Article 15 - Freedom to choose an occupation and right to engage in work
Article 41 - Right to good administration
Article 47 - Right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial
Key facts of the case:
In 2014, Mrs. Engerer, a qualified barrister in the UK, began working in Malta as a “barrister” after she was given a certificate in line with the national legislation that provides for the mutual recognition of qualifications of the legal profession across EU Member states (transposing the EU Directive 2005/36/EC). In March 2015, Mrs. Engerer filed the first application to the President of the Republic to revert to the Maltese title “avukat” (lawyer). However, in September 2019, she received a letter from the Attorney General stating that she could not partake in the Maltese legal profession unless she sat for the warrant exam.
On 2 September 2019, she filed proceedings in the First Hall of the Civil Court against the designated authorities (Justice Minister Attorney General). She claimed that the failure of the authorities to give a decision or to process the request within a reasonable time constitutes an infringement of her right to engage in work, right to good administration, right to an effective remedy, and to a fair trial as stated in articles 15, 41, and 47 of the Charter.
Besides that, the dispute of the parties further mainly revolved around two EU Directives (Directive 98/5/EC and Directive 2005/36/EC). The plaintiff claimed that the defendants failed to apply the national law correctly in accordance with these Directives, whereas the defendant opposed these claims.
Key legal question raised by the Court:
Does Article 81 of Chapter 12 of the Laws of Malta, Code of Organization and Civil Procedure, infringe the provisions of Directive 98/5/EC or Directive 2005/36/EC? Did the authorities act in breach of Articles 15 (freedom to choose an occupation and right to engage in work), Article 41 (right to good administration), and Article 47 (right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial) of the Charter?
The Court questioned whether Article 81 of Chapter 12 of the Laws of Malta, Code of Organization and Civil Procedure, infringed the provisions of Directive 98/5/EC (on the facilitation of practicing the profession of a lawyer on a permanent basis in a Member State other than that in which the qualification was obtained) or Directive 2005/36/EC (on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications). Article 81(1)(d) of Chapter 12 of the Laws of Malta stipulates that “No person shall be entitled to obtain the warrant referred to in Article 79 unless he has obtained the academic degree in law following the provisions of the Statue of the University of Malta, or such other qualification as the Minister, after consultation with the Committee, may from time to time prescribe, or a comparable degree from such other competent authority in accordance with the principles of mutual recognition of qualifications, after having read law in Malta or in a Member State”.
Outcome of the case:
The Court ruled that Article 81 of Chapter 12 of the Laws of Malta, Code of Organization and Civil Procedure, does not infringe Directives 98/5/EC and 2005/36/EC. The Court stressed that the mentioned Directives were correctly transposed into Maltese law. In particular, the judge stated that according to Article 13 (1) of Directive 2005/36/EC, host Member States are allowed to require the same conditions for professionals that apply to their nationals. Therefore, Mrs. Engerer must take the warrant exam as prescribed by Article 81 of Chapter 12 of the Laws of Malta in order to use the title “avukat” (a lawyer).
Regarding the alleged infringement of the plaintiff's right to engage in work, right to good administration, right to an effective remedy, and to a fair trial, as per articles 15, 41, and 47 of the Charter, the Court refrained from elaborating on this point. Eventually, the Court dismissed all the plaintiff's claims, and therefore affirmed that the conduct of the authorities complied with the national law, as well as EU Law.
Has witnessed the Sworn Answer of the Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government and the Attorney General by which they pleaded:
4. The inapplicability of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, given that the Charter applies exclusively "to the institutions, bodies, offices, and agencies of the Union in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity and also for the Member States only when they are implementing Union law ... "and this in terms of Article 51 (1) of the same Charter. It is established in the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union that the rights set out in the Charter are not "stand-alone provisions", i.e., they do not have an autonomous and independent application of the substantive provisions of European Law. That, since in the present case the request to His Excellency the President of Malta for the plaintiff to be granted a warrant without having fulfilled all the requirements established in the law is unfounded in European law, he certainly cannot be said that she was entitled to a "decision" against her under European Union law. Therefore, since the Charter applies only when a Member State is "implementing" a provision of the European law, such "implementation" cannot be considered to take place in the absence of a concrete right or obligation under a particular provision of European Law.
5. The plaintiff's allegations are unfounded in fact and in law on the merits and without prejudice to the foregoing, for the following reasons:
(b) In so far as the plaintiff is requesting this Honorable Court to declare that the failure of the designated authority to give a "decision" on her request within a reasonable time violates her rights in terms of the Articles 15, 41, and 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (which establish respectively the right to work, the right to good administration and the right to an effective remedy and a fair trial), since the present question concerns the plaintiff's claim to be granted a "warrant" without carrying out the appropriate examination required by law, it is certainly not possible to say that any of these articles have been violated.
That in the first place, it certainly cannot be said that the plaintiff's right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial has been violated for the simple reason that the designated authority cannot be considered a "Court or Tribunal" in terms of article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
That the applicant was at no time denied the right to work in Malta, on the contrary, she was granted a Certificate of Registration of practice of the legal profession under the title of her country of origin.
