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(Most of) the Charter of Fundamental Rights is Horizontally Applicable: ECJ 6 November 2018, Joined Cases C-569/16 and C-570/16, Bauer et al

  • Eleni Frantziou

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Assistant Professor in Public Law and Human Rights, Durham Law School, University of Durham. Email: eleni.frantziou@durham.ac.uk. I am very grateful for the detailed comments I have received at the reviewing and editorial stages of the publication process, as well as to the editors of the European Law Blog for their comments on an earlier version of this note. Any errors remain, of course, solely my own.

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1 ECJ 6 November 2018, Joined Cases C-569/16 and C-570/16, Stadt Wuppertal and Volker Willmeroth als Inhaber der TWI Technische Wartung und Instandsetzung Volker Willmeroth e.K. v Maria Elisabeth Bauer and Martina Broßonn, EU:C:2018:871. See also the ruling of the Court in Max Planck, which was rendered on the same day as the Bauer judgment, further confirming its bearing: ECJ 6 November 2018, Case C-684/16, Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften e.V. v Tetsuji Shimizu, EU:C:2018:874. See also ECJ 11 September 2018, Case C-414/16, Egenberger v Evangelisches Werk für Diakonie und Entwicklung e.V, EU:C:2018:257; ECJ 17 April 2018, Case C-68/17, IR v JQ, EU:C:2018:696;. These cases are further discussed in A. Colombi Ciacchi’s note in this issue, which complements the present note, and will not be considered here in depth: see A. Colombi Ciacchi, ‘The Direct Horizontal Effect of EU Fundamental Rights’ EuConst [in press].

2 Editorial comments, ‘Horizontal Direct Effect – A Law of Diminishing Coherence?’, 43(1) CMLRev (2006) p. 1 at p. 1.

3 ECJ 26 February 1986, Case C-271/91, Marshall v Southampton and South-West Hampshire Area Health Authority (Teaching) [1986] ECR 723.

4 ECJ 22 November 2005, Case C-144/04, Mangold v Helm [2005] ECR I-9981; see also ECJ 19 January 2010, Case C-555/07, Kücükdeveci v Swedex GmbH [2005] ECR I-365.

5 German Constitutional Court 6 July 2010, Honeywell - BVerfGE 126 (Az: 2 BvR 2661/06). For a detailed discussion, see Payandeh, M., ‘Constitutional Review of EU Law after Honeywell: Contextualising the Relationship between the German Constitutional Court and the European Court of Justice’, 48 CMLRev (2011) p. 9 ; Möllers, C., ‘German Federal Constitutional Court: Constitutional Ultra Vires Review of European Acts Only Under Exceptional Circumstances; Decision of 6 July 2010, 2 BvR 2661/06, Honeywell’, 7(1) EuConst (2011) p. 161 .

6 R. Herzog and L. Gerken, ‘Stop the European Court of Justice’, EU Observer, 10 September 2008, <euobserver.com/opinion/26714>, visited 29 April 2019.

7 An overview is provided in the Opinion of AG Bot, delivered on 29 May 2018, in Joined Cases C-569/16, Stadt Wuppertal v Maria Elisabeth Bauer and C-570/16, Volker Willmeroth als Inhaber der TWI Technische Wartung und Instandsetzung Volker Willmeroth e.K. v Martina Broßonn, EU:C:2018:337 (hereafter ‘Bauer Opinion’) paras. 77-78; see further Frantziou, E., The Horizontal Effect of Fundamental Rights in the European Union: A Constitutional Analysis (Oxford University Press 2019 ) ch. 4.

8 The most significant challenge to the horizontal effect of the Charter was mounted by AG Trstenjak in her Opinion in Dominguez, a case which concerned the very same right (paid annual leave): Opinion of AG Trstenjak, delivered on 8 September 2011, in Case C-282/10, Dominguez v Centre Informatique du Centre Ouest Atlantique and Préfet de la Région Centre, EU:C:2011:559 (hereafter ‘Dominguez Opinion’), paras. 80-83; see also C. Ladenburger, ‘FIDE Conference 2012 Institutional Report’ (2012) XXV FIDE Congress, Tallinn, 30 May-2 June 2012, p. 34-35.

