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Judgment of the Court of 11 June 1991. - Commission of the European Communities v Kingdom of Belgium. - Failure to comply with Council Directives 75/440/EEC and 79/869/EEC - Surface water for the production of drinking water - Duty to notify. - Case C-290/89.



European Court reports 1991 Page I-02851



Summary

Parties

Grounds

Decision on costs

Operative part

Keywords



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Member States - Obligations - Compliance with directives - Failure - Justification - Not acceptable

(EEC Treaty, Art. 169)

Summary



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

Parties



In Case C-290/89,

Commission of the European Communities, represented by Thomas van Rijn, a member of its Legal Service, acting as Agent, with an address of service in Luxembourg at the office of Guido Berardis, a member of its Legal Service, Wagner Centre, Kirchberg,

applicant,

v

Kingdom of Belgium, represented by Jan Devadder, Deputy Adviser in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, External Trade and Development Cooperation, with an address of service in Luxembourg at the Belgian Embassy, 4 Rue des Girondins,

defendant,

APPLICATION for a declaration that, by failing to notify the measures taken to implement Council Directive 75/440/EEC of 16 June 1975 concerning the quality required of surface water intended for the abstraction of drinking water in the Member States (Official Journal 1975 L 194, p. 26) and Council Directive 79/869/EEC of 9 October 1979 concerning the methods of measurement and frequency of sampling and analysis of surface water intended for the abstraction of drinking water in Member States (Official Journal 1979 L 271, p. 44), or by failing to adopt the measures required for the implementation of those directives, the Kingdom of Belgium has failed to fulfil its obligations under the EEC Treaty,

THE COURT,

composed of: O. Due, President, J.C. Moitinho de Almeida and M. Díez de Velasco (Presidents of Chambers), Sir Gordon Slynn, C.N. Kakouris, R. Joliet, F. Grévisse, M. Zuleeg and P.J.G. Kapteyn, Judges,

Advocate General: C.O. Lenz,

Registrar: D. Louterman, Principal Administrator,

having regard to the Report for the Hearing,

after hearing oral argument from the parties at the hearing on 22 January 1991,

after hearing the Opinion of the Advocate General at the sitting on 21 February 1991,

gives the following

Judgment

Grounds



1 By application lodged at the Court Registry on 19 September 1989, the Commission of the European Communities brought an action under Article 169 of the EEC Treaty for a declaration that, by failing to notify the measures taken to implement Council Directive 75/440/EEC of 16 June 1975 concerning the quality required of surface water intended for the abstraction of drinking water in the Member States (Official Journal 1975 L 194, p. 26) and Council Directive 79/869/EEC of 9 October 1979 concerning the methods of measurement and frequencies of sampling and analysis of surface water intended for the abstraction of drinking water in the Member States (Official Journal 1979 L 271, p. 44), or by failing to adopt the measures required for the implementation of those directives, the Kingdom of Belgium had failed to fulfil its obligations under the EEC Treaty.

2 Article 10 of Directive 75/440 and Article 13 of Directive 79/869 provide that the Member States are to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions needed in order to comply with the directives within two years of their notification and are forthwith to inform the Commission thereof. The directives were notified to the Kingdom of Belgium on 18 June 1975 and 19 October 1979, respectively, and the period thus expired on 18 June 1977 and 19 October 1981 respectively.

3 Reference is made to the Report for the Hearing for a fuller account of 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.

4 Article 8 of Directive 79/869 requires Member States to provide the Commission at its request with all relevant information on the methods of analysis used and the frequency of analysis. The Kingdom of Belgium did not reply to the questions which the Commission had put to it in that respect by letter dated 8 December 1986 or to other questions formulated in the same letter also in relation to the implementation of Directives 75/440 and 79/869. It was only before the Court that the Belgian Government specified the manner in which that directive had, according to itself, been transposed into its national legal system.

5 It follows that the Kingdom of Belgium infringed the aforementioned Article 8 of Directive 79/869 and also Article 5 of the Treaty and, accordingly, the complaint of failure to notify the measures adopted for the purposes of the implementation of Directives 75/440 and 79/869 must be upheld.

6 As regards the complaint of failure to adopt the requisite measures for implementation of the two directives, it should first be noted that the Commission accepts the Belgian Government' s position set out in the defence, according to which no measure of transposition is required for the Brussels Region since there is no surface water in that region intended for the production of drinking water.

7 As regards the Flemish Region, the parties agree that the measures adopted by the Belgian Government correctly transpose the directives, with the exception of Article 4(2) of Directive 75/440. No systematic plan of action, including a timetable for the improvement of surface water, as required by Article 4(2), has been drawn up by the Kingdom of Belgium.

8 As regards the Walloon Region, the Belgian Government does not deny that several provisions of the directives have not been transposed, but it alleges that that is due to the lack of the necessary financial means.

9 In that respect it should be pointed out that, as the Court has consistently held, 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 resulting from Community law (see, in particular, the judgment in Case 254/83 Commission v Italy [1984] ECR 3395).

10 It follows from all the above considerations that, by failing to notify the measures adopted for the implementation of Directive 75/440 and 79/869 and by failing to adopt the measures required for the implementation of those directives in the Flemish and Walloon Regions, the Kingdom of Belgium has failed to fulfil its obligations under the EEC Treaty.

Decision on costs



Costs

11 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 been unsuccessful, it must be ordered to pay the costs.

Operative part



On those grounds,

THE COURT,

hereby:

1. Declares that, by failing to notify the measures adopted for the implementation of Council Directive 75/440/EEC of 16 June 1975 concerning the quality required of surface water intended for the extraction of drinking water in the Member States and Council Directive 79/869/EEC of 9 October 1979 concerning the methods of measurement and frequencies of sampling and analysis of surface water intended for the abstraction of drinking water in the Member States, and by failing to adopt the measures required for the implementation of those directives in the Flemish and Walloon Regions, the Kingdom of Belgium has failed to fulfil its obligations under the EEC Treaty;

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