EU Citizenship and Protection of Social Rights in the Court of Justice case-law

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by Cinzia Peraro, PhD student in European Union Law at the University of Verona

1. Introduction

This post aims at analysing the fundamental freedom of movement of workers and the protection of social rights in light of the recent EU Court of Justice case-law. The arising question is whether fundamental social rights may assume the same hierarchical level as general principles when a balancing test is exercised within the assessment of compatibility of national measures with EU law.

The definition of EU citizenship and the codification of rights granted to EU citizens are covered by the Treaties, namely by Article 9 TEU, Article 18 ff. TFEU and Chapter V of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. EU citizens can freely move across the Union in order to work or look for a job or establish their place of work in one Member State different from the one of origin, where they can enjoy the rights granted by the EU. Indeed, EU citizenship creates rights upon EU citizens and therefore could be defined as a “comunidade de direitos”[i].

Nowadays, the free movement of citizens became a core issue within the debates on present threats and challenges that the EU is facing, amongst which the EU immigration policy that is not only linked to the free movement of persons, but also to the underlying process of integration. In general, a more positive approach should be welcomed when addressing current issues.

2. Free movement of workers

Originally, the four fundamental freedoms were established with the aim of increasing and developing the European internal market and workers were granted rights abroad. The Union offered workers the possibility to move across Member States in order to provide their services or capabilities or establish their place of work. Then, the personal dimension was considered and individual rights were recognised, such as the right to family reunification. Thus, the free movement of workers should not be seen in macroeconomic terms, that is to say linked to the development of the internal market, but rather as a personal freedom to choose the country in which citizens want to work.[ii]

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