CJEU - C-578/08, Rhimou Chakroun v Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Country of Applicant: 
Morocco
Date of Decision: 
04-03-2010
Citation: 
C-578/08
Court Name: 
Second Chamber of the CJEU
Headnote: 

The Family Reunification Directive does not make a distinction between whether a family relationship arose before or after the entry of the resident into the Member State. An application for family reunification may not be refused where the sponsor, the resident within EU territory, has proved that he has stable and regular resources which are sufficient to maintain himself and the members of his family, but who, given the level of his resources, will, nevertheless, be entitled to claim special assistance in order to meet exceptional, individually determined, essential living costs, tax refunds, or income-support measures.

Facts: 

Mr Chakroun had lived in the Netherlands for two years, holding a residence permit for an indefinite period, when he married in 1972. In 2005 he became unemployed and received unemployment benefits. In 2006, Ms Chakroun applied for a Dutch residence permit in order to live with her husband. The application was denied, as her husband’s unemployment benefits were below the required minimum income of 120 percent of the minimum wage. Ms Chakroun appealed the decisions of the Minister and of the Hague District Court. She challenged the compatibility of the Dutch law on the minimum wage and minimum holiday allowance with the Family Reunification Directive, as well as the distinction drawn between family formation and reunification, i.e. whether a family relationship arose before or after the entry of the resident, under Dutch law.

The Raad van State decided to stay proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling:

‘1. Should the phrase “recourse to the social assistance system” in Article 7(1)(c) of the Family Reunification Directive be interpreted as permitting a Member State to make an arrangement in respect of family reunification which results in family reunification not being granted to a sponsor who has provided evidence of having stable and regular resources to meet general subsistence costs, but who, given the level of such resources, will nevertheless be entitled to claim special assistance to meet exceptional, individually determined, essential living costs, income-related remission of charges by municipal authorities, or income-support measures in the context of municipal minimum income policies (“minimabeleid”)?

2. Should [the Directive], in particular Article 2(d), be interpreted as precluding national legislation which, in applying the resource requirement pursuant to Article 7(1)(c), makes a distinction according to whether a family relationship arose before or after the entry of the resident into the Member State?’

Decision & Reasoning: 

As to the first question, the Court highlighted that Art. 4(1) of the Family Reunification Directive imposes precise positive obligations on Member States, requiring family reunification of certain members of the sponsor’s family, without being left a margin of appreciation. However, Art. 7(1)(c) allows Member States to require evidence that the sponsor has stable and regular resources which are sufficient to maintain themselves and the family members without recourse to the social assistance system of the Member State. For the purpose of evaluating the sponsor’s resources, Member States may take into account the level of minimum wages and pensions as well as the number of family members. Since the needs of individuals vary greatly, Member States may indicate a certain sum as a reference amount, but not as meaning that they impose a minimum income level below which all family reunifications will be refused, irrespective of an actual individual examination. Art. 7(1)(c) should not be interpreted so as to undermine the objective of the Directive, which is to promote the effectiveness of family reunification, in line with international law. The Court pointed to the independent meaning of “social assistance” in the European Union, which refers to social assistance granted by the public authorities, whether at national, regional or local level. This interpretation is reflected in Art. 7(1)(c) as the concept of “social assistance” is understood as assistance to compensate for a lack of stable, regular and sufficient resources and not as assistance which enables exceptional or unforeseen needs. In the Netherlands, where a family relationship was formed before the resident’s entry into EU territory, minimum wage is considered to fulfil the purposes of Art. 7(1)(c); this criterion shall be applied also to family formation after entry.

As to the second question, the Court interpreted Art. 2(d) of the Family Reunification Directive to mean family reunification without drawing any distinction based on the time of marriage of the spouses, i.e. whether the family relationship arose before or after the resident’s entry, as the Directive seeks to protect the family and to establish or preserve family life. Art. 9(2) contains an exception to this rule, with regards to refugees, requiring family relationships to predate their arrival on EU territory in order to fall within the terms of the Directive. This interpretation is in line with human rights documents (the Charter and ECHR). The capacity of a sponsor to have regular resources which are sufficient to maintain themselves and the family members cannot in any way depend on the point in time at which their family was formed.

Outcome: 

The answer to the first question is that the phrase “recourse to the social assistance system” in Art. 7(1)(c) of the Family Reunification Directive must be interpreted as precluding a Member State from adopting rules in respect of family reunification which result in such reunification being refused to a sponsor who has proved that he has stable and regular resources which are sufficient to maintain himself and the members of his family, but who, given the level of his resources, will nevertheless be entitled to claim special assistance in order to meet exceptional, individually determined, essential living costs, tax refunds granted by local authorities on the basis of his income, or income-support measures in the context of local-authority minimum-income policies (“minimabeleid”).

The answer to the second question is that the Family Reunification Directive, in particular Article 2(d) thereof, must be interpreted as precluding national legislation which, in applying the income requirement set out in Article 7(1)(c) of the Directive, draws a distinction according to whether the family relationship arose before or after the sponsor entered the territory of the host Member State.

Observations/Comments: 

Yves Pascouau and Henri Labayle, Conditions for Family Reunification under strain – A comparative study in nine EU member states, King Baudouin Foundation, European Policy Centre, Odysseus Network, November 2011, pp. 81ff., available at: http://www.epc.eu/documents/uploads/pub_1369_conditionsforfamily.pdf

Case Law Cited: 

CJEU - C-291/05 [GC], Minister voor Vreemdelingenzaken en Integratie v R. N. G. Eind

CJEU - C-127/08 Metock and Others [2008] ECR I-6241

CJEU - C-540/03 Parliament v Council
Other sources cited: 

Council Document 5682/01 of 31 January 2001, p. 3;

Report published on 11 March 2009 by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights on his visit to the Netherlands between 21 and 25 September 2008; travaux préparatoires

Authentic Language: 
Dutch
Country of preliminary reference: 
Netherlands
National / Other Legislative Provisions: 
TFEU - Art 6.1
TFEU - Art 17
Council Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003 concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents
Netherlands - Vreemdelingenwet 2000 (Aliens Act)
Netherlands - Wet minimumloon en mimimumvakantiebijslag (Act on minimum wage and minimum holiday allowance)
Netherlands - Wet werk en bijstand (Wwb) (Act on work and assistance)