Free Movement of Persons in the EU v. in the EEA: Of Effect-related Homogeneity and a Reversed Polydor Principle

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Table of Contents: I. Introduction. – II. The incorporation of Directive 2004/38 into EEA law: legal framework. – III. The meaning of the reservation according to the EFTA Court’s obiter dictum in Wahl. – IV. Other EFTA Court case law on Directive 2004/38 in the EEA context. – IV.1. Unproblematic in the present writer’s opinion: Clauder. – IV.2. From Clauder to Gunnarsson and Jabbi: a very particular understanding of homogeneity. – IV.3. Gunnarsson and Jabbi: facts and issues. – IV.4. The EFTA Court’s decision in Gunnarsson. – IV.5. The EFTA Court’s decision in Jabbi. – V. Findings with respect to the reservation and relevance in other contexts, including notably Brexit.

Abstract: When the EEA Agreement was concluded in the early 1990s, it reflected, in the fields covered, the state of the then Community law, also with respect to the free movement of persons. Since then, both EEA and EU law have developed further, though with certain marked differences. Notably, the EU Treaty revision of Maastricht led to the introduction of Union citizenship. The fact that there is no corresponding concept in the EEA Agreement had led to certain challenges within the EEA with respect to the free movement of persons, due notably to the double nature of Directive 2004/38 as a further development of the free movement law of the Communities and a Union citizenship instrument. Today, the EEA and the EU rules are identical with respect to the market access rights of economic agents. In contrast, it is debated whether and to what extent the incorporation of Directive 2004/38 into the EEA legal system is indeed limited for those purposes. This relates in particular to case law of the EFTA Court on persons who are not economically active, where the Court, in the EEA context, gives Directive 2004/38 a broader interpretation than the CJEU does in the EU context. The EFTA Court’s aim, despite the lack of Union citizenship in EEA law, is to arrive at the same level of protection. Commentators speak about a particular understanding of homogeneity and of the Polydor principle. This approach raises questions also with respect to the external relations of the EU with other non-Member States, including notably the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland following its withdrawal from EU membership (“Brexit”).

Keywords: free movement of persons – Union citizenship – EEA law – homogeneity – Polydor principle – EU external relations.

European Papers, Vol. 3, 2018, No 3, pp. 1429-1451
2499-8249 - doi: 10.15166/2499-8249/277

* Professor of European Union law, Europa Institutes of the Universities of Basel, Switzerland, and Leiden, Netherlands,


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