Tuesday

18th Feb 2020

Dutch minister misunderstands EU procedure

  • Some say the system to get an energy label for your house in the Netherlands is sensitive to fraud (Photo: Bert Kaufmann)

Dutch minister for housing Stef Blok thinks the European Commission has given him a stamp of approval for the way he applied European rules on energy labels, but appears to have misunderstood a procedural step announced by Brussels on Thursday (25 February).

“Europe allows Dutch energy label, no fine”, the ministry said in a press release on Thursday.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

The Dutch announcement said that the European Commission had “ended the procedure to investigate if the Dutch energy label for homes complies with European rules”, adding that a potential annual fine of €90 million “is off the table”.

The Dutch system had come under fire because the process to determine the energy efficiency of a house can be done entirely online, without any physical checks on-site. Some argued that the Netherlands had not correctly transposed the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive into national law.

Minister Blok “had always had faith in the outcome of the procedure”, the Dutch press release said.

But a European Commission spokesperson told this website that the Netherlands was not off the hook yet.

It appears that the Dutch government confused an infringement procedure for not notifying the commission about its transposition, with a potential follow-up procedure about whether or not that transposition was not done correctly.

“Infringement procedure 2012/0388 concerned the failure of the Netherlands to notify transposition measures for all provisions of Directive 2010/31/EU,” commission spokesperson Anna-Kaisa Itkonen told this website in an emailed response.

“Following the latest amendments of the Dutch legislation (received in November 2015), the commission has concluded that the Netherlands have now complied with its transposition and notification requirements,” she added.

But there is a crucial nuance which apparently did not come across to the Dutch authorities.

“The fact that the infringement on full transposition is closed does not mean that the commission gives a blessing to the transposition of this directive in the member state concerned,” Itkonen continued.

“After checking if all the provisions of the directive have been transposed (which is what was decided today [Thursday]), the Commission is now checking if this transposition is correct.”

She added that commission services are holding an “informal dialogue” with the Dutch authorities through the so-called EU Pilot system, which is a sort of pre-infringement procedure.

The system allows the two parties to resolve the issue before starting an actual infringement procedure. After the commission has started the EU Pilot process, the member state has 10 weeks to reply. After that, the commission has ten weeks to assess the reply.

Only if that process is finished will the commission give its blessing for the transposed rules – or start an infringement procedure.

Last year, Dutch real estate agents told EUobserver that the Dutch system for getting an energy label was sensitive to fraud, because there are no independent experts that visit the house involved. The experts only assess digitally-sent proof of efforts to increase energy efficiency, like receipts or photos.

“You could upload photos of your neighbours' double glazing as if they were your own, and no one will visit you to check”, said Hester Jansen, a real estate agent in the northern city of Enkhuizen.

Exclusive

EU commissioner lobbied by energy firm he owns shares in

EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn owns 2,200 shares in Austria's largest electricity provider. Those shares have tripled in value since he first declared them in 2014. In January, the firm met his head of cabinet to discuss climate policy.

EU transparency on lobbyist meetings still piecemeal

Small steps are being made to reveal who is lobbying who within the EU. But the approach is basically haphazard and piecemeal - meaning the public remains largely in the dark and unable to truly scrutinise the influencers.

'Top-down' future of Europe conference 'will fail' warning

The new president of the Committee of the Regions has warned the EU Commission that a top-down, centralised, Brussels-driven conference will fail to rebuild trust in Europe. Instead, he proposes a stronger say for local and regional authorities.

'Law of silence' reigns over EESC leaders, says staff union

The secretary-general of the European Economic and Social Committee, an EU institution, has been accused by a trade union representing staff for perpetuating a "law of silence" amid a flurry of abuse allegations against its likely future president Jacek Krawczyk.

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. Ending shell companies does not threaten privacy
  2. Net payer countries push back on EU budget plans
  3. Is Belgium heading for new elections?
  4. Budget, Zuckerberg, Pelosi and Cayman Islands This WEEK
  5. EU plan on AI: new rules, better taxes
  6. What the EU can do for South Sudan - right now
  7. The last best chance for Donbas and peace in Europe?
  8. EU commissioner lobbied by energy firm he owns shares in

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us