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Publication date:29 August 2018

Making EU citizens’ rights a reality: national courts enforcing freedom of movement and related rights

The founding treaties, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and secondary EU law all provide for EU citizens’ freedom to move and reside freely in any EU country of their choice. Growing numbers of citizens, and their family members, are making use of this freedom and related rights, such as the right not to be discriminated against based on nationality and the right to vote in certain elections in the host Member State. But making these rights a reality remains a challenge. This report presents an EU-wide, comparative overview of the application of the Free Movement Directive (2004/38/EC) across the 28 Member States based on a review of select case law at national level.


The Agency has identified and analysed case law from all EU higher national courts relating to the application of the EU citizens’ rights, in particular free movement and non-discrimination on the ground of nationality.


Millions of Europeans, including 3.8 % of EU citizens of working age, exercised their right to reside in an EU country other than their own. However, there is little knowledge about how courts across the EU are dealing with cases involving the right to move freely and reside in the EU.

EU citizenship plays an important role in people’s everyday life and is a source of specific rights. Those rights are enshrined in EU Treaties and in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. They include: the right to move and reside freely; the right to vote for and stand as a candidate at municipal and European Parliament elections in the Member State of residence; access to the diplomatic and consular protection of another Member State outside the EU if a citizen’s Member State is not represented there; the right to petition the European Parliament and to complain to the European Ombudsman. EU citizenship also entails the right to non-discrimination on the ground of nationality.

An EU Directive details the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States. However, it also states that citizens of other Member States should not become a burden on the host state, and thus long-term and permanent residence is subject to certain restrictions.

The European Commission asked FRA to examine case law from national courts relating to the application of the EU citizens’ rights relating to free movement and non-discrimination on the ground of nationality.


FRA’s inter-disciplinary research network (FRANET) identified judgments and decisions from higher national courts in each Member State relating to non-discrimination on the grounds of nationality, freedom of movement and other citizenship rights.

The case law concerns in principle the implementation of the right of EU citizens and their family members to move and reside freely. It particularly covers the entry and residence requirements that may be imposed on nationals of another Member State, and their family members, and the grounds on which a Member State is entitled to restrict their rights. Several cases involved alleged discrimination on the ground of nationality, and political rights (voting and participating in European Parliament elections and in municipal elections in their Member State of residence.


The country reports will be available on the European Commission’s e-Justice Portal and on FRA’s website. A comparative analysis developed by the Agency will be published later in 2018.