Author: Aoife McMahon
The recent judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the case of Gerardo Ruiz Zambrano v.Office national de l’emploi marks an exciting milestone for the development of the entity of the European Union (EU).
To appreciate its significance, it should be considered in the context of this development to date. This article will first set out a broad overview of the evolution of the objectives of what is now the EU. It will then examine the detailed Opinion of Advocate General Sharpston in this case before finally considering the judgment itself and its implications in this jurisdiction.
Free movement of nationals of member states of the EU (and all its former labels) has long been a fundamental component of the European integration project. Initially, this was confined to workers in line with the objective of the project at that time to create an internal market, an inherently trade orientated project based on the premise that mobile factors of production were more advantageous to trade between member states than those which remained static. As what is now the EU has developed, so too have its objectives. Initially destined to serve the economic interests of the member states, it has gradually been conferred with greater competences in order to serve broader interests: from the creation of the internal market (exclusively economic) to a monetary union, to the establishment of an area of freedom, security and justice (comprising police and judicial cooperation) to the protection of fundamental rights.
The concept of ‘Union citizenship’ was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992 through Article 20 TFEU (formerly Article 17 TEC, originally Article 8 of the Treaty of Maastricht). Elucidation of the precise meaning of this concept has since been left to the case-law of the Court of Justice and secondary legislation. The Zambrano decision constitutes a further and potentially far-reaching progression in this regard. The material facts of this case clarify its significance in real terms.