Court of Justice hands down judgment on naturalisation and EU citizenship

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has handed down its judgment in the case of JY v Wiener Landesregierung, covering new ground on the relationship between domestic naturalisation procedures and EU citizenship.

The case concerns a (former) Estonian national residing in Austria, where she applied to naturalise. The Austrian authorities initially assured her that she would be eligible for naturalisation, provided that she relinquished her Estonian nationality. She complied, rendering her stateless, but her naturalisation application was then rejected on the grounds that she had committed two traffic offences in the interim and therefore represented ‘a danger to law and order or public security’.

In its judgment, the CJEU held that the matter fell within the scope of EU law, in particular Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union on citizenship of the Union: by revoking their assurance that her naturalisation application would be successful, the Austrian authorities had prevented the applicant from recovering her status of ‘citizen of the Union’.

The Court further held that member states are required to ascertain whether such revocation is compatible with the principle of proportionality, including the impact on family and professional life, the gravity of any offence committed, and the possibility of recovering the original nationality. In the instant case, the Court found that the decision of the Austrian authorities to revoke their assurance was not proportionate: ‘Traffic offences, punishable by mere administrative fines, cannot be regarded as capable of demonstrating that the person responsible for those offences is a threat to public policy and public security which may justify the permanent loss of his or her status of citizen of the Union’ (para 71).

For more detailed discussion of the case, see this blog post by GLOBALCIT collaborator David de Groot.

Featured image: Luxofluxo (CC BY-SA 4.0)