That it is clear from the Promoter Application and from the documents annexed to it that the plaintiff has been practicing the legal profession here in Malta under the professional title of ‘Barrister’, as used in the United Kingdom, since 2014 and that this title has also been formally recognised by the President of Malta in accordance with the provisions of Directive 98/5 / EC, as transposed into Maltese law by Legal Notice 273 of 2002 ("Document C" annexed to the application).
That in addition, the exponents have always respected the right to good administration and have always complied with the laws in force and within the parameters of the same.
Rat ir-Risposta Ġuramentata tal-Ministru għall-Ġustizzja, Kultura u Gvern Lokali u tal-Avukat Ġenerali li permezz tagħha eċċepew:
4. L-inapplikabbilita' tal-Karta tad-Drittijiet Fundamentali tal-Unjoni Ewropea u dan stante li l-Karta tapplika esklussivament "għall- istituzzjonijiet, għall-korpi u għall-aġenziji tal-Unjoni fir-rispett tal-prinċipju ta' sussidjarjeta` u għall-Istati Membri wkoll biss meta jkunu qed jimplimentaw il-liġi tal-Unjoni..." u dan ai termini tal-Artikolu 51(1) tal-istess Karta. Illi huwa stabbilit fil-każistika tal-Qorti tal-Ġustizzija tal-Unjoni Ewropea illi d-drittijiet stabbiliti fil-Karta m'humiex "stand alone provisions", u ċioe m'għandhomx applikazzjoni awtonoma u indipendenti mill-provvedimenti sostantivi tal-Liġi Ewropea. Illi, peress li fil-każ odjern it-talba lill-Eċċellenza Tagħha l-President ta' Malta sabiex l-attriċi tingħata warrant mingħajr ma kienet tissodisfa r-rekwiżiti kollha stabbiliti fil-liġi hija totalment infondata fid-dritt Ewropew, ċertament ma jistax jingħad illi din kienet intitolata għal xi "deċiżjoni" fil-konfront tagħha skont il-liġi tal-Unjoni Ewropea. Għaldaqstant, u peress li l-Karta tapplika biss meta Stat Membru jkun qiegħed “jimplimenta" xi liġi tal-Unjoni Ewropea, tali "implimentazzjoni" ma tistax titqies illi ssir fl- assenza ta’ dritt jew obbligu konkret skont provvediment partikolari tal- Liġi Ewropea.
5. Fil-mertu u mingħajr preġudizzju għas-suespost, l-allegazzjonijiet tal-attriċi huma nfondati fil-fatt u fid-dritt u dan għar-raġunijiet segwenti:
(b) In kwantu l-attriċi qed titlob lil dina l-Onorabbli Qorti tiddikjara li n-nuqqas da parti tal-awtorita' nominata illi tagħti "deċiżjoni" fuq it-talba tagħha fi żmien raġjonevoli jilledi d-drittijiet tagħha ai termini tal-Artikoli 15, 41 u 47 tal-Karta tad-Drittijiet Fundamentali tal-Unjoni Ewropea (illi jistabbilixxu rispettivament id-dritt għax-xogħol, id-dritt għal amministrazzjoni tajba u d-dritt għal rimedju effettiv u għal proċess imparzjali), jiġi sottomess li peress il-kwistjoni odjerna tirrigwarda l-pretensjoni tal-attriċi illi tingħata "warrant" mingħajr ma tagħmel l-eżami appożitu rikjest mil-liġi ċertament li bl-ebda tiġbid tal-immaġinazzjoni ma jista' jingħad li ġie vjolat xi wieħed minn dawn l-artikoli.
Illi fl-ewwel lok, ċertament ma jistax jingħad illi d-dritt tal-attriċi għal rimedju effettiv u għal proċess imparżjali ġie leż u dan għas-sempliċi raġuni li l-awtorita' nominata ma tistax tiġi kkunsidrata bħala "Qorti jew Tribunal" ai termini tal-artikolu 47 tal-Karta tad-Drittijiet Fundamentali. Illi l-attriċi fl-ebda waqt ma ġiet imċaħħda milli taħdem f’ Malta, iżda għal kuntrarju hija ngħatat ċertifikat ta' Reġistrazzjoni ta' prattika tal-professjoni legali taħt it-titlu ta' pajjiż ta' oriġini tagħha.
Illi jirriżulta ċar mir-Rikors promotur u mid-dokumenti annessi miegħu illi l-attriċi ilha tipprattika l-professjoni legali hawn Malta taħt it-titlu professjonali ta' barrister, kif użat fir-Renju Unit, mill-2014 u li dan it-titlu ġie anke formalment rikonoxxut mill-President ta' Malta skont il-provvedimenti tad-Direttiva 98/5/KE, kif trasposta fil-liġi Maltija permezz tal-Avviż Legali 273 tal-2002 ("Dokument C" anness mar-rikors promotur).
Illi in oltre, l-esponenti dejjem irrispettaw id-dritt għal amministrazzjoni tajba u dejjem imxew mal-liġijiet viġenti u fil-parametri tal-istess;