Reverse Discrimination in EU Law: An Internal Market Perspective

  • Elisa AmbrosiniEmail author


An analysis of the case law of the Court of Justice suggests that, over the years, the category of purely internal situations has been deprived of all substantive meaning and that, as a result, it has turned into an old-fashioned dignitary, usually disregarded but occasionally invoked in sensitive cases. This research investigates the expansive tendencies towards purely internal situations in the internal market, arguing that the Court is evolving in its position on reverse discrimination. In fact, while initially the ECJ held this legal phenomenon to be irrelevant, it is now exploring new avenues by which to possibly give European relevance to purely internal situations and reverse discrimination. To better understand this trend, this research categorises the Court’s case law into several phases. First, emphasis is placed on the Court’s approach of softening the cross-border test in order to intervene in domestic cases (the so-called cross-border hypothetical test). Then, this study detects the existence of cases where the ECJ evaluates the opportuneness of claiming competence in internal situations in a spirit of cooperation with national courts (potential usefulness approach). Finally, recent developments seem to base the ECJ’s jurisdiction in domestic situations directly on national legal systems (actual usefulness test). This last strategy is innovative and entails unexplored consequences, returning to Member States the power to determine what kinds of differences they will acknowledge as justifying differential treatment and what kinds they will deny within the scope of their competences.


Reverse discrimination Purely internal situations Internal market EU citizenship EU law scope of application Principle of conferral 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alma Mater Studiorum – Università degli Studi di BolognaBolognaItaly

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