Key facts of the case:
Reference for a preliminary ruling — Free movement of persons — Citizenship of the Union — Equal treatment — Economically inactive nationals of a Member State residing in the territory of another Member State — Exclusion of those persons from special non-contributory cash benefits under Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 — Directive 2004/38/EC — Right of residence for more than three months — Articles 7(1)(b) and 24 — Condition requiring sufficient resources.
Outcome of the case:
On those grounds, the Court (Grand Chamber) hereby rules:
1) This request for a preliminary ruling concerns the interpretation of Article 18 TFEU, of point (a) of the first subparagraph, and the second subparagraph, of Article 20(2) TFEU, of Articles 1, 20 and 51 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’), of Articles 4 and 70 of Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the coordination of social security systems (OJ 2004 L 166, p. 1, and corrigendum at OJ 2004 L 200, p. 1), as amended by Commission Regulation (EU) No 1244/2010 of 9 December 2010 (OJ 2010 L 338, p. 35) (‘Regulation No 883/2004), and of Article 24(2) of Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States amending Regulation (EEC) No 1612/68 and repealing Directives 64/221/EEC, 68/360/EEC, 72/194/EEC, 73/148/EEC, 75/34/EEC, 75/35/EEC, 90/364/EEC, 90/365/EEC and 93/96/EEC (OJ 2004 L 158, p. 77).
45) In those circumstances, the Sozialgericht Leipzig decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling:
‘(1) Do persons who do not wish to claim payment of any benefits of social security law or family benefits under Article 3(1) of Regulation No 883/2004 but rather special non-contributory benefits under Article 3(3) and Article 70 of the regulation fall within the scope ratione personae of Article 4 of the regulation?
(2) If Question 1 is answered in the affirmative: are the Member States precluded by Article 4 of Regulation No 883/2004, in order to prevent an unreasonable recourse to non-contributory social security benefits under Article 70 of the regulation which guarantee a level of subsistence, from excluding in full or in part Union citizens in need from accessing those benefits, which are provided to their own nationals who are in the same situation?
(3) If Question 1 or Question 2 is answered in the negative: are the Member States precluded by (a) Article 18 TFEU and/or (b) [point (a) of the first subparagraph of Article 20(2)] TFEU in conjunction with the [second subparagraph] of Article 20(2) TFEU and Article 24(2) of Directive 2004/38/EC, in order to prevent an unreasonable recourse to non‑contributory social security benefits under Article 70 of Regulation No 883/2004 which guarantee a level of subsistence, from excluding in full or in part Union citizens in need from accessing those benefits, which are provided to their own nationals who are in the same situation?
(4) If, according to the answers to the abovementioned questions, the partial exclusion of benefits which guarantee a level of subsistence complies with EU law: may the provision of non-contributory benefits which guarantee a level of subsistence for Union citizens, outside acute emergencies, be limited to the provision of the necessary funds for return to the home State or do Articles 1, 20 and 51 of the Charter … require more extensive payments which enable permanent residence?’
85) By its fourth question, the referring court asks, in essence, whether Articles 1, 20 and 51 of the Charter must be interpreted as requiring the Member States to grant Union citizens non-contributory cash benefits by way of basic provision such as to enable permanent residence or whether those States may limit their grant to the provision of funds necessary for return to the home State.
87) Article 51(1) of the Charter states that the provisions of the Charter are addressed ‘to the Member States only when they are implementing Union law’.
88) According to Article 6(1) TEU, the provisions of the Charter are not to extend in any way the competences of the European Union as defined in the Treaties. Likewise, the Charter, pursuant to Article 51(2) thereof, does not extend the field of application of EU law beyond the powers of the European Union or establish any new power or task for the European Union, or modify powers and tasks as defined in the Treaties (see judgment in Åkerberg Fransson, C‑617/10, EU:C:2013:105, paragraphs 17 and 23, and order in Nagy and Others, C‑488/12 to C‑491/12 and C‑526/12, EU:C:2013:703, paragraph 15).