EU update: Rent law under scrutiny

Court rules over football club patron’s homophobic remark


In two recent cases, the European courts have issued decisions in respect of legislative measures whose practical effects are limited to quite specific communities.

In Joined Cases C-197/11 and C-203/11 Libert the Court of Justice (ECJ) considered various aspects of a land and real-estate law adopted by the Flemish regional authorities. In particular, the law required those purchasing or seeking to rent (on a long-term basis) property in certain Flemish communes to establish that they had a “sufficient connection” to the commune in question.

The Flemish authorities sought to justify this requirement primarily on the basis that it was intended to preserve property to meet the housing needs of the less affluent citizens of the communes in question. The ECJ concluded that the measure breached the fundamental freedoms which EU law provides by excluding those who could not establish a “sufficient connection” from purchasing or renting property in the communes in question.

The ECJ further found that the measure was not an appropriate means of attaining its purported objective.

In Case T-526/10 Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, an association representing Canadian Inuits unsuccessfully challenged Regulation No. 1007/2009 which prohibits (subject to very limited exceptions) the trade in seal products anywhere in the EU. The association alleged that the principle objective of the measure was the protection of animal welfare which did not fall within the exclusive competence of the EU and that accordingly the regulation was invalid.

The General Court found that whereas the regulation did take account of animal welfare, its objective was to improve the functioning of the internal market, which would have been jeopardised had conflicting national provisions in respect of the trade in seal products continued.

This is the second unsuccessful challenge the association has brought against the regulation. It is currently appealing the judgment of the General Court in the first case (Case T-18/10) to the ECJ.

Finally, in Case C-81/12 Asociatia Accept the ECJ found that a statement by the “patron” of Romanian football club Steau Bucharest that he would never hire a homosexual player may be sufficient to give rise to a presumption that the football club operated a discriminatory recruitment policy notwithstanding that the “patron” was not legally capable of directing the football club’s recruitment policy. The issue arose in the course of proceedings under Romanian rules implementing Directive 2000/78/EC establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation.

Donogh Hardiman is chairman of the Irish Society for European Law