9 See, e.g., Leczykiewicz, D., ‘Horizontal Application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights’, 38(4) EL Rev (2013) p. 479 ; Frantziou, E., ‘The Horizontal Effect of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU: Rediscovering the Reasons for Horizontality’, 21(5) ELJ (2015) p. 657 . AG Cruz Villalón had powerfully advocated this approach, especially in his Opinions in Prigge and Association de médiation sociale – uncharacteristically, not followed by the Court: Opinion of AG Cruz Villalón, delivered on 19 May 2011, in Case C-447/09, Prigge and Others v Deutsche Lufthansa, EU:C:2011:321; Opinion of AG Cruz Villalón, delivered on 18 July 2013, in Case C-176/12, Association de médiation sociale v Union locale des syndicats CGT, EU:C:2013:491.

10 See further supra n. 1.

11 ECJ 15 January 2014, Case C-176/12, Association de Médiation Sociale (AMS) v Union Locale des Syndicats CGT Hichem Laboubi Union Départementale CGT des Bouches-du-Rhône Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT), EU:C:2014:2. See also ECJ 24 January 2012, Case C-282/10, Dominguez v Centre Informatique du Centre Ouest Atlantique and Préfet de la Région Centre, EU:C:2012:33.

12 Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 November 2003 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time, OJ L 299/9, 18.11.2003.

13 ECJ 12 June 2014, Case C-118/13, Bollacke v K + K Klaas & Kock B.V. & Co. KG, EU:C:2014:1755.

14 Bauer, supra n. 1, para. 19.

15 Marshall, supra n. 3, para. 48.

16 See Opinion of AG Bot, delivered on 7 July 2009, in Case C-555/07, Kücükdeveci v Swedex GmbH [2010] ECR I-365; Opinion of AG Bot, delivered on 25 November 2015, in Case C-441/14, Dansk Industri (DI) v Estate of Karsten Eigil Rasmussen, EU:C:2015:776.

17 Bauer Opinion, supra n. 7, para. 57, citing ECJ 29 November 2017, Case C-214/16, King, EU:C:2017:914, para. 32.

18 Bauer Opinion, supra n. 7, paras. 74-76.

19 Ibid., paras. 79-81.

20 ECJ 8 April 1986, Case 43/75, Defrenne v Sabena [1986] ECR 455, para. 39.

21 Bauer Opinion, supra n. 7, para. 76, citing Egenberger, supra n. 1.

22 Bauer, supra n. 1, paras. 42-43.

23 Ibid., para. 46.

24 Ibid., para. 48.

25 Pech, L., ‘Between Judicial Minimalism and Avoidance: The Court of Justice’s Sidestepping of Fundamental Constitutional Issues in Römer and Dominguez ’, 49(6) CMLR (2012) p. 1841 at p.1857.

26 Bauer, supra n. 1, para. 51.

27 Ibid., paras. 61-63.

28 Ibid., paras. 70-72.

29 Ibid., para. 77.

30 Bauer Opinion, supra n. 7, paras. 77-78.

31 Bauer, supra n. 1, para. 87.

32 Ibid., paras. 82-83. While ‘unconditionality’ is, of course, part of the classic formula for vertical direct effect, as well, cases such as Reyners had relaxed its operation in practice substantially: see Case 2/74, Reyners v Belgium [1974] ECR 63. The use of unconditionality in Bauer seems, in turn, to support what appears to be the Court’s overall position stemming from this case law, namely that conditionality upon national laws and practices diminishes a particular provision’s potential for being used in a horizontal dispute (a good example of which remains Art. 27 EUCFR, as seen in the AMS ruling, supra n. 11).

33 Ibid., para. 85.

34 Ibid. See also IR v JQ, and the relevant note in this issue, supra n. 1.

35 Bauer, supra n. 1, para. 84.

36 Ibid., paras. 90-91.

37 Ibid., para. 91, author’s emphasis.

38 ECJ 19 April 2016, Case C-441/14, Dansk Industri (DI) v Estate of Karsten Eigil Rasmussen, EU:C:2016:278, paras. 29-35.

