CJEU - C-438/14 / Judgment

Wolfferdorff v Standesamt der Stadt Karsruhe and Others
Policy area
Justice, freedom and security
Deciding body type
Court of Justice of the European Union
Deciding body
Court (Second Chamber)
Decision date
ECLI (European case law identifier)
  • CJEU - C-438/14 / Judgment

    Key facts of the case:

    Reference for a preliminary ruling — Citizenship of the Union — Article 21 TFEU — Freedom to move and reside in the Member States — Law of a Member State abolishing privileges and prohibiting the conferring of new noble titles — Surname of an adult, national of that State, obtained during a habitual residence in another Member State of which that person also holds the nationality — Name comprising tokens of nobility — Residence in the first Member State — Refusal by the authorities of the first Member State to enter the name acquired in the second Member State in the register of civil status — Justification — Public policy — Incompatibility with the essential principles of German law

    Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:

    ...the Court (Second Chamber) rules as follows:

    Article 21 TFEU must be interpreted as meaning that the authorities of a Member State are not bound to recognise the name of a citizen of that Member State when he also holds the nationality of another Member State in which he has acquired that name which he has chosen freely and which contains a number of tokens of nobility, which are not accepted by the law of the first Member State, provided that it is established, which it is for the referring court to ascertain, that a refusal of recognition is, in that context, justified on public policy grounds, in that it is appropriate and necessary to ensure compliance with the principle that all citizens of that Member State are equal before the law.

  • Paragraphs referring to EU Charter
    1. It must be noted, as a preliminary point, that a person’s forename and surname are a constituent element of his identity and of his private life, the protection of which is enshrined in Article 7 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’) and in Article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, signed in Rome on 4 November 1950 (‘the ECHR’). Even though Article 7 of the Charter does not refer to it expressly, a person’s forename and surname, as a means of personal identification and a link to a family, none the less concern his private and family life (see, as regards Article 8 of the ECHR, judgments of 22 December 2010 in Sayn-Wittgenstein, C‑208/09, EU:C:2010:806, paragraph 52 and the case-law cited, and of 12 May 2011 in Runevič-Vardyn and Wardyn, C‑391/09, EU:C:2011:291, paragraph 66).
    1. In that regard, as stated in paragraph 35 of this judgment, a person’s surname is a constituent element of his identity and of his private life, the protection of which is enshrined in Article 7 of the Charter and in Article 8 of the ECHR.