Details Published on Monday, 21 July 2014 23:29 Written by BC & Agencies .
The EU's top court ruled against Germany's language requirement for Turkish spouses applying for residence in the country, rebuffing the German government and saying the right to family reunification is essential to integration in the member states, EurActiv Germany reports.
Asking for directions, filling out name and address forms, communicating symptoms to a doctor: basic German language skills such as these have been mandatory since 2007 for spouses seeking to immigrate to Germany from countries outside of the EU.
Since then, immigrant spouses have been required to pass a German test proving a vocabulary of around 300 words and the ability to conduct basic conversation before they can be granted a visa. But for spouses moving to Germany from Turkey, these requirements do not apply anymore.
Turkey has special treatment
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on in favor of a complaint filed by a Turkish woman. The judges said the language requirement violates the standstill provision in the EU's association agreement with Turkey from 1970. The document banned any worsening of settlement opportunities for Turkish citizens in the EU.
As a result, Turkish employees enjoy a special status: They are particularly privileged in exercising their economic freedoms; in this case employment in Germany. The ECJ justified its decision with this privilege. The German conditions additionally violate the EU directive on the right to family reunification.
But the German government argues it has a social motive for enforcing the language test.
By requiring knowledge of the German language, the grand coalition said it seeks to hinder marriages of convenience and facilitate integration in Germany. Additional rules are intended to prevent forced marriages. The German law also included a minimum age of 18 for partners of German residents to be granted a visa.
The 2007 law applies to citizens of third countries, meaning foreigners from states outside the EU. Before a foreign spouse is allowed to enter the country, the German embassy usually requires a certificate from the Goethe Institute proving a successful language test above the level of A1 "beginning German" before issuing a visa.
Special circumstances are not considered
While the EU judges recognised Germany's argument that the language tests serve the general interest, the Court pointed out that a lack of proof of language skills automatically led to a rejection of an application for family reunification, stating that there was no consideration for special circumstances in individual cases.
The complainant in the case is a woman whose visa application was rejected by the German embassy in Ankara in 2012. Because she was illiterate, the embassy said, she did not possess the necessary German language skills and could not be issued a visa. Her husband has been living in Germany since 1998, where he is the majority shareholder in a company.
"Family reunification constitutes an essential way of making possible the family life of Turkish workers who belong to the labour force of the Member States. It improves the quality of their stay and to their integration ", the ECJ document reads.
The opposition forces in Germany's lower house welcomed the ruling. Up until now the regulation represented unacceptable social selection, said Sevim Dagdelen, who is the Left Party's (Die Linke) spokeswoman for migration policy. The regulation must not only be lifted for Turkish citizens but in its entirety, she emphasised.
The spokesman for internal affairs in the Green Party's Bundestag faction, Volker Beck, spoke of a good day for integration policy. The centre-right has trampled on the protection of marriage and families from Turkey, he said.