EU Sues Spain Over Compensation Hurdles in Government Liability Cases

(CN) – The European Commission took Spain to the European Court of Justice on Wednesday over rules on compensation for damages caused by the state that the commission says run afoul of EU law.

A European Union flag flies outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Responding to complaints about provisions of Spanish law on compensation for “damages caused by legislative acts,” the commission launched an investigation in June 2017 to determine whether the rules violate the principles of effectiveness and/or equivalence as laid out in EU law. The principles limit the autonomy of member states in setting conditions for liability in cases where EU law has been broken.

Spanish legislation requires that in order for the government to pay out for damages caused by its actions, there must be a European Court of Justice judgment that finds the legislative act to be in breach of EU law. The injured party must also have obtained a dismissal of appeal against the act that caused the damage somewhere along the way and must have during the appeal argued the act breached EU law.

Furthermore, the rules set less favorable conditions for the state’s liability in breaches of EU law than for the liability in breaching the Spanish Constitution, which the commission says violates the principle of equivalence.

Finding too many hoops to jump through to obtain compensation from the state for damages caused by the state – and finding the Spanish government’s response to the investigation lacking – the commission sued on Wednesday. The action is part of the administrative agency’s monthly “infringements package” which details legal actions against member states for what it believes are violations of EU law.

Other legal actions initiated by the commission against member states this month include a complaint against Denmark over its failure to stop Danish cheese makers from using the word “feta” – a protected designation of origin that can only be produced in Greece – and a lawsuit against Poland for refusing to end tax exemptions on the use of coal and gas by high polluting businesses.

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