Key facts of the case:
- Does the Federal Republic of Germany have power to grant social security benefits to employees of the European Central Bank? That, in essence, is the question which the Hessisches Landessozialgericht (Regional Social Court, Land Hessen) (Germany) has asked the Court.
- More particularly, the referring court is uncertain, first, as to the legal nature of the Agreement of 18 September 1998 between the German Government and the European Central Bank (ECB) on the Headquarters of the ECB (‘Headquarters Agreement’). (2) Secondly, the referring court points out that it is necessary to determine the scope of the conditions of employment of ECB staff, taking account of Article 36(1) of the Protocol to the Statute of the European System of Central Banks and the European Central Bank (ESCB). (3)
- The questions referred have arisen in the context of a dispute between Ms Feyerbacher (‘the applicant’), an employee of the European Central Bank who is a German national and resides in Germany, in Land Hessen, concerning the latter’s refusal to grant her a parental allowance.
- Consequently the reference for a preliminary ruling concerns, first, the legal nature of the Headquarters Agreement and, in particular, whether it forms part of Union law or not. Secondly, it raises the question of whether Article 15 of the Headquarters Agreement – which by virtue of the Article 36(1) of the Statute of the ESCB precludes the application of the substantive and procedural provisions of the employment and social welfare law of the Federal Republic of Germany to the conditions of employment for ECB staff, laid down by the Governing Council of the ECB (4) (‘COE’) – constitutes a rule of conflict of laws which prevents that Member State from granting ECB staff members residing in its territory, on the basis of the principle of territoriality, family allowances, such as the parental allowance, provided for by its national legislation.
- In that connection, I would point out that the key to the case lies in the question of whether and, if so, to what extent, Germany remains free, by virtue of Article 36(1) of the Statute of the ESCB, to apply its national law for the purpose of granting social security benefits to ECB staff members to supplement those provided for in the COE.
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
Article 36(1) of the Statute of the European System of Central Banks and the European Central Bank must be interpreted as meaning that it does not preclude Germany from granting social welfare benefits, such as the parental allowance at issue in the main proceedings, to employees of the European Central Bank in accordance with national law, on the basis of the principle of territoriality, unless such benefit is exclusively provided for by the Conditions of employment of the staff of the European Central Bank.