Time spent in prison ‘cannot count towards EU residence’

European Court of Justice provides fillip to gay couples in civil partnerships

Mon, Feb 3, 2014, 01:01

JOHN DARMODY


The first weeks of 2014 and the closing weeks of 2013 saw the European Court of Justice deliver a number of interesting decisions.

In cases C-378/12 and C-400/12 Onuekwere, the court concluded that periods of time spent in prison cannot be counted as part of the five years of legal residence after which one is entitled to permanent residence in an EU Member State.

The plaintiff in this case, Mr Onuekwere (a Nigerian national who was entitled to reside in the UK with his Irish wife) sought permanent residence on the basis that his stay in the UK had exceeded five years, despite that residence have being punctuated by a number of prison sentences.

The court further held that even those periods spent at liberty in the UK before and after Mr Onuekwere’s incarcerations could not be aggregated in order to meet the five year requirement.

Gay rights
The rights of gay couples in civil partnerships received a fillip from the Court of Justice’s decision in Case C-267/12 Hay.

Mr Hay, who had concluded a French civil partnership with his partner, sought to avail of certain benefits provided for married employees in a collective agreement negotiated by his employer with employee representatives.

The court concluded that in those member states in which gay marriage was not available (such as France at the time), the denial of such benefits to gay couples in civil partnerships while providing them to married couples was discriminatory and a breach of EU law.

Away from the European courts, the European Commission has been investigating some novel breaches of EU law. In December the premises of a number of consumer electronics manufacturers (including Samsung and Philips) were raided by commission representatives investigating potential breaches of competition law arising from restrictions placed by manufacturers on the online sale of their products.

Such restrictions (known as ‘vertical restraints’) can harm consumer choice and price competition but have not previously been the focus of large-scale enforcement by the commission in the consumer electronics sector.

While the funding received by Spanish football giants Barcelona and Real Madrid from municipal authorities has already been investigated by the commission, the question of public support for professional sports teams appears to be coming closer to home.

The commission is said to be reviewing financial support given by Carmarthenshire Council to the Llanelli Scarlets rugby region and Swansea Council contributing to the costs of developing the Liberty Stadium, home to Swansea City football club and the Ospreys rugby team.

Finally, on January 1st Latvia became the newest member of the euro family, adopting the common currency in place of the lats.


Donogh Hardiman and John Darmody are members of the Irish Society for European Law