CJEU - C 208/09 / Judgment Ilonka Sayn-Wittgenstein v Landeshauptmann von Wien

Key facts of the case:
An Austrian national was, as an adult, adopted by a German national bearing a surname which contains aristocratic elements (“Fürst von”). The German court carrying out the adoption conferred, according to German law, to the adoptee the full surname of the adopting person, including those elements (in the female form: “Fürstin von”). At first, the Austrian authorities accepted this surname, but after 15 years decided to cancel the aristocratic elements as contrary to Austrian constitutional law. The adoptee appealing against this decision, the Austrian administrative court referred to CJ.
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
The Court (Second Chamber) hereby rules:
Article 21 TFEU must be interpreted as not precluding the authorities of a Member State, in circumstances such as those in the main proceedings, from refusing to recognise all the elements of the surname of a national of that State, as determined in another Member State – in which that national resides – at the time of his or her adoption as an adult by a national of that other Member State, where that surname includes a title of nobility which is not permitted in the first Member State under its constitutional law, provided that the measures adopted by those authorities in that context are justified on public policy grounds, that is to say, they are necessary for the protection of the interests which they are intended to secure and are proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued.