The European Citizens Initiative (ECI) is an agenda-setting tool that gives EU citizens an opportunity to directly influence EU policy. There were high expectations of the ECI enhancing EU democracy when launched in 2012, but only 3 ECIs have so far managed to collect the one million signatures needed to request the Commission to propose a legal act of the Union. EU citizen appetite for direct democracy remains strong, however, and there has been a recent resurgence in the ECI. The number of new initiatives has increased – including last week an ECI aiming to strengthen EU citizenship in the face of Brexit – and new ECIs are being strongly supported, with the Ban Glyphosate ECI gathering almost 700,000 signatures in less than 3 months.
The other important area of ECI activity has been in the General Court where citizens are challenging the Commission’s restrictive approach to ECI registration: almost 40% of ECIs rejected to date. The first three judgments upheld the Commission’s registration decisions, but in the Minority Safepak case ECI organisers successfully challenged a Commission ECI registration decision for the first time. Published last month, the Court decision itself was only a minor, narrow victory for the ECI that left many questions still to be answered in its on-going legal saga. However, following last week’s surprising Commission response to the judgment, the annulment of the Commission’s decision to refuse registration of the Minority Safepak ECI could yet be a landmark decision in defending EU citizens’ rights of democratic participation and direct democracy in the EU. Continue reading →
And below:Bougnaoui v Micropole: Mildly Surreal Thoughts on Competence and Clothes (particularly when worn by women)
The two cases were decided on the same day by the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice. Although they both concern essentially the same fact set – a firm wishing to dismiss an employee who insists on wearing an Islamic headscarf – the questions referred were different, and the substantive discussion is found in Achbita. Bougnaoui, briefly noted at the end of this blog, addresses just one, odd, point: the Court confirmed that the fact that a Muslim woman wears a headscarf does not make her incapable of doing her work. That is little comfort though – since Achbita decided that she can probably be dismissed anyway.
In Achbita v G4S the Court of Justice was asked whether a private firm could prohibit the wearing of Islamic headscarves by employees who dealt with customers, or whether this violated the ban on religious discrimination in the workplace, found in Directive 2000/78. The claimant, Ms Achbita, worked as a receptionist for G4S in Belgium. When she began wearing a headscarf she was warned that it was against company policy, which disallowed all religious, political or philosophical signs in the workplace. When she continued, she was dismissed.
The Court found that under the right circumstances a company might be entitled to have a policy of this sort. One condition was that the policy must be in writing – in the interests of certainty and clarity. Another condition was that it must apply without distinction to all beliefs. Continue reading →
As the Brexit negotiations become a reality, the position of UK citizens living in other EU states, and of EU citizens living in the UK attracts ever more discussion, particularly within the UK, where there has been great political support for the idea that those already established in the UK should not simply be thrown out. Nevertheless, aspects of UK procedure and bureaucracy are making it extremely difficult for Union citizens to obtain recognition of their right to reside. At the heart of this is the lack of a UK population register and of any registration requirement, meaning that most Union citizens moving to the UK do so without formalities. That may seem refreshingly easy at first. However, it means that if a Union citizen wants the UK to recognize that they have a right of permanent residence, they have to prove retrospectively that their last five years have been both in the UK, and in compliance with the terms of the Citizenship directive. That raises enormous evidential problems. One of these is to do with sickness insurance: while taking no active steps to require this from new arrivals, the UK takes the view that only those who were privately insured against almost all medical risks were actually lawfully present. This comes as a nasty shock to many migrant citizens – most of them, like over 90% of UK citizens, use the National Health Service rather than private insurance. The discussion below explains how this situation has arisen, and considers whether the UK’s standpoint complies with Union law. It suggests that this issue should not be ignored in Brexit negotiations, as it concerns the rights and lives of many thousands of Europeans. Continue reading →
I. Introduction: A New Initiative for UK nationals After Brexit?
On 11 January 2016, the European Commission registered a European Citizens Initiative to create a “European Free Movement Instrument”. The purpose of the Initiative is to lobby the European Union institutions to create a mechanism by which individuals may be directly granted the rights of free movement provided by EU citizenship, which is currently predicated upon nationality of a Member State in accordance with Article 20 TFEU. The proposers of the Initiative – the “Choose Freedom Campaign” – outline that their intention is not to reform the nature of Citizenship of the European Union; they concede that “the EU isn’t a government, and only Nation states can issue Citizenship”. Instead, their ambition is more limited – they argue that the European Union should institute a “Universal Mechanism” in order to provide individuals with a European Union passport: “we beg the Commission to delineate a method by which all Europeans of good standing may be granted a signal & permanent instrument of their status and of their right to free movement through the Union by way of a unified document of laissez-passer as permitted by Article (4) of Council Regulation 1417/2013, or by another method”.
