Brussels, 27 September 2012
Free movement: Commission takes Belgium to Court
The European Commission decided today to refer Belgium to the Court of Justice of the European Union for hindering the right to free movement of children born in Belgium who have one Belgian parent and one parent of another EU Member State nationality. For the moment, Belgian municipalities refuse to register these children under a surname other than their father's name – even if the child has already been registered under a double name in the consulate of another EU Member State.
As a consequence, all official documents like civil status and residence documents, attestations, certificates and diplomas that these children obtain in Belgium in the course of their lives will be issued under a name different from the name they were given in the EU Member State of their non-Belgian EU parent.
"These children will constantly need to dispel doubts and confusion about their identity and the authenticity of their official documents. This creates an unacceptable obstacle to exercising the right to free movement", said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "With this last step in the EU infringement process we take action to ensure that all EU citizens, notwithstanding the nationality of their parents, are able to fully enjoy their rights."
The European Commission had received several complaints from EU-Belgium parents whose children are registered with a double surname at the consulate of another EU Member State – according to a law or the tradition of this Member State – and with the father's name in Belgium.
The Court of Justice of the European Union has held that the resulting serious inconveniences for those concerned, at both professional and private levels, can hinder the right to free movement (ECJ cases C-148/02 and C-353/06).
According to Belgian law, children with a Belgian parent must be registered with the surname of their father. However, Belgian law allows citizens to request a modification of the child's surname to obtain the registration of the full surname, even after having registered a single surname at birth. This possibility is linked to a legal procedure of unforeseen length, subject to costs and fees and with an uncertain outcome. Therefore, this law does not appear to resolve the situation of divergent surnames and is not in line with the case law of the Court of Justice of the EU.
For more information
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:
Justice Directorate General Newsroom:
September infringement package decisions:
General infringement procedure: