Article 21 - Non-discrimination
Article 35 - Health care
Article 52 - Scope and interpretation
Key facts of the case:
Reference for a preliminary ruling — Public health — Directive 2004/33/EC — Technical requirements relating to blood and blood components — Blood donation — Eligibility criteria for blood donors — Criteria for permanent or temporary deferral — Persons whose sexual behaviour puts them at a high risk of acquiring severe infectious diseases that can be transmitted by blood — Man who has had sexual relations with another man — Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union — Articles 21(1) and 52(1) — Sexual orientation — Discrimination — Justification — Proportionality
Outcome of the case:
On those grounds, the Court (Fourth Chamber) hereby rules:
Point 2.1 of Annex III to Commission Directive 2004/33/EC of 22 March 2004 implementing Directive 2002/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards certain technical requirements for blood and blood components must be interpreted as meaning that the criterion for permanent deferral from blood donation in that provision relating to sexual behaviour covers the situation in which a Member State, having regard to the prevailing situation there, provides for a permanent contraindication to blood donation for men who have had sexual relations with other men where it is established, on the basis of current medical, scientific and epidemiological knowledge and data, that such sexual behaviour puts those persons at a high risk of acquiring severe infectious diseases and that, with due regard to the principle of proportionality, there are no effective techniques for detecting those infectious diseases or, in the absence of such techniques, any less onerous methods than such a counter indication for ensuring a high level of health protection of the recipients. It is for the referring court to determine whether, in the Member State concerned, those conditions are met.
46) In that connection, it should be recalled that the scope of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’) with regard to the action of the Member States, is defined in Article 51(1) thereof, according to which the provisions of the Charter are addressed to Member States ‘only when they are implementing Union law’.
48) Accordingly, among the provisions of the Charter, that decree must respect inter alia Article 21(1) thereof, according to which any discrimination based on sexual orientation must be prohibited. Article 21(1) is a particular expression of the principle of equal treatment, which is a general principle of EU law enshrined in Article 20 of the Charter (see, to that effect, judgments in Römer, C‑147/08, EU:C:2011:286, paragraph 59, and Glatzel, C‑356/12, EU:C:2014:350, paragraph 43).
50) In those circumstances, the Decree of 12 January 2009 may discriminate against homosexuals on grounds of sexual orientation within the meaning of Article 21(1) of the Charter.
51) Therefore, it must be determined whether the permanent contraindication to blood donation provided for in the Decree of 12 January 2009 for a man who has had sexual relations with another man none the less satisfies the conditions laid down by Article 52(1) of the Charter in order to be justified.
53) In the present case, it is common ground that the permanent contraindication to blood donation for a man who has had sexual relations with another man, which constitutes a limitation on the exercise of the rights and freedoms recognised by the Charter, must be regarded as being provided for by law, within the meaning of Article 52(1), since it stems from the Decree of 12 January 2009.
55) However, it must still be determined whether that limitation meets an objective of general interest, within the meaning of Article 52(1) of the Charter, and, whether, in the affirmative, it respects the principle of proportionality within the meaning of that provision.
57) In the present case, the permanent deferral from blood donation aims to minimise the risk of transmitting an infectious disease to recipients. That deferral thereby contributes to the general objective of ensuring a high level of human health protection, which is an objective recognised by the EU in Article 152 EC, and in particular in Article 152(4)(a) and (5) EC, and Article 35, second sentence of the Charter, which requires a high level of human health protection to be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Union policies and activities.
68) In those circumstances, it must be concluded that if effective techniques for detecting severe diseases that can be transmitted by blood or, in the absence of such techniques, less onerous methods than the permanent deferral of blood donation for the entire group of men who have had sexual relations with other men ensure a high level of health protection to recipients, such a permanent contraindication would not respect the principle of proportionality, within the meaning of Article 52(1) of the Charter.