Although the information on the Initiative on the Commission’s website and the accompanying press release do not explicitly link the putative Free Movement Mechanism to Brexit, it seems clear that such a competence for the European Union to directly issue EU passports would address the loss of rights that will be attendant to UK nationals losing the status of EU citizenship provided to them through nationality of a Member State once the United Kingdom has withdrawn in accordance with Article 50 TEU. Continue reading →
If the UK withdraws from the EU, then its citizens will cease to be citizens of the Union. That much is simple – Article 20 TFEU doesn’t leave any doubt that Union citizens are those who are citizens of the Member States.
Still, while that provision was once thought to make Union citizenship dependent on national citizenship, in Rottmann the Court turned it neatly around, showing how it made national citizenship equally dependent on EU law. In that case a German citizen was faced with threatened denaturalisation, which would be likely to leave him stateless. He argued that the denaturalisation, because it also deprived him of his Union citizenship, was an interference with his EU law rights, and so should be constrained by EU law.
He won on the principle, although he probably lost on the facts: the Court said that indeed, a national measure which deprives a Union citizen of their Union citizenship clearly falls within the scope of EU law, and is therefore subject to judicial review in the light of EU law rules and principles. However, it went on to say that such a measure is not per se prohibited. It must merely be proportionate. Denaturalising fraudsters probably is, in most circumstances. Continue reading →
Following its strict findings in the Dano and Alimovic judgments, the Court of Justice of the European Union could not but state the obvious in case C-299/14 (García-Nieto and others): Member States may exclude economically inactive EU citizens from social assistance who are residing in the host Member State for a period shorter than three months. Again, the Court opts for legal certainty in rigorous and explicit terms and emphasises the objective of preventing the foreign EU citizen from becoming an unreasonable burden on the host Member State’s social assistance system. However, just like with Dano and Alimanovic, this comes with a human cost. This time the Court neglected the possibility to give a more substantial meaning to the unity of the family, allowing discrimination towards the migrant worker. Continue reading →
Hector Salamanca was vulnerable. The Mexican was old and, after having suffered a stroke, tied to the wheel chair. He had no means of communication save a tiny bell he barely managed to ring. After most of his family was dead, he lived the life of a lonesome vegetable in a nursing home.
Donald Gately is vulnerable. His sense of honour and duty as a staffer at Enfield House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House had practically compelled him to defend a drug addict who had got involved in a fight. In the fight, Don G. was shot in the shoulder. Now, he is tied to the hospital bed, suffering from inhuman pain, pain from which only opioids could bring relief – though not for him, for opioids had been the focus of his long history of substance abuse and now he is desperately abstinent.
Protecting Vulnerable Groups is a great book. It made me see all of the above (and more) in a new light. To be sure, Protecting Vulnerable Groups is not a book about Breaking Bad or Infinite Jest. It is not an economic, sociological, or socialist book either, despite the appearance the title creates. No, Protecting Vulnerable Groups is a rock solid book on the law, in particular case law. It explains how the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice attend to the vulnerable. Sometimes, the courts explicitly find persons vulnerable, as in MSS v Belgium and Greece when an asylum-seeker was declared “particularly vulnerable” (Protecting Vulnerable Groups, p. 249); sometimes the idea of vulnerability is merely inherent in the courts’ case law. Both occurrences are discussed extensively in the book. Continue reading →
As is becoming a tradition with our blog (albeit a bit late this year), we present to you our top 10 most read posts of the last year. We have had another good year of blogging behind us: more readers contributing to the content of the blog with 33 posters coming from approximately 14 different countries this year. Equally important is that readership is steadily increasing according to Google Analytics (plus: we now have almost 1600 email subscribers and 2400 followers on twitter). Most of you are from the UK, followed by the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, the United States, Italy, Sweden, France, Ireland and Poland, respectively.
Keeping in mind that there is a certain bias in favour of older posts which have had more time to become popular, this is the 2015 list of most read posts of the year: Continue reading →
Citizenship is typically conceived of as membership in a political community, carrying with it certain rights and obligations, and especially the right to participate in the government of that community. Union citizenship has until recently been deficient in that regard. Despite the existence of a democratically elected assembly since 1979 in the form of the European Parliament, the links between this parliament and the status of Union citizenship have been ambiguous with the parliament representing not a single group of Union citizens but rather the ‘peoples’ of Europe, those peoples being defined by Member States and national law.