39 AMS, supra n. 11, para. 47.

40 See further Frantziou, E., ‘Case C-176/12 Association de Médiation Sociale: Some Reflections on the Horizontal Effect of the Charter and the Reach of Fundamental Employment Rights in the European Union’, 10 EuConst (2014) p. 332 .

41 Prigge Opinion, supra n. 9, para. 26.

42 I borrow the idea of a ‘radiating effect’ (or ‘Ausstrahlungswirkung’) from German constitutional theory: Alexy, R., A Theory of Constitutional Rights (tr Rivers, J, Oxford University Press 2002) p. 355 ; see also German Constitutional Court 15 January 1958, Lüth – BverfGE 7, 198 (Az: 1 BvR 400/51).

43 Bauer Opinion, supra n. 7, para. 95, ‘une simple incantation’ citing the wording of R Tinière, ‘L’invocabilité des principes de la Charte des droits fondamentaux dans les litiges horizontaux’, Revue des droits et libertés fondamentaux (2014) Chronicle No 14.

44 See further, Colombi Ciacchi, supra n. 1, text at nn. 48-51.

45 Opinion of AG Lenz, delivered on 9 February 1994, in Case C-91/92, Faccini Dori v Recreb Srl [1994] ECR I-03325, paras. 50-57. In the academic commentary, see Craig, P.P., ‘Directives, Direct Effect, Indirect Effect and the Construction of National Legislation’, 22 ELR (1997) p. 519 ; Tridimas, T., ‘Horizontal Direct Effect of Directives: A Missed Opportunity?’, 19 ELR (1994) p. 621 ; Kinley, D., ‘Direct Effect of Directives: Stuck on Vertical Hold’, 1 EPL (1995) p. 79 ; Mastroianni, R., ‘On the Distinction Between Vertical and Horizontal Effects of Community Directives: What Role for the Principle of Equality?’, 5 EPL (1999) p. 417 ; Tridimas, T., ‘Black White and Shades of Grey: Horizontality of Directives Revisited’, 21 YEL (2002) p. 327 .

46 Dominguez Opinion, supra n. 8, paras. 128-135.

47 Craig, P.P., ‘The ECJ and Ultra Vires Action: A Conceptual Analysis’, 48(2) CMLR (2011) p. 395 at p. 434; see also Sarmiento, D., ‘Who’s Afraid of the Charter? The Court of Justice, National Courts and the New Framework of Fundamental Rights Protection in Europe’, 50(5) CMLR (2013) p. 1267 at p. 1275-1276.

48 AMS Opinion, supra n. 9, para. 31.

49 This is consonant with a position previously advocated by the Court’s President, Judge Lenaerts, albeit in his academic capacity, arguing that all provisions of the Charter should be seen as having the status of general principles: Lenaerts, K., ‘Exploring the Limits of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights’, 8(3) EuConst (2012) p. 375 at p. 376; see also Lenaerts, K. and Gutiérrez-Fons, J., ‘The Constitutional Allocation of Powers and General Principles of EU Law’, 47 CMLR (2010) p. 1629 at p. 1656 ff.

50 Danish Supreme Court 6 December 2016, Case no. 15/2014, DI acting for Ajos A/S v The Estate left by A. For an analysis of this case, see Madsen, M.R., et al., ‘Competing Supremacies and Clashing Institutional Rationalities: the Danish Supreme Court’s Decision in the Ajos Case and the National Limits of Judicial Cooperation’, 23(1-2) ELJ (2017) p. 140 ; S. Klinge, ‘Dialogue or Disobedience between the European Court of Justice and the Danish Constitutional Court? The Danish Supreme Court Challenges the Mangold-Principle’, EU Law Analysis Blog, 13 December 2016, <eulawanalysis.blogspot.com/2016/12/dialogue-or-disobedience-between.html> visited 29 April 2019. See also the German Constitutional Court’s judgment in Honeywell, supra n. 5, para. 61.

51 See, e.g., Prechal, S., ‘Does Direct Effect Still Matter?’, 37(5) CMLR (2000) p. 1047 . For a more recent account, see Robin-Olivier, S., ‘The Evolution of Direct Effect in the EU: Stocktaking, Problems, Projections’, 12 ICON (2014) p. 165 .

