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Fundamental Freedoms, Fundamental Rights, and the Scope of Free Movement Law

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 March 2019

Abstract

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The relation between internal market freedoms (the so-called “fundamental freedoms”) and fundamental rights is a recurring question in EU law. In recent years, after rulings such as Schmidberger, Omega, Viking, and Laval, attempts to provide a framework for approaching and resolving clashes between fundamental freedoms and fundamental rights have acquired a special urgency. Less attention, however, has been devoted to capturing the different nature of fundamental freedoms and fundamental rights, and to evaluating the implications of the choice whether or not to include fundamental freedoms in the same category as fundamental rights. The dominant focus in the literature is on what happens when free movement and fundamental rights pull in different directions. Yet, the question of whether fundamental freedoms should be regarded as fundamental rights also deserves close scrutiny. It is especially important to understand the implications of this classification since the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights appears to treat some, but not all, fundamental freedoms as fundamental rights. In particular, the Charter seems to regard the free movement of persons and services as fundamental rights, but not the free movement of goods or the free movement of capital. A similar approach is exhibited in the case law: While the Court recognizes the fundamental rights character of free movement of persons, it does not appear to extend that characterization to the entirety of free movement law. This article attempts to make sense of this dichotomy by relying on an account of fundamental rights that adopts a non-instrumental focus on the right-holder. It argues that certain free movement provisions, namely the free movement of goods and capital, cannot be characterized as fundamental rights because they are inherently instrumental—they are a means to the internal market end. By contrast, the other free movement provisions appear to match the account of fundamental rights adopted here. As this article aims to show, the classification of certain, or all, fundamental freedoms as fundamental rights is a question that affects the interpretation of the scope of the free movement provisions. Moreover, as will be seen, the question is closely related to the debate on the convergence between the free movement provisions, and on the persistence of the “wholly internal rule,” the rule that requires a cross-border connection to trigger the application of free movement law.

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Articles
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Copyright © 2014 by German Law Journal GbR 

References

1 The term “fundamental freedoms” captures the EU internal market freedoms enshrined in the provisions on free movement of goods, free movement of persons, services, and capital in Title II and IV of Part Three (“Union Policies and Internal Actions”) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Consolidated Version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pt. 3, tit. II & IV, Mar. 30, 2010, 2010 O.J. (C 83) 47 [hereinafter TFEU].Google Scholar

2 Schmidberger v. Österreich, CJEU Case C-112/00, 2003 E.C.R. I-5659 [hereinafter Schmidberger]; Omega Spielhallen v. Oberbürgermeisterin der Bundesstadt Bonn, CJEU Case C-36/02, 2004 E.C.R. I-9609; Laval un Partneri Ltd. v. Svenska Byggnadsarbetareförbundet, CJEU Case C-341/05, 2007 E.C.R. I-11767; Int'l Transp. Workers' Fed'n v. Viking, CJEU Case C-438/05, 2007 E.C.R. I-10779. There is a rich literature on this issue. Among the most recent contributions, see generally, Oxford Inst. of Eur. and Comparative Law, The Protection of Fundamental Rights in the EU After Lisbon (Sybe de Vries, Ulf Bernitz & Stephen Weatherill eds., 2013); Trstenjak, Verica & Beysen, Erwin, The Growing Overlap of Fundamental Freedoms and Fundamental Rights in the Case-Law of the CJEU, 35 Eur. L. Rev. 293 (2013).Google Scholar

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27 Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, art. 15, Dec. 18, 2000, 2000 O.J. (C 364) 1, 11 (emphasis added). This does not mean that citizenship is the foundation of all fundamental rights. Citizenship is a status, not a right. As a status, citizenship gives rise to certain rights—the right to move and to reside throughout the territory of the EU—and, to a certain extent, colors the interpretation of pre-existing free movement rights.Google Scholar

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38 See, e.g., Nold v. Comm'n, CJEU Case 4/73, 1974 E.C.R. 491.Google Scholar