The Treaty of Lisbon changes that paradigm, stating boldly that the European Parliament represents no longer the peoples of Europe but rather the ‘citizens of the Union’. The link between Union citizenship and the European Parliament being made apparent, it was perhaps only a matter of time before the Court drew the conclusion that the rights of Union citizenship contained a stand-alone right to vote in European Parliamentary elections. That decision has just occurred in the judgment in Delvigne. Continue reading →
This judgment triggers a myriad of socio-legal questions pertaining to the EU multi-level health governance, including the rising area of sexual risk regulation, as well as questions regarding EU sexual citizenship, and more particularly the discrimination of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans (LGBT) individuals. The case, moreover, sheds light on the role scientific expertise plays in domestic and supranational courts, and the interplay between legal discourse, scientific knowledge, rights and identity politics. In this blog post, we offer a brief outline of the Court’s decision and highlight some of its controversial legal and normative aspects. Continue reading →
With the end of the third year of operation of the European Law Blog approaching, it is onceagain time to take a brief look back at the most popular posts of the year. Based on our Google Analytics statistics and keeping in mind that there is a certain bias in favour of older posts which have had more time to become popular, we receive the following little tour d’horizon of EU law… Continue reading →
A perceptive follower of the development of the case-law on access to court and justice in general might have noticed that the less willing the Court of Justice to loosen up the constraints in regard of the locus standi for non-privileged applicants, the more generous it seems to be towards the actual acts which can be amenable to judicial review. Be it for the reasons of democracy and rule of law or for the broadening of its competences, it is apparent that the Court is following this path.
This post shall provide a concise view on one of such cases, namely the recent judgment of the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice in case C-261/13 P Schönberger v Parliament, where the Court assessed the decisions adopted by the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament (Parliament), by which a petition is either found admissible and further processed or declared inadmissible, in view of the possibility to challenge such decisions before the EU Courts. Continue reading →
Case-note on C-333/13, Elisabeta Dano v Jobcenter Leipzig
The Dano case goes right to the heart of the debate on social tourism. Are economically inactive EU-citizens, residing in a Member State of which they are not a national, entitled to social assistance which is granted to nationals of that host Member State? Directive 2004/38/EC (the EU Citizenship Directive) does not oblige Member States to provide for such assistance, but Art. 18 TFEU, Regulation 883/2004 on the coordination of social security and the Charter of Fundamental Rights might do so in the end. These were the elements at stake in the Dano case.
On 16 January 2014, the CJEU ruled on case Reyes regarding dependent family members in the EU free movement law. The Court was asked to consider whether a family member of an EU/EEA citizen can be required to have unsuccessfully searched for employment in the country of origin in order to be regarded as a ‘dependant’ and whether for the interpretation of the same notion any importance should be attached to the intention of the family member to find employment in the host Member State.
In its judgment, the Court stated that family members cannot be required to prove that they have searched for a job in the country of origin and that whether they will eventually manage to find employment in the host Member State is an irrelevant factor with regards to the interpretation of ‘dependant’. The judgment is useful as it complements the previous jurisprudence of the Court regarding this issue and adds further details on the notion of dependence which is particularly important in the field of immigration law.
It is common knowledge that, barring exceptional circumstances, only EU citizens who exercise their free movement rights can invoke the right to be joined or accompanied by close family members. An EU citizen who moves to another Member State can take his close family members along, even if the latter are not EU citizens themselves; the same is true when the EU citizen later returns to his home Member State. So far, everything is pretty much clear.
However, there still remains a large degree of uncertainty as to how much ‘movement’ is in fact required in order to be able to invoke this right. Does it suffice to go on a daytrip to another Member State (e.g. to visit an amusement park)? Does it suffice to work in another Member State without moving there? Is it necessary to reside in the other Member State for a number of months or even years?
‘to take the opportunity afforded by these two references to give clear and structured guidance as to the circumstances in which the third country national family member of an EU citizen who is residing in his home Member State but who is exercising his rights of free movement can claim a derived right of residence in the home Member State under EU law.’
In what follows, I will briefly discuss the CJEU’s judgments and analyse their key points. As will become clear, the Court did in fact respond to the AG’s call, by providing further clarification on this point. Continue reading →
Remember the movie Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray is caught in a time loop and relives the same day over and over again? Well, that’s a bit how the Court must have felt when being asked this question by the Landesgericht Bozen:
“Does the interpretation of Articles 18 and 21 TFEU preclude the application of provisions of national law, such as those at issue in the main proceedings, which grant the right to use the German language in civil proceedings pending before the courts in the province of Bolzano only to Italian citizens domiciled in the Province of Bolzano, but not to nationals of other EU Member States, whether or not they are domiciled in that province?” Continue reading →
Two recent cases dealt with the question whether periods of imprisonment must be taken into account for the calculation of periods of residence under the Citizenship Directive. The cases are interesting for European citizenship law, as they provide further insight into what the ‘fundamental status’ of EU citizenship entails. In particular, the cases are interesting because the Court was required to meander between a more republican reading of citizenship (rights need to be earned) and a liberal reading of citizenship: rights are granted to all citizens even if they are no model citizens. Continue reading →