52 Lenaerts, K. and Corthaut, T., ‘Of birds and hedges: the role of primacy in invoking norms of EU law’, 31(3) EL Rev (2006) p. 287 at p. 293.

53 See Frantziou, supra n. 7, chs. 6 and 8.

54 Ibid., ch. 2. The history and contestability of the doctrine of horizontality in Germany, in particular, is explained in further detail in the contribution on Egenberger and IR v JQ in this issue, supra n. 1, text at nn. 31-44.

55 Bauer, supra n. 1, para. 85.

56 D. Sarmiento, ‘Sharpening the Teeth of EU Social Fundamental Rights: Comment on Bauer’, Despite Our Differences, 8 November 2018, <despiteourdifferencesblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/08/sharpening-the-teeth-of-eu-social-fundamental-rights-a-comment-on-bauer/> visited 29 April 2019.

57 H. Collins, ‘On the (In)Compatibility of Human Rights Discourse and Private Law’ (2012) LSE Law, Society and Economy Working Papers 7/2012, <www.lse.ac.uk/law/working-paper-series/2007-08/WPS2012-07-Collins.pdf> accessed 29 April 2019, p. 10.

58 Explanations Relating to the Charter of Fundamental Rights [2007] OJ C 303/17, 27-28. While this is not the space to discuss in detail the salience of the distinction between rights and principles in the Charter, see further Lord Goldsmith, QC, ‘A Charter of Rights, Freedoms and Principles’, 38(5) CMLR (2001) p. 1201 ; Krommendijk, J., ‘Principled Silence or Mere Silence on Principles? The Role of the EU Charter’s Principles in the Case Law of the Court of Justice’, 11(2) EuConst (2015) p. 321 ; Peers, S. and Prechal, S., ‘Article 52: Scope and Interpretation of Rights and Principles’, in Peers, S., et al. (eds.), The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights: A Commentary (Beck/Hart 2014) para. 52.190.

59 ECJ 18 July 2013, Case C-426/11, Alemo-Herron and Others v Parkwood Leisure Ltd, ECLI:EU:C:2013:521, para. 31. Substantial critiques have been made of the use of this provision in the Union: see notably Prassl, J., ‘Freedom of Contract as a General Principle of EU Law? Transfers of Undertakings and the Protection of Employer Rights in EU Labour Law (Case C-426/11 Alemo-Herron v Parkwood Leisure)’, 42 Industrial Law Journal (2013) p. 434 ; Weatherill, S., ‘Use and Abuse of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights: On the Improper Veneration of “Freedom of Contract”’, 10 European Review of Contract Law (2014) p. 157 .

60 Ibid.

61 ECJ 11 December 2007, Case C-438/05, The International Transport Workers’ Federation and The Finnish Seamen’s Union v Viking Line ABP and OÜ Viking Line Eesti, [2007] ECR I-10779; see also ECJ 18 December 2007, Case C-341/05, Laval Un Partneri Ltd v Svenska Byggnadsarbetareförbundet, Svenska Byggnadsarbetareförbundets Avdelning 1, Byggettan and Svenska Elektrikerförbundet [2007] ECR I-11767.

62 Bauer, supra n. 1, para. 48.

63 See Frantziou, E., ‘Constitutional Reasoning in the European Union and the Charter of Fundamental Rights: In Search of Public Justification’, 25(2) EPL (2019). See further Tsakyrakis, S., ‘Proportionality: An assault on human rights?’, 7(3) ICON (2003) p. 468 at p. 475.

64 See Bogg, A., ‘ Viking and Laval: The International Labour Law Perspective’, in Freedland, M. and Prassl, J. (eds.), EU Law in the Member States: Viking, Laval and Beyond (Hart 2014) p. 41 at p.71.

* Assistant Professor in Public Law and Human Rights, Durham Law School, University of Durham. Email: . I am very grateful for the detailed comments I have received at the reviewing and editorial stages of the publication process, as well as to the editors of the European Law Blog for their comments on an earlier version of this note. Any errors remain, of course, solely my own.

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