The EU Rights in the Spotlight section for this month feature the opinion of an Advocate General of the EU Court of Justice with implications for free movement of workers in the EU. The section also includes an update on the new EU rules on roaming charges, which will apply as of 15 June 2017 and will benefit consumers prices for mobile services.
German law on employee participation compatible with EU law
In May 2017, an Advocate General of the ECJ issued an opinion relevant to the freedom of workers in the EU. The case concerns a shareholder of a German travel operation employing people in Germany and elsewhere in the EU, who challenged before the German Courts the composition of the supervisory board of that company, half of which is appointed by shareholders and the other half by employees of the group employed in Germany, in accordance with German law on employee participation. According to the claimant, the rules for electing the company’s supervisory board are contrary to EU law on freedom of movement of workers and the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of nationality. This issue was then referred to the European Court of Justice.
The Advocate General of the EU Court takes the view that the employees of this German company who are employed outside Germany are in principle not covered by EU rules on freedom of movement of workers, as these rules only apply to employees who leave their member state to pursue an economic activity abroad. The fact that the company that employs these workers is owned by a company established in another member state does not change this. Even where an employee initially employed in Germany leaves the country to take up employment in the company’s group in another member state and loses his right to vote or stand for the supervisory board as a result, the Advocate General considers that the German legislation in place is not restricting the freedom of workers, and even if it would, he considers that such a restriction is justified.
End of roaming charges as of this June
From 15 June, Europeans will be able to user their mobile devices when travelling in the EU and pay the same prices as at home. For instance, if you pay for a monthly volume of minutes, SMS and data in your country, any voice call, SMS and data session you make while travelling abroad in the EU will be deducted from that volume as if you were at home, with no extra charges. The new rules, which follow an agreement between the Parliament and the Council in October 2015 on a Commission proposal, also foresee some safeguard measures allowing national operators to prevent abusive practices, for instance if the consumer permanently stays abroad with a domestic subscription of his own country. While no formal registration is required to benefit from the ‘roam like at home’ mechanism, operators may ask customers to provide proof of their home residence and/or “stable links” with the country where their operator is based.