As its latest review on the first two years of EUTR reveals, delays in national implementation of the EUTR, both in designating Competent Authorities and drawing up national legislation and penalties as well as in checks on operators have been identified as major shortcomings during the reporting period. All of these factors have hampered the creation of a “level playing field” for all operators.
Several Member states started implementing the EUTR “only late in the reporting period”, according to the report, that is almost two years after the Regulation entered into application.
Against this background, the European Commission started bilateral dialogue with eight member states, as a result of which several countries “were brought to compliance”. However, the Commission says it has started legal action due to noncompliance against Hungary, Greece, Romania and Spain.
Spain had not appointed a competent authority during the period under report. Moreover, all four affected countries are still in the process of working out sanctions for EUTR breaches.
Authorities understaffed and underfunded
The Commission also noted that the amount of financial and human resources dedicated to EUTR implementation by the Member states varies considerably. The numbers of staff assigned to the EUTR in the individual member states varies from 1 to 200, for example.
In many case, resources appear “disproportionately low compared to the number of operators in those countries, leaving the deterrent effect of the enforcement activities rather limited”.
The Commission also found that only a fraction of operators had been subject to checks by CAs; and several member states had not yet started carrying out checks at all.
Where financial resources are concerned, the Commission noted that some member states have not allocated any additional financial resources at all for the implementation and enforcement of the EUTR.
Unequal penalties, variations in speed of appointing Competent Authorities, and lack of staff and money for EUTR enforcement have prevented the creation of a level playing field throughout the EU.
Cooperation and communications more favourably assessed
Both the Commission and member states carried out awareness raising campaigns before the EUTR entered into application. On the part of the Commission, a Guidance Document was developed to help “align the interpretation of key provisions of the regulation”. Moreover, the Commission and member states cooperated in the form of expert meetings on implementation and enforcement.
The Commission also set up an electronic communication platform for information exchange between member states.
At the same time, the Commission conceded that guidance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – both by the Commission and member states – was rather limited.