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European Union: Restricting the grant of a benefit introduced for top-level athletes to citizens of that Member State is a violation of the freedom of movement for workers

According to the Court of Justice (Case C-447/18 UB v Generálny riaditel’ Sociálnej poist’ovne Bratislava), Article 7(2) of Regulation No 492/2011 on freedom of movement for workers, which provides that a worker who is a national of one Member State should be able to enjoy the same social advantages as national workers in another Member State, precludes legislation which makes receipt of an additional benefit paid to certain high-level athletes, who have represented that Member State or its legal predecessors in international sporting competitions, conditional upon the person applying for the benefit having the nationality of that Member State.

In this case, Slovakia refused to grant an additional benefit to a Czech national (having chosen that nationality upon the dissolution of the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic), who was residing in the territory of Slovakia and had obtained in the past, gold and silver medals in the Ice Hockey European and World Championships, as a member of the national team of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.

The Court initially stated that the benefit is not a social security benefit in the meaning of Regulation No 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems (as it is directly financed and awarded by the State for a very limited number of persons and does not fall within the scope of the social security system). However, it should be understood as a ‘social advantage’ for the purposes of Article 7(2) of Regulation No 492/2011 (free movement of workers) and the recipient should be recognised as a ‘migrant worker’.

The Court esteems that the benefit has attributes of the integration of the migrant worker into the Member State, and therefore achieves the objective for the freedom of movement for workers. It not only has the effect of providing its recipients with financial security, in order to compensate for the fact that they were unable to fully integrate into the labour market during the years dedicated to practising sport at a high level, but also, of conferring a particular level of social prestige, because of the sporting results which they obtained in the context of that representation.

Source: CJEU 18 December 2019 (Case C-447/18 UB v Generálny riaditel’ Sociálnej poist’ovne Bratislava), ECLI:EU:C:2019:1098


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