Belgium lags behind in implementing the Single Permit Directive


The EU Commission referred Belgium to the EU Court of Justice after the country failed to transpose the Single Permit Directive (Directive 2011/98/EU) into its national law, over two years after the Commission’s original deadline. The Court will rule as to why Belgium failed to transpose this Directive.

The Commission’s transposition deadline was set to the 25th of December, 2013, however, until that date, Belgium had not fully integrated the Directive into the Belgian legislation and informed the Commission that it had only partly done this. Subsequently, the Commission sent Belgium a notice along with an opinion with respect to its shortcomings. Eventually, the Commission referred Belgium to the Court of Justice of the European Union, suggesting that the Court impose a daily fine of €52,828.16, taking into consideration the level of gravity and the duration of Belgium’s failure to transpose the Directive.

Generally speaking, the transposition of this Directive into national law has not been a smooth process for numerous EU member states. In fact the Commission had circulated formal notices to fourteen member states due to failing to transpose the Directive by the stipulated deadline. 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 a member state who fails to transpose the Directive within the time frame. In Belgium’s case, if the country remains unresponsive towards fully implementing 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.

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. These rights also relate to the possibility of being eligible to national pension and social security systems. Moreover, through this Directive a non-EU national is also entitled to the same working conditions available to 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.

Malta has successfully transposed the Directive through Legal Notice 160/2014, 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.