Fundamental freedom and names in the EU

by George Rosa-Acosta, student of the Master's degree in EU Law of UMinho

Case law from the European Court of Justice demonstrates that in the domain of establishing identity and citizenship, the names of natural persons are paramount. Naming practices straddle public and private law: they are the means by which a state identifies its citizens and by which those citizens embark upon most joint activities with others. In order to rationalise these practices, European Union harmonisation through its long historical arc — helped along copiously and often quietly by the ECJ — involves an evolving system of principles for answering the politically charged imbroglios provoked by disputes over naming rights and formulae. Three cases are of singular importance in defining this emerging EU naming regime: Konstantinidis v Stadt Altensteig, Garcia Avello v Belgian State and Sayn-Wittgenstein v Landeshauptmann von Wien. These cases demonstrate that the ECJ is willing to oblige Member-State liberalisation in conformity with the emerging EU personal nomenclature regime, but not at the point of surrendering bedrock cultural-juridical values that are consistent with the progressive ideology of EU human rights principles.

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