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
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.