances of late or incorrect transpositions of EU legislation. The Baltic state has just eight infringement cases open against it. It is closely followed by Malta and fellow Balts Estonia and Lithuania.

That performance looks even more impressive given that the Baltics are still recovering from the deep recession they tumbled into in 2009. It's little coincidence that Italy, Spain and Greece are the worst offenders, with Rome facing a total of 24 infringement cases, and 104 late or incorrect transpositions.

Perhaps most surprising of all, however, is that Hungary sits happily in the top 10 for obedience, with no more than 16 infringement cases against it. Budapest has fought a running battle with Brussels since Prime Minister Viktor Orban came to power in 2010, with the EU criticising government policies on the economy, judiciary, media and human rights. The European Parliament has just blocked the country's nominee for the European Commission, with Tibor Navracsics judged unsuitable to oversee the  education portfolio.

The Czech Republic beat Hungary, despite being led by the eurosceptic ODS until mid-2013, and then being under a caretaker administration for the remainder of the year. Slovakia, the only Visegrad state in the Eurozone, trailed some way behind.

However, Poland is the bad boy of CEE, with the sixth worst record, despite Warsaw's strongly pro-EU policy in recent years. Despite Poland's heavy use of coal and strong opposition to EU environmental targets, it was taxation that incurred most of the 20 infringement cases opened against it last year.

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