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Historically, persons living in the European Economic Community were entitled to move between member states if work was offered to them requiring such a move. However, the Treaties now citizenship rights and a legal base to adopt measures to facilitate the free movement of EU citizens respectively, work is no longer a precondition for the exercise of free movement rights.

The treaties

The starting point for the free movement of persons is Art 18 TFEU, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of nationality. Art 20 establishes EU citizenship to complement national citizenship and Art 21 then provides for a right of free residence to EU citizens. Articles 45. 49 and 56 TFEU cover the free movement rights of workers.

Free movement of persons

Exercise of rights

There are two elements to the exercise of free movement rights of EU citizens (EUCs): a right to have EU nationality recognised and a right to exit and re-enter a home Member State (MS).

Under Art 20(1) TFEU, Member States may retain their autonomy in granting citizenship to individuals, but they are obliged to recognise other (EU) nationalities:

  • Micheletti [1993] obliged Spain to recognise the dual nationality of an Argentinian woman with Italian ancestors
  • Avello [2003] obliged Belgium to recognise the dual nationality of a person using the surnames of both parents

In failing to recognise free-movement rights, a MS may not deprive and EUC of his rights:

  • Yhu and Chen [2004] obliged Ireland to retain the residence of a woman who’s child had Irish citizenship, but
  • Uecker and Jacquet [1997] did not force Germany to recognise the right of residence of a citizen not from the EU, a third country national (TCN), after she married an EUC.
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