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Brussels, 30 September 2010

Commission takes Austria to Court for bias over transport fares

The European Commission has decided to bring Austria before the European Court of Justice for preventing EU students in the country from benefitting from the same discounted public transport fares that are offered to Austrian students.

Discrimination against EU citizens on the grounds of nationality is prohibited under EU law in the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (Article 18). EU students who are studying anywhere in the Union have the same right to benefits as local students, except where secondary law has expressly excluded a benefit from the principle of equal treatment.

In most Austrian regions students benefit from reduced transport fares if their families receive family allowances in Austria. This is case for most Austrian students. However, the same discounts are not, as a rule, offered to other EU citizens who are studying in Austria, since it rare that their families reside in the country and qualify for family allowances.

The benefit from discounted fares for students can be substantial: in Vienna, a reduced ticket valid for six months costs €50 for students whose families live in the city and receive family allowances; it costs €100 for those who do not reside in Vienna, and €128.50 for students whose families are not entitled to family allowances because they live in another country.

The Commission believes that Austria has failed to apply the principle of equal treatment by giving preferential treatment to its own nationals.

The Commission sent a 'reasoned opinion' to the Austrian authorities in January 2010. A reasoned opinion is a formal request to comply with EU law, calling on the Member State to inform the Commission of the measures it has taken to remedy the situation within a specified period, usually two months. Since Austria did not take action to comply with EU law, the Commission has now decided to refer the matter to the Court of Justice.

For further information on the Commission's infringement procedures, see IP/10/670.

For detailed guidance on the rights of students who are studying abroad in the European Union see:

See MEMO/10/457

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