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|Community legislation on driving licences

|Commission Interpretative Communication on Community driver licensing

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Several judgements of the Court of Justice have interpreted specific aspects of Community driver licensing legislation. These judgements provide legal solutions for practical problems occuring in the event of holders of driving licences changing their country of residence.

In this judgement, the Court points to the lack of harmonisation in the field of driving licences. The Court highlighted that the legal framework at the time made recognition of driving licences in other Member States virtually impossible and represented an obstacle to free movement of persons.

This judgement triggered the first legislative initiatives towards the harmonisation of driving licences within the Community and led to the adoption of Directive 80/1263/EEC of 4 December 1980.

This judgement relates to the situation existing under the regime of Directive 80/1263/EEC. However, it also interprets certain aspects of the legal situation after the entry into force of Directive 91/439/EEC in 1996.

The Court interprets the obligation to exchange licences laid down by Directive 80/1263/EEC in view of the provisions of Article 43 EC concerning the free movement of persons.

The Court also clarifies the principle of proportionality of national fines and penalties and the problems deriving from the fact that driver licensing harmonisation is only progressing gradually. The distinction between the right to drive and the document producing evidence of this right, as well as the importance and the implications of the principle of mutual recognition are also highlighted.

This case relates to a national of third country who is holder of an EU-driving licence issued by a Member State other than the host Member State. His driving licence has been issued in exchange for a licence which had before been issued outside the EU.

According to the Court, the principle of mutual recognition established by Directive 91/439/EEC is vested with direct effect. The Court stressed that this principle also applies without any formality.

The Court stated that a national of a third country who holds a valid Community model licence issued by a Member State, who has acquired normal residence in another Member State, but did not exchange his licence within the period of one year (prescribed by Directive 80/1263/EEC), has the right to refer directly to the provisions of Directive 91/439/EEC which are vested with direct effect before the national courts.

By virtue of the retroactive application of more favourable provisions of criminal law (practised in the majority of Member States) citizens may challenge, under circumstances as described, the imposition of a term of imprisonment or a fine.


last update: 03-02-2009