Article 1 - Human dignity
Article 7 - Respect for private and family life
Article 24 - The rights of the child
Key facts of the case:
Request for a preliminary ruling from the Appeal Tribunal (Northern Ireland).
Reference for a preliminary ruling – Citizenship of the Union – National of a Member State without an activity residing in the territory of another Member State on the basis of national law – The first paragraph of Article 18 TFEU – Non-discrimination based on nationality – Directive 2004/38/EC – Article 7 – Conditions for obtaining a right of residence for more than three months – Article 24 – Social assistance – Concept – Equal treatment – Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – Transition period – National provision excluding Union citizens with a right of residence for a fixed period under national law from social assistance – Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union – Articles 1, 7 and 24.
Outcome of the case:
On those grounds, the Court (Grand Chamber) hereby rules:
Article 24 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 must be interpreted as not precluding the legislation of a host Member State which excludes from social assistance economically inactive Union citizens who do not have sufficient resources and to whom that State has granted a temporary right of residence, where those benefits are guaranteed to nationals of the Member State concerned who are in the same situation.
However, provided that a Union citizen resides legally, on the basis of national law, in the territory of a Member State other than that of which he or she is a national, the national authorities empowered to grant social assistance are required to check that a refusal to grant such benefits based on that legislation does not expose that citizen, and the children for which he or she is responsible, to an actual and current risk of violation of their fundamental rights, as enshrined in Articles 1, 7 and 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Where that citizen does not have any resources to provide for his or her own needs and those of his or her children and is isolated, those authorities must ensure that, in the event of a refusal to grant social assistance, that citizen may nevertheless live with his or her children in dignified conditions. In the context of that examination, those authorities may take into account all means of assistance provided for by national law, from which the citizen concerned and her children are actually entitled to benefit.
42) By decision of the President of the Court of 26 January 2021, a request for information was sent to the referring Court. The referring court was asked, in particular, to clarify whether there was a potential risk of violation of the fundamental rights of CG and her children, enshrined in Articles 7 and 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (‘the Charter’) and to indicate the financial resources of CG and the nature of her accommodation and that of her children.
85) In that regard, it must be noted that the Charter’s scope is defined in Article 51(1) according to which, so far as action of the Member States is concerned, the provisions of the Charter are addressed to the Member States only when they are implementing EU law (judgment of 13 June 2017, Florescu and Others, C‑258/14, EU:C:2017:448, paragraph 44 and the case-law cited). According to Article 51(2) thereof, the Charter 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 the powers and tasks as defined in the Treaties (judgment of 19 November 2019, TSN and AKT, C‑609/17 and C‑610/17, EU:C:2019:981, paragraph 42).
88) It follows that, where they grant that right in circumstances such as those in the main proceedings, the authorities of the host Member State implement the provisions of the FEU Treaty on Union citizenship, which, as pointed out in paragraph 62 of the present judgment, is destined to be the fundamental status of nationals of the Member States, and that they are accordingly obliged to comply with the provisions of the Charter.
89) In particular, it is for the host Member State, in accordance with Article 1 of the Charter, to ensure that a Union citizen who has made use of his or her freedom to move and to reside within the territory of the Member States, who has a right of residence on the basis of national law, and who is in a vulnerable situation, may nevertheless live in dignified conditions.
90) Furthermore, Article 7 of the Charter recognises the right to respect for private and family life. That article must be read in conjunction with the obligation to take into consideration, in all acts relating to children, the best interests of the child, which are recognised in Article 24(2) thereof (see, to that effect, judgment of 26 March 2019, SM (Child placed under Algerian kafala), C‑129/18, EU:C:2019:248, paragraph 67 and the case-law cited).
92) In the present case, it is apparent from the order for reference that CG is a mother of two young children, with no resources to provide for her own and her children’s needs, who is isolated on account of having fled a violent partner. In such a situation, the competent national authorities may refuse an application for social assistance, such as Universal Credit, only after ascertaining that that refusal does not expose the citizen concerned and the children for which he or she is responsible to an actual and current risk of violation of their fundamental rights, as enshrined in Articles 1, 7 and 24 of the Charter. In the context of that examination, those authorities may take into account all means of assistance provided for by national law, from which the citizen concerned and his or her children may actually and currently benefit. In the dispute in the main proceedings, it will be for the referring court, in particular, to ascertain whether CG and her children may benefit actually and currently from the assistance, other than Universal Credit, referred to by the representatives of the United Kingdom Government and the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland in their observations submitted to the Court.
93) In the light of all the foregoing considerations, the answer to the first question is as follows: