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:
In the light of the foregoing considerations, I propose that the Court should answer the questions referred for a preliminary ruling by the Sozialgericht Leipzig as follows:
1. Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
4. According to Article 1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the ‘Charter’), entitled ‘Human dignity’, ‘[h]uman dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected’.
5. Article 20 of the Charter, entitled ‘Equality before the law’, provides that ‘[e]veryone is equal before the law’.
39. Therefore, by decision of 3 June 2013, which was received at the Court on 19 June 2013, the Sozialgericht Leipzig decided to stay the proceedings and refer the following questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling under Article 267 TFEU:
‘(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?’
141) By its fourth and final question, the referring court asks, in essence, whether Articles 1, 20 and 51 of the Charter require Member States to grant Union citizens non-contributory cash benefits which enable permanent residence.
142) Article 1 of the Charter proclaims that human dignity is inviolable, and Article 20 that everyone is equal before the law.
144) According to Article 51(1) of the Charter, its provisions are addressed ‘to Member States only when they are implementing Union law’. Moreover, under Article 6(1) TEU, which confers a binding value on the Charter, the Charter does not establish any new power for the European Union or modify its powers. ( 52 )
149) Moreover, the principle of equal treatment referred to in Article 20 of the Charter is also laid down in Articles 20 TFEU and 21 TFEU. As I have stated in point 90 of this Opinion, Regulation No 883/2004 and Directive 2004/38 flesh out the meaning and scope of the principle of equality established by those provisions.
150) Under Article 52(2) of the Charter, rights recognised by the Charter for which provision is made in the Treaties are to be exercised under the conditions and within the limits defined by those Treaties.