The Warsaw Voice » Law » Monthly - October 27, 2011
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Law in brief
Dispute Over Right-Hand Drive Cars
Poland will face legal action at the European Court of Justice for refusing to register right-hand drive vehicles, a stance that has brought it into conflict with the European Commission.

Polish law requires that the steering wheel is placed on the left-hand side of the vehicle. This means that in practice right-hand drive cars, both new and used, cannot be registered in Poland. According to the European Commission, these restrictions constitute a disproportionate barrier to the importation of such vehicles from other EU member states, for example by citizens returning to Poland after having worked in Britain. In September last year the Commission requested the Polish authorities to put an end to these restrictions, but they are still in place.

In the Commission’s view, if a motor vehicle meets EU requirements, it can be driven safely in all member states irrespective of whether it is left- or right-hand drive. Therefore, the Commission believes that a total ban on the registration of right-hand drive vehicles is disproportionate to the legitimate public policy objective of ensuring road safety.

As far as new cars are concerned, the Commission believes that the obstacles to the registration of right-hand vehicles are contrary to Directive 70/311/EEC on type-approval of steering equipment and framework Directive 2007/46/EC on EC type-approval of motor vehicles. Regarding used cars, the Commission insists that Poland is breaching EU rules on the free movement of goods (Article 34 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

Before taking Poland to the European Court of Justice, the European Commission exchanged correspondence with the Polish government concerning the issue. The Commission refused to accept the Polish government’s argument that the ban was for safety reasons. The Commission called on Poland to change the regulations, but to no avail. If the European Court of Justice upholds the Commission’s position, Poland will have to either lift the ban or face a multimillion-euro fine.

Poland is one of 26 EU countries with street traffic on the right, but the only one that prohibits the registration of right-hand drive vehicles.

Cybercrime Rampant: Report
Over 70 percent of Poles were victims of some form of cybercrime last year, leading to an estimated zl.2.9 billion in direct financial losses, according to the Norton Cybercrime Report commissioned by antivirus software maker Symantec. That figure jumps to zl.10.1 billion if you factor in the value that victims place on the time they spent recouping the losses, Symantec says. According to the company, last year Poles wasted an average of six days to recoup the damage caused by cybercrime attacks.

After extrapolating survey results, Symantec found that every minute 15 Poles fell victim to cybercrime—translating into 22,000 people a day. Most of them (64 percent) came into contact with computer viruses and malware; 20 percent experienced online scams and 10 percent phishing messages, which attempt to obtain personal information through deceptive links in emails.

Around the world, 431 million people were victims of cybercrime last year, leading to $388 billion in financial losses, Symantec says.

Legal Assistance Needed
Polish prosecutors made a total of 3,794 requests for legal assistance to other countries in criminal cases last year, up from 3,200 in 2009. These requests most often involved Germany—1,371, Britain – 292, and Ukraine – 288. Assistance from foreign law enforcement authorities was provided in 3,029 cases.

Requests for legal assistance are made, for example, when a witness from abroad is needed. Other requests involve access to documents or information about bank accounts.

It is increasingly rare that Polish prosecutors are forced to drop their investigations because they are unable to obtain important information from abroad, officials say.

Better Protection for Victims of Domestic Violence
The European Commission has proposed a package of measures to ensure a minimum level of rights, support and protection for victims of domestic violence across the European Union, no matter where they come from or live.

As part of this package, and to help protect victims of violence from any further harm, the Commission has proposed a regulation on mutual recognition of civil law protection measures. The regulation is designed to help ensure that victims of violence who benefit from a restraining, barring or other protection order in their home country will continue to be protected when moving or traveling to another EU country, the European Commission says. Such protection should be awarded through a simple certificate, without the victim having to go through additional procedures in the new country to get the same protection.

Individual EU member states are expected to enforce the new rules after the European Parliament approves them.