The latest on the Zambrano front – the Chavez-Vilchez judgment

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by Sophie Perez Fernandes, Junior Editor

Back in 2011, the ECJ delivered a pivotal decision in the Zambrano case. With reference to the Rottmann case, the ECJ held that “Article 20 TFEU precludes national measures which have the effect of depriving citizens of the Union of the genuine enjoyment of the substance of the rights conferred by virtue of their status as citizens of the Union.”

By this criterion are included within the scope of application of EU law situations which, a priori, fall within the competence of the Member States (the so-called purely internal situations). The Zambrano-criterion indeed allows EU citizens to rely on their status as EU citizens against their own Member States of nationality even when they have not exercised their rights of free movement. The immediate consequence of the Zambrano ruling was to preclude Member States (in casu, Belgium) from refusing third country national parents of minor EU citizens a right of residence in the Member State of residence and nationality of those children in so far as such decisions would result in the children having to leave the territory of the Union as a whole.

The subsequent case-law gave a rather narrow interpretation to the criterion, as can be confirmed by the judgments delivered in McCarthy, Dereci, Iida, O and S, Ymeraga, Alokpa and NA. The ECJ held the Zambrano-criterion as a specific criterion as it relates to “very specific situations” in which a right of residence may not, exceptionally, be refused to a third country national without the EU citizenship enjoyed by (minor) Member States nationals being (fundamentally) undermined. It thus follows that any right of residence conferred on third country nationals pursuant to Article 20 TFEU are rights derived from those enjoyed by the EU citizen of which they are members of the family and have, in particular, “an intrinsic connection with the freedom of movement and residence of a Union citizen”.

Without calling into question or reversing this line of jurisprudence, the ECJ seems however willing to revive the Zambrano-criterion in more recent cases, addressing some issues so far left in the open. In CS and Rendón Marín, though admitting the possibility of limiting the derived right of residence flowing from Article 20 TFEU to third country nationals (limitation based on grounds of public policy or public security), the ECJ framed the scope of such a limitation, making its application conditional on a case-by-case analysis and upon respect for fundamental rights as protected by the CFREU, namely Articles 7 and 24(2) CFREU. The ECJ further clarified the scope of the Zambrano-criterion as the ultimate link with EU law for the purposes of the protection of fundamental rights in the Chavez-Vilchez judgment delivered last week.
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On the CJEU’s post-Brexit case-law on European citizenship. The recovery of the identity Ariadne’s thread?

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by Professor Alessandra Silveira, Editor

The CJEU over the years has helped forging a concept of citizenship directed to be the “fundamental status of Member States nationals”. However, since the ruling Dereci of 2011, the proactivity of the CJEU concerning the development of the European citizenship seemed to have gradually exhausted its potentialities, mostly on the so-called social citizenship. It happens, tough, that the crucial moment the European Union faces demands the enhancement of its vertical relation with the citizens it upholds – it is either this or fragmentation. And maybe this is the subliminal message from the CJEU in three post-Brexit rulings that, decided in the Grand Chamber, surprisingly recover and develop the most emblematic case-law about the European citizenship – namely the Rottmann[i] and Zambrano[ii] rulings – whose political potential and/or identity potential seemed irrevocably muzzled.

In the ruling Rendón Marín[iii] and CS[iv], the core issue involved the expulsion and the automatic refusal of the concession of residence to third states nationals who have a dependent minor European citizen – in  both cases due to the parent’s criminal records. The CJEU recovered the Zambrano assertion, according to which Article 20, TFEU precludes national provisions that have the effect of depriving citizens of the Union of the genuine enjoyment of the substance of the rights conferred by virtue of their status as citizens of the Union[v] and, in this sense, it must be attributed the derived right of residence to the national from a third State, under this risk of the useful effect of the European citizenship being affected, if the minor is forced to leave the territory of the Union to follow his/her parent[vi]. In both rulings, the novelty is the way the CJEU appreciates, in the light of the fundamental rights of the European citizen, the possibility of a Member State to introduce limits to such derived right of residence which arises from Article 20, TFEU.

Continue reading “On the CJEU’s post-Brexit case-law on European citizenship. The recovery of the identity Ariadne’s thread?”