Belemmering vrij verkeer van goederen: procedures gestart tegen België (parallelle import biociden), Spanje (marketing plantextracten), en Hongarije (parallele import pesticiden) (en)

woensdag 5 april 2006

The European Commission has continued infringement procedures against three countries (Belgium, Hungary, Spain) for hampering the free movement of goods in the single market. These infringements concern the marketing of products containing herbal ingredients in Spain, the parallel importation of biocides in Belgium and of pesticides in Hungary. At the same time, the Commission has closed cases against Austria and France, since their national authorities have removed the obstacles to the free movement of goods.

Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for Enterprise and Industry policy said: "The Commission had to act so that our consumers can reap the full benefits of the EU single market. At the same time the Commission has worked successfully with France and Austria to bring three infringement cases to an end."

Belgium - parallel imports of biocides

The Commission has decided to ask the Belgian authorities for explanations concerning its legislation governing parallel imports of biocides.

Following action by the Commission, Belgium has already amended legislation. However, doubts persist about the requirement for a common origin and its consequences.

The parallel importation of medicines and pesticides is a lawful form of trade benefiting from the protection under the principle of the free movement of goods. Like pesticides, biocides are intended for the control of pests. In Belgium the period of validity of a parallel import authorisation for biocides is no longer linked to that of the reference product and the biocide no longer needs to be absolutely identical to an already approved product.

However, the new Belgian rules impose a condition of common origin to benefit from the simplified authorisation procedure, which does not appear to be compatible with the Court's case-law.

Hungary - parallel imports of pesticides

Hungary applies a burdensome licensing procedure concerning the parallel importation of pesticides. This also applies to criteria used to establish identity/similarity between the parallel imported product and the already authorised product. The Commission has now reminded the Hungarian authorities of their obligation to reply to remarks made by the Commission in its letter of formal notice. If no reply is received within six weeks or if the reply is unsatisfactory, the Commission may continue the infringement proceedings by issuing a reasoned opinion.

Spain - marketing herbal products

Obstacles in Spain to the marketing of products containing herbal ingredients legally marketed and/or manufactured as food or dietary supplements in other Member States. Since 2004 the Commission has been receiving complaints from companies that wish to market products containing herbal ingredients in Spain.

As the Spanish authorities treat these products as medicines, they withdraw them from the market and attract an onerous medicinal marketing authorisation procedure. The Commission considers that the absence of adequate procedures for assessing the risk to public health allegedly posed by such products containing plant extracts which are legally marketed in other Member States represents an unjustified barrier to intra-EU trade.

The Commission has decided to close the following infringement proceedings:

The use of construction materials in France coming from other Member States will no longer be hindered according to the amendments made by France in its insurance legislation (`le code des assurances').

French citizens do not find anymore obstacles in reimbursing any medical expenses incurred in another Member State, since France has amended its regulation.

Austria has lifted an intended traffic ban for heavy vehicles on the A12 motorway in Tyrol, which, according to the Commission's position confirmed by the European Court of Justice, infringed the free movement of goods as the principle of proportionality has not been respected.


The EC Treaty requires the Commission to ensure that EU law is correctly implemented. The Commission has been granted powers to do so under the infringement procedure laid down in Articles 226 and 228 of the Treaty. The main purpose of this procedure is not to bring infringement proceedings before the Court of Justice, but to bring the Member State back into line with EU law during a pre-litigation phase.

The main steps of the pre-litigation procedure are:

  • 1. 
    Letter of formal notice

The letter of formal notice represents the first stage in the pre-litigation procedure, during which the Commission requests a Member State to submit its observations on an identified problem regarding the application of Community law within a given time limit. The Commission does not make an accusation but offers the Member State the opportunity to give its explanation regarding an alleged infringement. The Member States is given two months to reply.

  • 2. 
    Reasoned opinion

The reasoned opinion gives a detailed statement, based on the letter of formal notice, of the reasons that have led the Commission to conclude that the Member State concerned has failed to fulfil one or more of its obligations under the Treaty or other EU legislation. The Member State has two months to reply.

  • 3. 
    Decision to refer a case to the Court of Justice

Referral to the Court of Justice of the European Communities opens the litigation procedure.