Belgium lags behind in implementing the Single Permit Directive

The EU Commission has recently announced that to date Belgium has failed to transpose the Single Permit Directive (Directive 2011/98/EU) into its national law. Hence, the EU Commission referred Belgium to the EU Court of Justice in order to address the lack of progress in transposing this Directive.

Notably, the Single Permit Directive provides non-EU nationals the possibility of both working and residing within the EU. A non-EU national would be able to apply for a permit through a single application without having to go through the inconvenience of applying for a resident permit and a work permit separately. Once a Single Permit is obtained, a permit holder would be able to enjoy comparable rights which are enjoyed by EU nationals. Indeed, these rights relate to the possibility of participating in national pension and social security systems. Moreover, a non-EU national is also bestowed with the right to enjoy the same working conditions which are availed of by EU nationals. Thus, the Directive aims at easing migration especially in cases were non-EU nationals would be able to fill in any voids within the EU labour market. On the other hand, the Directive does not have the powers to address conditions relating to admission of labour immigrants since these conditions are controlled by each Member State.

The Commission’s transposition deadline was set to the 25th of December, 2013. However, until that date, Belgium had only informed the Commission about the fact that it had only partly transposed the Directive. Subsequently, the Commission sent Belgium a notice and also an opinion with respect to its shortcomings. Ultimately, the Commission referred Belgium to the Court of Justice of the European Union and in this regard the Commission suggested to the Court to impose a daily fine of €52,828.16. When calculating this figure the Commission mainly took into consideration the level of gravity and the duration of the failure to transpose the Directive.

Contrarily, Malta has successfully transposed the Directive through Legal Notice 160/2014, which is referred to as The Single Application Procedure for a Single Permit as regards Residence and Work and a Common Set of Rights for those Third Country Workers legally residing in Malta Regulations, 2014. Before this new procedure was introduced locally, the Employment and Training Corporation (ETC) was the main body which processed work permits, and the Department for Citizenship and Expatriate Affairs was in charge of issuing resident permits. Upon the introduction of the Directive, the two bodies are still in charge of such process but they are now working together in order to issue single permits.

Particularly, the transposition of this Directive has not been smooth. In fact the Commission had circulated formal notices to fourteen member states due to failing to transpose the Directive within the stipulated time frame. In order to safeguard the functioning of the EU legislative process and the consequent transposition of Directives, the Commission is granted the power to ask the Court to enforce sanctions on an infringing Member State. Indeed, if Belgium remains unresponsive towards its duty to fully implement the Directive and if consequently the Court agrees with the Commission’s suggested fine, Belgium would start incurring the penalty from the date of the judgment or at any other date imposed by the Court.

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