EU infringement proceedings: a long road to sanctions
The infringement proceedings that the European Commission threatened against France over its Roma crackdown Tuesday is the main tool the EU executive has to punish states that violate EU laws.
The procedure is the beginning of a long process that can lead to a case against a European Union state before the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which can impose fines.
The commission sends a "letter of formal notice" to a state in the first stage, allowing a government to submit its observations on the application of EU law within a given time limit.
This gives a country time to voluntarily conform with EU law.
If the EU executive is not satisfied by the actions take by the government, the commission can then send a "reasoned opinion" which outlines the existence of an infringement and asks a state to remedy the problem within a time limit.
If a state fails to comply, the European Commission can take its case to the Court of Justice.
© 2010 AFP