Ruling of of the Court [Third Chamber] in Joined Cases C‑22/08 and C‑23/08, Athanasios Vatsouras (C‑22/08), Josif Koupatantze (C‑23/08) v Arbeitsgemeinschaft (ARGE) Nürnberg 900 ECR reference- not yet reported
Referred by [The Sozialgericht Nürnberg (Germany)]
In fact, the referred questions arose in the course of proceedings between two Greek nationals, on the one hand, and the Arbeitsgemeinschaft (ARGE) Nürnberg 900 (Job Centre, Nuremberg 900), on the other, concerning the withdrawal of basic job-seekers benefits which those Greek nationals had been receiving.
The Sozialgericht, the referring court, took the view that the two applicants did not, at the material time, benefit from the specific guarantees in favour of ‘workers’ since the ‘brief minor’ professional activity of the first applicant, Mr Vatsouras, ‘did not ensure him a livelihood’ and the activity pursued by Mr Koupatantze ‘lasted barely more than one month’. According to the Community directive on the free movement of citizens of the Union1, a Member State is not obliged to confer entitlement to a social assistance benefit on citizens who are not economically active. However, the Sozialgericht expressed doubts as to whether that exception is compatible with the principle of equal treatment guaranteed by Community law.
Interpretation of Articles 12 EC and 39 EC and the validity of Article 24(2) of Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, amending Regulation (EEC) No 1612/68 and repealing Directives 64/221/EEC, 68/360/EEC, 72/194/EEC, 73/148/EEC, 75/34/EEC, 75/35/EEC, 90/364/EEC, 90/365/EEC and 93/96/EEC (OJ 2004 L 158, p. 77, and corrigenda (OJ 2004 L 229, p. 35, OJ 2005 L 197, p. 34, and OJ 2007 L 204, p. 28))/1. Is Article 24(2) of Directive 2004/38 valid and if no then the contested German rules are contrary to Article 12 TEC, which lays down a general prohibition of non-discrimination?
ANSWER of the COURT:
Article 24(2) of Directive 2004/38 is valid and Article 12 EC does not preclude national rules which exclude nationals of Member States of the European Union from receipt of social assistance benefits which are granted to nationals of non-member countries.
REASONING of the Court
The Court first of all invited the Sozialgericht to analyse the applicants’ situation in the light of its case-law concerning the status of workers. Independently of the limited amount of the remuneration and the short duration of the professional activity, it cannot be ruled out that that activity, following an overall assessment of the employment relationship at issue, may be regarded by the national authorities as real and genuine, thereby allowing the person engaged in that activity to be granted the status of ‘worker’.
Were the Sozialgericht to conclude that Mr Vatsouras and Mr Koupatantze had the status of workers, they would have been entitled, in accordance with the directive at issue2, to receive the requested benefits for at least six months after losing their jobs.
The Court then went on to examine the possibility of refusing a social assistance benefit to job-seekers who do not have the status of workers. In that regard, it noted that, in view of the establishment of citizenship of the Union, job-seekers enjoy the right to equal treatment for the purpose of claiming a benefit of a financial nature intended to facilitate access to the labour market.
A Member State may, however, legitimately grant such an allowance only to job-seekers who have a real link with the labour market of that State. The existence of such a link can be determined, in particular, by establishing that the person concerned has, for a reasonable period, in fact genuinely sought work in the Member State in question. As a consequence, citizens of the Union who have established real links with the labour market of another Member State can enjoy a benefit of a financial nature which is, independently of its status under national law, intended to facilitate access to the labour market.
The Court left for the competent national authorities and, where appropriate, the national courts not only to establish the existence of a real link with the labour market, but also to assess the constituent elements of the benefit in question. The objective of that benefit must be analysed according to its results and not according to its formal structure.
The Court pointed out that a condition such as that provided for in Germany for basic benefits in favour of job-seekers, under which the person concerned must be capable of earning a living, could constitute an indication that the benefit is intended to facilitate access to employment.
The issue of integration into the host society was dealt with extensively by the EU Court, as many of these matters were brought before it. The rule is that every citizen who legally resides in another Member State can rely on Articles 18 and 21 TFEU, ex Articles 12 and 18 TEC, to claim equal rights also with regard to social benefits, regardless of whether one is economically active and regardless of the precise status under Directive 2004/38/EC, provided that one does not become an unreasonable burden. Integration is nowhere mentioned as a condition for rights. Still, the EU Court stipulated that for economically non-active students living in another Member State “a sufficient degree of integration” can lead to equal treatment with regard to access to social assistance even tough secondary legislation would prima facie rule this out.
On a related note, as integration issue is of concern, its worthnoty the Bidar Case, where the element that triggered financial solidarity was not the temporary nature of the difficulties but a genuine link between the society of the host State following a “certain degree of integration” of the applicant into the society of the host Member State. The existence, legality and application of hard conditions for legal residence included in secondary legislation such as Directive 2004/38/EC, including sufficient resources or health insurances, has never been called into question by the ECJ. The rigid application of such requirements however was not allowed.
 Joined Cases C‑22/08 and C‑23/08, Athanasios Vatsouras (C‑22/08), Josif Koupatantze (C‑23/08) v Arbeitsgemeinschaft (ARGE) Nürnberg 900, paragraph 31.
 Case 85/96, Maria Martinez Sala , ECR I-2691