CJEU - C 391/09 / Judgment Malgožata Runevič-Vardyn, Łukasz Paweł Wardyn v Vilniaus miesto savivaldybės administracija, Lietuvos Respublikos teisingumo ministerija, Valstybinė lietuvių kalbos komisija, Vilniaus miesto savivaldybės administracijos Teisės departamento Civilinės metrikacijos skyrius

Key facts of the case:
 
Mrs Malgožata Runevič-Vardyn, who was born in Vilnius in 1977, is a Lithuanian national. She belongs to the Polish minority in Lithuania. She states that her parents gave her the Polish forename ‘Małgorzata’ and her father’s surname ‘Runiewicz’. She explains that her birth certificate issued in 1977 was drawn up in Cyrillic characters and that it was only the birth certificate issued in 2003 which showed her forename and surname registered in their Lithuanian form, namely as ‘Malgožata Runevič’. The same forename and surname appear also on the Lithuanian passport which was issued to her in 2002.
 
In 2007, after living and working in Poland for some time, she married, in Vilnius, a Polish national, Mr Łukasz Paweł Wardyn. On the marriage certificate, which was issued by the Vilnius Civil Registry Division, ‘Łukasz Paweł Wardyn’ is transcribed as ‘Lukasz Pawel Wardyn’ – the Lithuanian spelling rules being used without diacritical modifications. His wife’s name appears in the form ‘Malgožata Runevič-Vardyn’ − indicating that only Lithuanian characters, which do not include the letter ‘W’, were used, including for the addition of her husband’s surname to her own surname. The couple are currently living with their son in Belgium.
 
In 2007, Mrs Malgožata Runevič-Vardyn submitted a request to the Vilnius Civil Registry Division for her forename and surname, as they appear on her birth certificate, to be changed to ‘Małgorzata Runiewicz’ and for her forename and surname, as they appear on her marriage certificate, to be changed to ‘Małgorzata Runiewicz-Wardyn’. Following the refusal of that request, the couple brought an action before the Vilniaus miesto 1 apylinkės teismas (First District Court of the City of Vilnius, Lithuania). That court now asks the Court of Justice whether EU law precludes rules of a Member State which require that surnames and forenames of individuals be entered on the certificates of civil status of that State in a form which complies with the spelling rules of the official national language.
 
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
  1. National rules which provide that a person’s surnames and forenames may be entered on the certificates of civil status of that State only in a form which complies with the rules governing the spelling of the official national language relate to a situation which does not come within the scope of Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin; 
  2. Article 21 TFEU must be interpreted as:
  • not precluding the competent authorities of a Member State from refusing, pursuant to national rules which provide that a person’s surnames and forenames may be entered on the certificates of civil status of that State only in a form which complies with the rules governing the spelling of the official national language, to amend, on the birth certificate and marriage certificate of one of its nationals, the surname and forename of that person in accordance with the spelling rules of another Member State;
  • not precluding the competent authorities of a Member State from refusing, in circumstances such as those at issue in the main proceedings and pursuant to those same rules, to amend the joint surname of a married couple who are citizens of the Union, as it appears on the certificates of civil status issued by the Member State of origin of one of those citizens, in a form which complies with the spelling rules of that latter State, on condition that that refusal does not give rise, for those Union citizens, to serious inconvenience at administrative, professional and private levels, this being a matter which it is for the national court to decide. If that proves to be the case, it is also for that court to determine whether the refusal to make the amendment is necessary for the protection of the interests which the national rules are designed to secure and is proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued;
  • not precluding the competent authorities of a Member State from refusing, in circumstances such as those at issue in the main proceedings and pursuant to those same rules, to amend the marriage certificate of a citizen of the Union who is a national of another Member State in such a way that the forenames of that citizen are entered on that certificate with diacritical marks as they were entered on the certificates of civil status issued by his Member State of origin and in a form which complies with the rules governing the spelling of the official national language of that latter State.