By Laurens Ankersmit
On the face of it, one might consider the outcome of this Grand Chamber ruling unsurprising. The Court held that EU law precludes German legislation which establishes an authorization requirement for undertakings established in another Member State to provide services in Germany. That authorization requirement was not required for German undertakings, was established for reasons of protecting the national economy (!) and did not factually recognize an operating license granted on the basis of EU legislation by another Member State.
Yet, this ruling concerned the regulation of air transport services, which is not only subject to a particular regime under free movement law, but is also politically highly sensitive (national airlines are still seen as a source of pride by many) and still operates much in an international regulatory context which is not always in line with EU law and policy. The Court was therefore still required to answer some tough legal questions, in particular how to reconcile article 58 (1) TFEU (the prohibition on restrictions to provide services of article 56 TFEU does not apply to transport services which has its own regime) with article 18 TFEU (the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of nationality). The issue was further complicated by the fact that the authorization requirements were only required with respect to flights from and to third countries.
Infringements of antitrust law can cause serious harm to consumers and businesses in the European Union. Under EU law the victims of infringements of antitrust law can claim compensation for the actual loss, for loss of profit and payment of interest accruing from the moment of time the harm occurred until the moment compensation is paid. Actions for damages for an infringement of national and EU antitrust law are governed by the national law of the Member States. To ensure the effectiveness of the right of the victims to claim damages the European Commission presented on 11 June 2013 a proposal for a directive on certain rules governing actions for damages under national law for infringements of the competition law provisions of the Member States and of the European Union (COM (2013) 404 final). Continue reading
On 12 July 2012 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in the VALE case (C-378/10) that
“Articles 49 TFEU and 54 TFEU are to be interpreted as precluding national legislation which enables companies established under national law to convert, but does not allow, in a general manner, companies governed by the law of another Member State to convert to companies governed by national law by incorporating such a company.”
The case concerned a cross-border conversion of a company established under Italian law, VALE Construzioni Srl, into a company incorporated under Hungarian law, VALE Építési kft. Under Italian law it is possible for a company to convert into a company established under foreign law. Under Hungarian law only companies incorporated under the law of Hungary are allowed to convert. The VALE case is the ‘mirror image’ of the Cartesio case (C-210/06) which concerns a transfer of a registered office of a company under Hungarian law to Italy without a conversion. In the Vale case the Court stated that a Member State may restrict a company governed by its law to retain the status of the company established under the law of that Member State if the company intends to move its seat to another Member State, thereby breaking the connecting factor required under the national law of the Member State of incorporation. However, the Member State of origin of that company cannot prevent a company from converting itself into a company governed by the law of the other Member State, to the extent that it is permitted under that law to do so.
On 12 July 2012, the ECJ handed down a new ruling on gambling advertisements. The judgment in C-176/11 HIT and HIT LARIX clarifies that a country may restrict advertisements for foreign casinos on the ground that the casino’s home state does not provide equivalent protection for gamblers. However, they cannot require identical regulation, and the restriction must be directly related to protecting consumers.
At the same time, however, the judgment raises once more the question of what regulations should be found proportional in gambling cases. The disagreement over proportionality is evident in the differences between the opinion of the Court and that of Advocate General Mazák, and will no doubt lead to further debate regarding the exact scope of Member State freedom in this area.
The ECJ issued a fun judgment today on the mutual recognition of driving licenses in the EU.
The case involves one Mr. Akyüz, a German national who was denied a German driving license because his “strong aggressive tendencies” caused him to fail a required medico-psychological exam (para. 18). Being a savvy gentleman (and perhaps familiar with EU law?), Mr. Akyüz went to the Czech Republic and acquired a Czech licence instead. When he returned to Germany and drove using his new Czech qualification, he was convicted by the German courts for two counts of driving without a license. Mr. Akyüz appealed his convictions, and the German court sent a preliminary reference to the ECJ to ask whether Directives 91/439 and 2006/126 “must be interpreted as precluding legislation of a host Member State which allows that State to refuse to recognise, within its territory, a driving licence issued in another Member State in the case where the holder of that licence … was refused a first driving licence in that State on the ground that he did not satisfy, under that State’s legislation, the physical and mental requirements for the safe driving of a motor vehicle” (para. 35).
The ECJ answered in the affirmative:
41. It is for the issuing Member State to investigate whether the minimum conditions imposed by European Union law, particularly those relating to residence and fitness to drive … have been satisfied and, therefore, whether the issuing of a driving licence is justified … .
42. Once the authorities of one Member State have issued a driving licence … the other Member States are not entitled to investigate whether the conditions for issue laid down by that directive have been met. The possession of a driving licence issued by one Member State has to be regarded as constituting proof that on the day on which that licence was issued, its holder satisfied those conditions … .