Germany now ‘biggest breaker of EU rules’, according to official figures

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Germany is now the biggest breaker of EU rules, according to new statistics on enforcement actions started by Brussels against member states.

The figures come despite the country’s leading role in the European project and claims from some quarters that Angela Merkel’s government dominates proceedings in the bloc.

Numbers provided to German newspaper Handelsblatt by the country’s economics ministry show the country’s government is subject to 74 infringement proceedings by the European Commission for failing to implement EU regulations properly in German law.

German Green party politician Markus Tressel told the newspaper Germany was now “bottom of the class” for following EU rules and far from the “model pupil” it was sometimes portrayed as.

The infringements against Germany, which can be started for delayed implementation or inadequate conversion into national laws, relate to policy areas like air pollution, water quality and fire protection.

The new statistics echo the latest available EU-wide figures on enforcement actions from the end of 2016, provided by the European Commission, which found Germany joint top with Spain.

Those countries were followed closely by Belgium, Greece, Portugal and France – all longstanding fans of the European project.

Despite Brexit and higher levels of euroscepticism generally, the UK was relatively good at implementing EU rules compared to its neighbours and was down in 14th place in the hall of shame – joint with Bulgaria.

Estonia, Malta and Denmark were the most compliant countries, according to those figures from the end of 2016.

Enforcement procedures mean that a country has broken EU rules in the estimation of the European Commission – though ultimately the European Court of Justice has the final say on whether a country has infringed European law.

A UK environment minister Therese Coffey was summoned to Brussels in January for a dressing down after the UK broke EU air quality rules. Her German counterpart was also made to attend.