EU and Poland to talk in court
Under the EU VAT Directive, Member States are allowed to apply a reduced VAT rate for medical equipment and other appliances if they meet two conditions. They have to be intended to alleviate or treat disability and they have to be for the exclusive personal use of the disabled.
Poland goes beyond this scope by granting a reduced VAT rate to medical equipment of general use such as for example equipment used in hospitals, and to certain non-medicinal pharmaceutical products such as disinfectants and spa products.
The Commission has also referred Poland to the EU Court for the illegal application of a reduced VAT rate to fire protection goods. Under EU VAT rules, a reduced VAT rate can only be applied to an exhaustively listed set of goods and services.
The Directive does not allow Poland to apply a reduced VAT rate to fire protection goods, as such supplies are not included in that list. The Polish provision therefore goes beyond what is laid down in the VAT Directive. EU rules on VAT rates have to be strictly observed and interpreted as agreed and unanimously adopted by all EU Member States.
The Commission also decided to take Poland to the European Court of Justice for non-compliance with EU rules on the quality and safety of human tissues and cells.
Human tissues and cells, such as bone marrow, tendons, oocytes, and cornea are used in healthcare to treat people for a wide variety of illnesses and injuries. The transplantation of tissues and cells carries potential risks for disease transmission and this is why it is important to comply with EU legislation aimed at ensuring their quality and safety from donation to transplantation.
Poland's transposition of rules of the relevant Directives is incomplete. Poland does not apply the Directive's rules on quality and safety to three categories of tissues and cells covered by the EU legislation: reproductive cells, embryonic tissues and foetal tissues.
Although the use or non-use of tissues and cells for transplantation are determined under national legislation, Poland has not notified any prohibition or restriction to these categories.
On the 25 January 2013, the Commission sent a reasoned opinion asking Poland to complete the transposition of the relevant Directives. Poland so far, despite repeated calls by the Commission to complete this transposition, has failed to do so. ■