By Niels Kirst
The recent judgement of the European Court of Justice in C-591/17 Austria v Germany was a Member State dispute about the enactment of a motorway charge in Germany. The Court of Justice of the European Union (hereinafter: CJEU) addressed one of the core concepts of the European legal order – the non-discrimination principle enshrined in Article 18 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (hereinafter: TFEU). Questions had to be answered: (1) Can the cumulative introduction of a vignette system and a vehicle-tax relief amount to an indirect discrimination? (2) Should political considerations be taken into account by the Court? (3) Is Article 259 TFEU a suitable tool to solve Member State disputes?
The case is particularly interesting due to the use of Article 259 TFEU, which Austria invoked to bring Germany before the CJEU. Article 259 TFEU is rarely used due to its blaming character of the alleged rule-breaker. Many Member States would prefer that the European Commission (hereinafter: EC), as guardian of the treaties, leads the investigations into an alleged breach of EU law by a Member States. However, Article 259 TFEU can be seen as a last resort measure by a Member State, if the Member State sees its interests or the interest of its citizens jeopardized.
In the case at hand, Austria brought the measure before the CJEU since many Austrians use the German highways due to proximity and transnational road travels through Germany. Austria based its claim on two characteristics. First, (i) the new motorway charge would be payable by all users of the motorway network in Germany and second (AG opinion, para. 5); (ii) owners of vehicles registered in Germany are granted a tax relief equal to the amount of the motorway charge (AG opinion, para. 5). Austria argued that the combination of these two measure factually amounts to an indirect discrimination of EU citizens when they use German highways.
This commentary presents the relevant political backgrounds leading up to this case, discusses the Court’s judgement and reflects upon the wider implications of Case C-591/17 for the development of an EU-wide vignette system for light vehicles, the use of Article 259 TFEU and the questions of political accords between the EC and a Member State. Continue reading
By Jan Przerwa
The story of Romano Pisciotti is the first ever case that resulted in extradition of an EU citizen to the US on antitrust charges. On 10 April 2018, the Court of Justice rendered its second ruling in the saga. Before, in Case C-411/14 P, the Court declared inadmissible Pisciotti’s complaint that the European Commission had not instigated infringement proceedings against Germany for breach of EU law. In the most recent case (C-191/16), the German court referred questions to Luxembourg concerning compatibility of the different treatment in extradition cases of German nationals and other Member States’ nationals with EU law. When Member State nationals are treated differently than nationals of other Member States, such extradition practices may raise questions of compatibility with EU free movement law and the principle of equal treatment. Continue reading
By Gijsbert Vonk
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.
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.