European Commission opens 5 infringement procedures against Estonia

Flags. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The European Commission has opened five infringement procedures against Estonia, awaiting action on improving air quality, protecting Natura 200 sites, preventing the dissemination of terrorist online content and sexual abuse of children, and restricting hate speech.

The European Commission issued five judgments regarding Estonia in a package of January infringement measures published on Thursday.

The Estonian government now has two months to respond to the Commission's formal letters.

If the country does not respond satisfactorily within this time frame, the Commission will issue a reasoned opinion, which will be the second stage of the infringement proceeding.

The country has two months to respond, after which the Commission may refer the cases to the EU Court of Justice.

Commission calls on Estonia to correctly transpose EU air quality rules

The Commission asks Estonia to bring its national legislation fully in line with EU laws on air quality relating to arsenic, cadmium, mercury, nickel and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in ambient air, and the directive on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe.

Reducing air pollution, one of the most serious threats to human health, is a key component of the European Green Deal, which aims for zero pollution.

These two directives establish measures to define and establish air quality objectives. These include assessing ambient air quality, obtaining ambient air quality information, ensuring that ambient air quality information is made available to the public, maintaining and improving air quality and promoting increased cooperation among member states in reducing air pollution.

Estonia has not correctly transposed certain requirements of these directives, for instance those related to sampling points, quality assurance and quality control systems and documentation of the site selection.

The Commission is therefore sending a letter of formal notice to Estonia, which now has two months to respond and address the shortcomings raised by the Commission.

Commission calls on Estonia to effectively manage its Natura 2000 sites

The Commission asks Estonia to take measures to manage its Natura 2000 sites to respect obligations under the Habitats Directive.

The directive requires member states to establish specific conservation objectives and measures for habitats and species found in special areas of conservation (SAC) in order to maintain or restore them to favorable conservation status at the national bio-geographical level. These are critical requirements for protecting biodiversity across the EU.

The European Green Deal and the European Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 both emphasize the importance of the EU halting biodiversity loss by preserving natural areas and restoring damaged ecosystems.

The Commission initiated a dialogue with all member states, including Estonia, in 2016 in order to address the remaining gaps in SAC designation and administration.

Estonia has designated all sites as SACs, but the conservation objectives do not always meet the legal requirements of the Habitats Directive because they are not sufficiently detailed, measurable and reportable. As a result, conservation measures that must be implemented in order to meet the conservation objectives set for each Natura 2000 site are insufficient.

The Commission has issued a formal notice to Estonia, which has two months to respond and address the Commission's concerns.

Commission calls Estonia to comply with the terrorist content online Regulation

The European Commission has decided to initiate infringement proceedings against 22 countries, including Estonia, for incorrectly implementing the regulation on combating the distribution of terrorist content online.

It is critical to ensure that the Regulation is fully implemented in order to prevent terrorists from using the internet to spread their ideology, intimidate, radicalize, and recruit citizens.

The regulation establishes a legal framework to ensure the removal of terrorist content from the internet within one hour of receiving a removal order from a national competent authority, and it requires companies to take special precautions when their platforms are exposed to such content.

It also establishes strong safeguards to ensure that freedom of expression and information are fully respected. Following the regulation's entry into force on June 7, 2022, not all member states have implemented all of the measures outlined in the Regulation into national law.

The Commission considers that Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Finland and Sweden have failed to fully implement the obligations under the regulation and they have now two months to respond to the Commission.

A press release with more information is available online.

Commission calls on Estonia to comply with the child sexual abuse Directive

The Commission decided to send letters of formal notice to Czechia, Estonia, Greece and Croatia to ensure that they correctly transpose all the requirements of the child sexual abuse directive.

The directive is a critical component of the EU's legal framework for combating child sexual abuse.

It requires member states to implement minimum rules for the definition of criminal offenses and sanctions in the areas of child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, child pornography and sexual solicitation of children.

It also includes provisions aimed at improving crime prevention and victim protection. Czechia, Estonia, Greece, and Croatia now have two months to respond to the Commission's arguments.

Commission sends letter of formal notice to Estonia to correctly transpose EU law criminalizing hate speech and hate crimes

The aim of the framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law is to ensure that serious manifestations of racism and xenophobia, such as public incitement to violence or hatred, are punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties throughout the European Union.

Today, the European Commission sent additional letters of formal notice to Estonia, Poland and Finland.

The three countries previously received letters of formal notice in 2021 and responded with new information relating to the Commission's concerns. After reviewing this additional information, the Commission discovered additional transposition issues that needed to be addressed in addition to the concerns raised in the letters of formal notice. 

To that end, the Commission decided to send an additional letter of formal notice to the three member states. The three EU members now have two months to respond.

Today, the Commission also decided to send Greece and Hungary a reasoned opinion for failing to fulfill their obligations to transpose the framework decision.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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