By Md Abdul Kader

Have you ever heard of “reasoned opinion”? A reasoned opinion is part of the infringement procedure of the European Union. The Commission launches a formal infringement procedure when a country does not implement EU directives into national law, or when it does not rectify the suspended violation of EU law. The first step in that procedure is that the Commission sends a letter of formal notice requesting further information to the country concerned, which must send a detailed reply within a specified period, usually 2 months. If the country continues to not comply with its obligations, the Commission sends a reasoned opinion, namely a formal request to comply with EU law [which]  explains why the Commission considers that the country is breaching EU law [and] request[ing] that the country inform the Commission of the measures taken, within a specified period, usually 2 months.

Having explained the basis of the infringement procedure, have a look and be surprised by the interesting data entailed in the BID. As you can see from figure 1, Italy is the country with the most reasoned opinions in the European Union (1978-2019). What exactly does that mean?

Figure 1

The BIP provides a variety of illustrations to pinpoint the different data available in the database.

Figure 2
Figure 3

For example, you can see which member states are most often criticized for not implementing European law   (Figure 1), you can see how implementation problems vary over time (Figure 2), or you can find out which policy fields witness compliance problems most often (Figure 3). Or think of any question that is a combination thereof: Do the same member states have problems consistently over time, or does it vary which member states have compliance problems? Which member states have compliance problems in which sector?

Are you already convinced that these are questions one is asking oneself once in a while? Then let’s talk about the database. I came into contact with this rich dataset when working as an intern in the EU return directive at the Georg-August-Universitat Göttingen. The database is a single dataset that contains over 13367 infringement cases spanning from 1978 to 2019, which includes cases at the reasoned opinion stage and those that have been closed. Furthermore, the database offers detailed information on both old and new cases, including the types of violations (5 types), and matches the European Court of Justice’s database. It also allows for cross-sectional and time-series testing of compliance with EU legislation, sector-specific analysis across 25 sectors, and examination of legal act-specific determinants.

The BID is accessible to anyone, with search tools that allow for filtering of specific choices, as well as data exportation in various formats including Excel and CSB. For more information on this resource, read “Why Noncompliance“. One can also verify the BID on the EU website and database.After introducing the BIP, I’ll talk you through three cases which will illustrate how deep the database can go…

German Case

Germany case didn’t comply with the free movement of goods (Article 34-36 of TFEU) as it had a system of fixed prices under the national legislation, which negatively affects the sale of products by pharmacies established in other EU Member States. As a result, the EC sent a formal notice for further action in November 2013 and sent a reasoned opinion in March 2019. During this time, Germany took initiatives with significant changes; as a result, the EC closed this case in September 2021.

Italian Case

Another interesting case is a process against Italy on the non-compliance with EU rules on air pollution. The infringement case, initiated in 2013, was taken up again in 2016 by additional formal notices due to a lack of progress and a lack of strategic planning. Italy received a reasoned opinion in 2018.  

According to the EC, Italy was not meeting the EU’s standards for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in several of its urban areas, noise maps and action plans on environmental noise caused by road, rail and airport traffic. It is the second environmental cause of premature deaths after air pollution in Italy. After getting a reasoned opinion, Italy had two months to respond to it; otherwise, the Commission could send this case to the Court of Justice of the EU and seek financial penalties.This case study shows the compliance with EU environmental regulations and the failing result of it. It also signifies that member states need to step up to addressing air pollution, which affects public health and the environment.

Swedish Case

Another interesting case involves Sweden and about waste and waste management (Directive 2008/98/EC) which was first started by the European Commission in December 2016 with a formal notice. This directive ensures a European circular economy, where waste is systematically recovered, re-used and recycled. Sweden didn’t conform to the translation of this Directive on waste into its national legislation and didn’t change waste treatment installations and management. As a result, Sweden received a reasoned opinion from the EC, which had two months’ duration for the required action; otherwise, this case would have been sent to the Court of Justice of the EU. But Swedish authorities made significant improvements and closed the case in February 2021 (You won’t get this information in BID, as its last update was in 2019. Check the link of the EU infringement database).

This case study suggests the importance of implementing EU environmental regulations and the result of not complying with them. It also teaches us that if the member state takes proper steps to handle infringement procedures, then in the end, we see the successful closing of an infringement procedure.


BID is a cool dataset for policymakers, researchers, and scholars who want to study EU legislation and compliance problems. Its data and insights can help to develop sustained strategies for promoting compliance. By using the Berlin Infringement Database, Euroculture students that are interested in European politics can explore some areas which are not limited to:

  1. Analysis of infringement proceedings (comparative): It would be a good idea to compare the proceedings of different countries and sectors to explore challenges and practices for ensuring compliance with EU law.
  2. Effectiveness of infringement proceedings: The EU takes initiatives against violations of compliance with EU law. Researchers can assess the effectiveness of these initiatives and find the elements that contribute to their success or failure.
  3. Impact of infringement of proceedings on national policy: Researchers could find the answer to some questions: what is the long-term impact of member state policymaking? What are the differences before and after infringement proceedings? What is the mechanism that influences most?
  4. Assess the impact of EU environmental regulations: It would be easy to find the data on the violations of environmental regulations and infringement proceedings from the BID. Researchers can assess the impact of those proceedings on the environment, human health, and economic development.
  5. Stakeholders’ role: The researcher can conduct research on the role of different stakeholders, like NGOs, industry associations, and national governments, in infringement proceedings. They can also try to identify the factors affecting their engagement and influence.
  6. Member state party politics and infringement proceedings: The researcher can explore the co-relation and connection between member states’ party politics (political party manifestos) and infringement. Different parties have different manifestoes and based on them, member states show their expression on policymaking and implementation at the national and EU level.

I highly recommend this massive dataset for further exploration and research.

Source: Börzel, Tanja A. 2021. „Berlin Infringement Database“. Version 2021.1. Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin.

Photo Credit: Tingey Injury Law Firm

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