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Belgium – Discriminatory recruitment practices result in Court of Justice referral

27 September 2013

The European Commission has referred Belgium to the European Union's Court of Justice because of discriminatory conditions for candidates wishing to work in the local public sector in the French and German speaking regions, as well as the Brussels region, and who do not have the required proof of language skills in Dutch, French, or German.

Evidence of language capability is only recognised if candidates obtain a certificate issued by the Belgian governmental recruitment service (SELOR). No other certificates are currently accepted as proof of language knowledge.

The European Commission considers the legislation in question ("loi sur l'emploi des langues en matière administrative") to be discriminatory, disproportionate, and in breach of EU law on the free movement of workers as laid down in Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, and Regulation 1612/68 on the free movement of workers (now codified by Regulation 492/2011).

Following a complaint by a Dutch citizen, the Commission requested that Belgium put an end to these discriminatory conditions and to comply with EU law.

According to Court of Justice case-law (Judgment of 6 June 2000, case C-281/98), employers may require a certain level of language knowledge and may require a diploma to prove that knowledge. However, the fact that it is not possible to prove the required linguistic knowledge by another means - in particular by equivalent qualifications obtained in other Member States – is disproportionate and amounts to discrimination on grounds of nationality.

Following the reasoned opinion, the Flemish Government adopted the necessary measures to ensure compliance with EU law, and now accepts other language knowledge certificates than SELOR's. The French speaking Community has adopted some measures but the process has not been completed yet. The Federal Government, which is also responsible for the German speaking regions, Brussels and some other communes with special status, has not formally adopted any measure to ensure compliance with EU law.


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