I feel my rights concerning free movement of capital under EU law have not been respected. What can I do?
Try the following:
- Informal solution – the EU's SOLVIT or FIN-NET services can negotiate an informal solution with national authorities.
- Formal complaint – if you complain to the Commission, it may be able to take formal action against authorities in any EU country who are not applying EU law correctly.
Help/advice – see issues with banking
I recently had a large amount of cash confiscated by customs on arrival in another EU country, for failing to report it. I thought there were no limits on the amount of money I could carry around the EU.
You're right in principle – although you are obliged to declare large amounts of cash (or equivalent, such as travellers' cheques, promissory notes, monetary orders) to customs.
EU law still allows individual EU countries to have national cash control measures, provided they're not excessive, including obligatory declaration.
One of the main reasons is the public interest, especially public security – to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Remember also that when leaving or entering the EU, you must declare all cash (or equivalent) worth €10 000 or more.
More on cash controls in the EU
A bank refused to open a current account for me because I'm not resident in that country. Is that legal under EU law?
YES – banks are free to refuse non-resident clients.
My bank charges very high fees for cross-border transactions. Is this legal under EU law?
It depends on the currency.
For transactions in euros, banks may not charge you more for transactions to another eurozone country than they do for transactions within your home country – see EU rules on cross-border payments/transfers.
For transactions in other currencies, there is no EU law. So banks may charge what they like.
See also cross-border euro payments – this page includes advice on what to do if you encounter problems with your bank.
My bank has refused to transfer shares I hold in a EU-based mutual fund to an investment broker in the US – is this legal?
Probably. EU law bans government (state) restrictions only, meaning that your country may not pass a law that bans these types of transfers.
But what your bank can or cannot do is determined by the contract you sign with them.
If your bank does not allow you to make these types of transfers, you may wish to switch to a different bank.
I've been prevented from buying a holiday house in another EU country – is that legal?
YES (in some circumstances).
Generally speaking, you should be able to buy a second residence anywhere within the EU.
But EU law allows some restrictions subject to certain conditions – for instance, you can't be asked to obtain prior authorisation, unless you're buying farmland.
For Denmark, Finland and Malta these exceptions are provided in the Treaty.
Want to take further action?
Five years ago, I moved to another EU country with my family, bought a piece of land and built a house on it - without a permit, as was common practice at the time.
Although the house was officially registered and we've since paid taxes to the local authorities, we recently received a court order to have it demolished. Who can we turn to for help?
Your problem seems to be related to town planning, which is governed solely by national, not EU, law. If you feel your property rights have been infringed, your most effective option is through the courts in the country where you now live. You could also consider complaining to the European Court of Human Rights – but it will not act until you have first tried every possibility of legal redress in the country where you now live.
Can the tax authorities where I live make me declare any bank accounts I have in another country?
YES – this is not against EU law. Within reasonable limits, countries can:
- apply different rules to different taxpayers based on where they live or invest their money
- take steps to prevent violations of their laws, including tax laws
- require taxpayers to declare money transfers abroad (for administrative or statistical purposes)
For example, the EU considers it reasonable that, as a taxpayer, you can be required to file a declaration:
- when you transfer assets to another country (to confirm they've not been sold or given away)
- every year (to confirm the bank, etc. in the other country still holds these assets)
- when you sell, give away or transfer the assets to yet another country.
Which EU laws govern transfers of money or other assets between countries?
EU laws on the single market for capital
Where can I find information on laws governing investment within the EU, particularly for the banking sector?
EU investment policy
Commission paper — investment in the EU financial services sector (2005)
Commission paper – legal aspects of intra-EU investment (1997)
Where can I find information on case law relating to free movement of capital?
Selected jurisprudence of CJEU on the free movement of capital
Find an CJEU case
Digest of case law on capital movements – section B-05 (French only).
How can I find out the state of play regarding a specific infringement procedure?
Recent Commission decisions on infringements of EU laws
Infringement cases – free movement of capital
Where can I find information on national laws on capital movements?
There is no single website with this information for all EU countries.
But you can use the N-Lex portal to search individual countries' legislative databases (in the national languages)
Where can I find information on the transitional measures that apply when a country joins the EU?
Acts of accession and protocols – free movement of capital
New EU member countries – 2004 and 2007
Can a non-EU citizen take an EU country to court for violating the free movement of capital?
YES – this right is not limited to EU nationals. Example – cases C-163/94, C-165/94 and C-250/94, Sanz de Lera
What kinds of restrictions does EU law allow on buying agricultural land and forests in ‘new’ member countries?
Certain countries that joined the EU in 2004-07 have been allowed to temporarily maintain restrictions on this until the following dates (not inclusive):
- 1 May 2011
- 1 January 2014
- 1 May 2014
- 1 May 2016
After the dates above, these countries will have to comply with EU law on such purchases.
EU Court of Justice rulings on acquisition of real estate/farmland
The EU is against golden shares, but is there a specific law that actually prohibits countries from holding them?
NO – this is not banned outright, but is highly restricted. Public authorities are only allowed to enjoy special rights in privatised companies ("golden shares") under very specific conditions.
Article 63 of the Treaty prohibits all restrictions on capital movements and payments between EU countries, as well as between EU countries and non‑EU countries. This principle – which golden shares might violate – requires no further implementing legislation, such as an EU directive or a national law.
The EU Court of Justice has ruled (for example in Case C-98/01) that special rights:
- affect the position of a person acquiring a shareholding
- might deter potential direct investment and affect market access
- restrict the freedoms of capital movement (Article 63) and establishment (Article 49).
Legal framework and case law
Special rights in privatised companies – 2005 EU report
Satisfactory progress in eliminating unjustified special rights (press release, 2005)