The cases below are concrete examples of the type of issues referred to the EU Rights Clinic and the type of actions the Clinic has been able to take to resolve them.
You can watch a video about a typical case handled by the EU Rights Clinic here.
- Croatian volunteer detained for two days at Charleroi Airport in Belgium
Goran is a young Croatian citizen who came to Belgium to work for ECAS for a year in the framework of the European Voluntary Service (EVS). Goran entered Belgium for the first time in September 2012 via Stuttgart and the police officer at the border did not ask him any questions about his stay in Belgium. He then returned to Croatia to organize a conference in Zadar in the framework of his work and on his way back he was stopped at Charleroi Airport. by a police officer demanding a visa, which as a volunteer Goran does not need. The police did not have any knowledge of the EuropeanVoluntary Service and repeatedly denied the recognition of the special status that he had under the EVS. Goran was detained for two days at Charleroi Airport. He was denied translation and, after signing documents in French which he did not understand, he was sent back to Croatia. There he applied for a visa to permit him to return to Belgium, which took him about six weeks to obtain.
The EU Rights Clinic took on Goran’s case in order to establish whether any of his rights had been breached. After close examination, the Clinic concluded that while the Belgian authorities had been technically within their legal rights to act as they did, this was only true because the Belgian government had failed to align itself with the EU Decision on the EVS and also to adopt the regulations under the Belgian law on volunteering that exempts volunteers from the need for a work permit. Firstly there is a discrepancy between the definition of “volunteer” in EU law and that under Belgian law. Secondly there are no Belgian implementing regulations (Royal Decree) that exempt non-EU volunteers from the requirement to obtain a work permit as contemplated by the 2009 Belgian Law on volunteering. The Clinic has decided to mount an advocacy campaign targeting the Belgian government with the aim of ensuring that the Belgian regulations are brought into line with EU law. The EU Rights Clinic is currently in the process of mobilising support from Belgian volunteer organisations which are affected by the rules in order to forge a coalition that will advocate for changes to the Belgian rules.
- British citizen unable to export disability living allowance to Hungary
A British national who has been in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for several years decided to move to Hungary in order to obtain specialist treatment for his disability and be closer to his family who have emigrated there. Before leaving, he was advised by the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over the telephone that he would not lose his entitlement to DLA if he moved to Hungary for treatment. When the client did move, his DLA was promptly stopped by the DWP, on the basis that this particular benefit could not be “exported” to Hungary.
The EU Rights Clinic examined the case to determine whether our client could insist on continuing to claim DLA while living in Hungary. The issue is currently the subject of legal proceedings before the Court of Appeal in England. The Clinic drafted a detailed letter of advice for the client which laid out his options. Based on our advice, the client decided to return to the UK in order to ensure he could obtain reinstatement of DLA without having to await the outcome of the case before the Court of Appeal.
- Family member of EU citizen assisted in obtaining residence card in Belgium
The spouse of an EU national employed in Brussels sought the assistance of the EU Rights Clinic in applying for a residence card with the Belgian authorities. He applied for a residence card as the family member of an EU citizen. The delay of the Belgian authorities in issuing the card meant that the client was prevented from travelling back to Turkey to visit his ailing father who was gravely ill. Although he could have travelled back, he could not then have the guarantee of re-enter the EU because his Schengen visa has expired.
The EU Rights Clinic has now written to the Belgian authorities on behalf of the client, making the case for expediting the process in light of the client’s difficult circumstances. The case was successfully resolved when the client was issued with a residence card soon after that enable him to travel back home to visit his father.
- EU nationals in Spain complain about discriminatory tax reporting requirements
The EU Rights Clinic’s assistance was requested by a Spanish NGO which represents the interests of EU citizens residing in Spain. Their concerns centred on the introduction of new tax declaration requirements by the Spanish Government which they view as discriminatory for several reasons. Firstly, the rules concerning foreign assets involve shorter filing deadlines that the corresponding rules on Spanish assets. Secondly, given that foreign nationals are on the whole more likely to have assets held back home and thus are much more likely to be affected by the rules than Spanish citizens who are more likely to hold Spanish assets. Thirdly, in view of complex and restrictive reporting system requiring specialist tax knowledge and fluency in Spanish, foreigners are put at a disadvantage because incomplete or incorrect filings will incur higher penalties than those affecting other tax declarations.
The EU Rights Clinic examined the Spanish tax rules and came to the conclusion that the Spanish foreign assets declaration rules discriminate against EU citizens who reside in Spain contrary to EU law. In particular, the Clinic considers that these requirements constitute a breach of Article 18 TFEU (non-discrimination on the grounds of nationality) and, separately, Article 63 TFEU (freedom of movement of capital). As a result, the Clinic has filed a petition with the European Parliament and a complaint with the European Commission. The Clinic is currently awaiting a response from the EU institutions.
- Family member denied right to apply for a residence card in Cyprus
The spouse of an EU citizen living in Cyprus contacted the EU Rights Clinic as he was prevented from being able to apply for a residence card without adequate reasons being furnished. The Client had previously sought redress through the EU’s SOLVIT network but the problem remained unresolved.
Upon reviewing the case, the EU rights Clinic determined that the Client’s initial application did not meet the onerous requirements of the Cypriot authorities. The Clinic helped the client in submitting a revised and complete application which has now been accepted by the Cypriot authorities. The client has since been issued with a certificate of application and is awaiting the outcome of his application.
- UK national without the right to vote in the UK or in Denmark where he lives
A British citizen who has been living in Denmark for several decades has complained that he is disenfranchised because he no longer has the right to vote in UK general elections and has no right to vote in national elections in Denmark. The voting rules in the UK are such that after 15 years of residence abroad, UK nationals living overseas lose the right to vote in parliamentary elections. The only solution available to British citizens wishing to vote in the UK is to return home and resume residence there. In Denmark, EU citizens who are permanent residents there do not have the right to vote in Danish parliamentary elections. Moreover, Danish citizenship rules do not allow for dual citizenship. Given that the client does not wish to relinquish his British nationality, he is stuck in a situation where he cannot vote in national elections either in his country of nationality or in his country of permanent residence. The client is effectively disenfranchised from his right to democratic participation in national elections.
The EU Rights Clinic considers that, while voting rules are a national competence, these rules do have to comply with the EU rules. One option being considered is the launching of a test case to establish that EU citizens who are permanent residents in an EU country other than their country of nationality should be entitled to vote in general elections there. The other option would be an advocacy campaign, to encourage the EU institutions to adopt legislation to grant the right to vote in all elections.
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