Category: Citizenship

Case C-348/09 P.I.: Expulsion of an EU citizen and the notion of ‘imperative grounds of public security’

Removing persons from a community because of a crime they committed is a common phenomenon in law. In medieval England, sources show that men ‘of particular ill-repute’ or presented for serious crimes were forced to ‘abjure the realm’, sometimes even if they passed the procedure of an ordeal (J Hudson, The Formation of the Common Law, Longman, London 1996, 177). More modern international law renders such a mixture between an immigration measure and criminal punishment somewhat more complex: A state can no longer simply expel its own nationals. Still, for foreigners the question continues to arise whether a crime they committed should exclusively be tackled with the tools of criminal law or whether that crime should be seen as a rupture of the bonds of integration between the foreigner and society, resulting in the foreigner’s expulsion.

This thorny question is raised by the case of P.I. Mr I has lived in Germany since 1987. From 1990 onwards, he comitted acts of sexual coercion, sexual assault and rape on his former partner’s daughter who was 8 years old when the offences began. His acts were only discovered later, because he continuously threatened and isolated his victim. In 2006, he was eventually convicted to a term of imprisonment of seven years. By a decision of 2008, Mr I was ordered to leave the territory and lost the right to enter and reside in Germany.

In the appeal to this decision and the subsequent preliminary reference to the CJEU, the question arose whether the long period of residence should prevent an expulsion or whether the nature and context of the crime Mr I committed called for a different solution. Directive 2004/38 on the right of EU citizens to move and reside freely creates a system substantially based on an ever ‘greater degree of protection against expulsion’, the ‘greater the degree of integration of Union citizens’ becomes (recital 24). For Union citizens who have resided for ‘many years in the territory of the host Member State’, an expulsion measure should only be taken ‘where there are imperative grounds of public security’ (ibid.). Putting these objectives into practice, Article 28 of the Directive requires in its first paragraph that before taking an expulsion decision based on ‘public policy or public security’, factors to be taken into account by a Member State are the period of residence, age, state of health, family and economic situation, social and cultural integration into the host Member State and the extent of links with the country of origin of the EU citizen. The second paragraph raises the bar, requiring ‘serious’ grounds of public policy or public security for those Union citizens having gained the right of permanent residence. Finally, the third paragraph provides that in cases where a Union citizen has resided in the host Member State for the previous 10 years, ‘imperative grounds of public security’ must be brought forward to justify an expulsion decision.

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AG Bot in P.I. (Case C-348/09): Committing a crime disqualifies EU Citizens from permanent residence

In his Opinion in the P.I. case delivered on March 6 this year, AG Bot came up with a curious reading of ‘integration into society’ when dealing with a potential expulsion of an EU citizen who is a permanent resident. In the view of the learned AG committing a crime ‘shows a total lack of desire to integrate into society’ (para. 60), disqualifying the criminal from protection against expulsion (para. 49). This curious reasoning potentially deprives the status of permanent residence under directive 2004/38/EC of much of identifiable meaning.

The Citizenship directive (directive 2004/38/EC) regulates the conditions under which nationals of a Member State can move to and reside freely within the territory of the Member States. In short, the directive introduces a system in which the longer you live in another Member State, the more rights you have. For the Court, the length of residence is proof of a certain level of integration into the society of the host Member State (see for instance case C-158/07 Jacqueline Förster).

Expulsion, for example, is almost impossible after 10 years of prior legal residence. Article 28(3)(a) provides that an expulsion decision may only be taken against Union citizens legally resident for a period of 10 years on ‘imperative grounds of public security, as defined by Member States’. From Tsakouridis (C-145/09) we already know that dealing in drugs can provide such an ‘imperative ground of public security’. But what if we are dealing with the rape of a step-daughter? The issue of the case in P.I basically comes down to the need for the Court to clarify when EU citizen permanent residents can be sent back to their Member State of nationality, which, in turn, necessitates answering the question about the meaning of the ‘imperative grounds of public security’.

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