39 The fact that in ADBHU the Court designated free movement of goods as a general principle does not necessarily imply that it is also a fundamental right; similarly, the principle of free competition is not a fundamental right. A provision's fundamental importance and its status as a general principle are not decisive factors in deciding that a fundamental right exists. This remark remains unchanged even in the presence of provisions that have direct effect, such as Article 34 TFEU or Article 101 TFEU.Google Scholar

40 Dounias v. Minister for Economic Affairs, CJEU Case C-228/98, 2000 E.C.R. I-577, para. 64.Google Scholar

41 Id. para. 64 (“[T]he Court has consistently held that the existence of a judicial remedy against any decision of a national authority refusing the benefit of a fundamental right conferred by the Treaty is essential in order to secure for the individual effective protection for his right.”).Google Scholar

42 UNCTEF v. Heylens, CJEU Case 222/86, 1987 E.C.R. 4097, para. 14.Google Scholar

43 Namely, the Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese versions. It is possible to infer that if the Court had wished to emphasize the “fundamental rights” status of the “Community rights” at issue, those language versions would have paid greater attention to that—not insignificant—detail.Google Scholar

44 A fact that is confirmed by the absence of any reference to fundamental rights in all the instances in which the Court has subsequently relied on paragraph 64 of Dounias. Google Scholar

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66 One could conceive of free movement of goods and of capital as fundamental rights that are not limited to EU citizens. This is a possible—albeit questionable—interpretation, as the majority of EU fundamental rights do not have a necessary connection with EU citizenship, but this is not the interpretation advanced by the convergence thesis, which relies heavily on EU citizenship.Google Scholar

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77 The trouble, though, is that the Court is unclear as to how to identify that critical point. This uncertainty was exacerbated by Philippe Bonnarde v. Agence de Services et de Paiement, CJEU Case C-443/10. 2011 E.C.R. I-9327, para. 30.Google Scholar

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81 Alongside direct and indirect discrimination, the Court now applies a broad “restrictions” test. See, e.g., Klaus Konle v. Republik Österreich, CJEU Case C-302/97, 1999 E.C.R. I-3099; Comm'n v. Germany, CJEU Case C-112/05, 2007 E.C.R. I-8995; Staatssecretaris van Financiën v. Orange European Smallcap Fund NV, CJEU Case C-194/06, 2008 E.C.R. I-3747. See, Snell, Jukka, Free Movement of Capital: Evolution as a Non-Linear Process, in The Evolution of EU Law 547 (Paul Craig & Gráinne de Búrca eds., 2011).Google Scholar

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87 Ruiz Zambrano v. Office National de l'Emploi, CJEU Case C-34/09, 2011 E.C.R. I-1177.Google Scholar

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90 Reynolds, Stephanie, Exploring the “Intrinsic Connection” Between Free Movement and the Genuine Enjoyment Test: Reflections on EU Citizenship after Iida, 35 Eur. L. Rev. 376 (2013).Google Scholar

91 Shaw, Jo, Citizenship: Contrasting Dynamics at the Interface of Integration and Constitutionalism, (Univ. of Edinburgh Sch. of Law, Working Paper No. 2010/14, 2010), available at ssrn.com/abstract=1585938.Google Scholar

92 That is not to say that determining what falls within the scope of EU law is a straightforward matter.Google Scholar

93 Carbonati Apuani Srl v. Comune di Carrara, CJEU Case C-72/03, 2004 E.C.R. I-8027 [hereinafter Carbonati]. The Court's approach was partly based on the one adopted in Lancry v. Direction Générale des Souanes and Société Dindar Confort, CJEU Joined Cases C-363/93, C-407/93–C-411, 1994 E.C.R. I-3957.Google Scholar

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95 That is, because internal borders undermine in practice the integrity of the customs union.Google Scholar

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Fundamental Freedoms, Fundamental Rights, and the Scope of Free Movement Law
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Fundamental Freedoms, Fundamental Rights, and the Scope of Free Movement Law
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Fundamental Freedoms, Fundamental Rights, and the Scope of Free Movement Law
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