Language of document : ECLI:EU:C:2015:257

JUDGMENT OF THE COURT (Fifth Chamber)

23 April 2015 (*)

(Reference for a preliminary ruling — Directive 2006/126/EC — Mutual recognition of driving licences — Refusal of a Member State to recognise, in the case of a person having driven under the influence of narcotic substances, the validity of a driving licence issued by another Member State)

In Case C‑260/13,

REQUEST for a preliminary ruling under Article 267 TFEU from the Verwaltungsgericht Sigmaringen (Germany), made by decision of 30 April 2013, received at the Court on 13 May 2013, in the proceedings

Sevda Aykul

v

Land Baden-Württemberg,

THE COURT (Fifth Chamber),

composed of T. von Danwitz, President of the Chamber, C. Vajda, A. Rosas (Rapporteur), E. Juhász and D. Šváby, Judges,

Advocate General: Y. Bot,

Registrar: K. Malacek, Administrator,

having regard to the written procedure and further to the hearing on 19 June 2014,

after considering the observations submitted on behalf of:

–        Ms Aykul, by G. Heinzle, Rechtsanwalt,

–        the Italian Government, by G. Palmieri, acting as Agent, and by S. Varone, avvocato dello Stato,

–        the Polish Government, by B. Majczyna, acting as Agent,

–        the European Commission, by G. Braun and N. Yerrell, acting as Agents,

after hearing the Opinion of the Advocate General at the sitting on 4 September 2014,

gives the following

Judgment

1        This request for a preliminary ruling concerns the interpretation of Articles 2(1) and 11(2) of Directive 2006/126/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on driving licences (OJ 2006 L 403, p. 18).

2        The request has been made in proceedings between Ms Aykul, an Austrian national who holds a driving licence issued by the Republic of Austria, and the Land Baden-Württemberg concerning a decision denying her the right to use her driving licence in Germany.

 Legal context

 EU law

 Directive 2006/126

3        Recital 2 in the preamble to Directive 2006/126 states:

‘The rules on driving licences are essential elements of the common transport policy, contribute to improving road safety, and facilitate the free movement of persons taking up residence in a Member State other than the one issuing the licence. Given the importance of individual means of transport, possession of a driving licence duly recognised by a host Member State promotes free movement and freedom of establishment of persons. ...’

4        According to recital 8 of the directive, on road safety grounds, the minimum requirements for the issue of a driving licence should be laid down.

5        Recital 15 of Directive 2006/126 states:

‘For reasons connected with road safety, Member States should be able to apply their national provisions on the withdrawal, suspension, renewal and cancellation of driving licences to all licence holders having acquired normal residence in their territory.’

6        According to Article 2(1) of Directive 2006/126, ‘[d]riving licences issued by Member States shall be mutually recognised’.

7        Article 7 of that directive provides:

‘1.       Driving licences shall be issued only to those applicants:

(a)      who have passed a test of skills and behaviour and a theoretical test and who meet medical standards, in accordance with the provisions of Annexes II and III;

...

(e)      who have their normal residence in the territory of the Member State issuing the licence, or can produce evidence that they have been studying there for at least six months.

...

5.       ...

Without prejudice to Article 2, a Member State issuing a licence shall apply due diligence to ensure that a person fulfils the requirements set out in paragraph 1 of this Article and shall apply its national provisions on the cancellation or withdrawal of the right to drive if it is established that a licence has been issued without the requirements having been met.’

8        Article 11 of Directive 2006/126 is worded as follows:

‘...

2.      Subject to observance of the principle of territoriality of criminal and police laws, the Member State of normal residence may apply its national provisions on the restriction, suspension, withdrawal or cancellation of the right to drive to the holder of a driving licence issued by another Member State and, if necessary, exchange the licence for that purpose.

...

4.      A Member State shall refuse to issue a driving licence to an applicant whose driving licence is restricted, suspended or withdrawn in another Member State.

A Member State shall refuse to recognise the validity of any driving licence issued by another Member State to a person whose driving licence is restricted, suspended or withdrawn in the former State’s territory.

A Member State may also refuse to issue a driving licence to an applicant whose licence is cancelled in another Member State.

...’

9        According to the first paragraph of Article 12 of that directive:

‘For the purpose of this Directive, “normal residence” means the place where a person usually lives, that is for at least 185 days in each calendar year, because of personal and occupational ties, or, in the case of a person with no occupational ties, because of personal ties which show close links between that person and the place where he is living.’

10      Article 16(1) and (2) of the same directive provides:

‘1.       Member States shall adopt and publish, not later than 19 January 2011, the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with Article 1(1), Article 3, Article 4(1), (2), (3) and (4)(b) to (k), Article 6(1), (2)(a), (c), (d) and (e), Article 7(1)(b), (c) and (d), (2), (3) and (5), Article 8, Article 10, Article 13, Article 14, Article 15, and Annexes I, point 2, II, point 5.2 concerning categories A1, A2 and A, IV, V and VI. They shall forthwith communicate to the Commission the text of those provisions.

2.       They shall apply those provisions as from 19 January 2013.’

11      The first paragraph of Article 17 of Directive 2006/126 provides:

‘[Council] Directive 91/439/EEC [of 29 July 1991 on driving licences (OJ 1991 L 237, p. 1, and corrigendum OJ 1991 L 310, p. 16)] shall be repealed with effect from 19 January 2013, without prejudice to the obligations of the Member States with regard to the deadlines indicated in Annex VII, Part B for transposing that Directive into national law.’

12      Article 18 of Directive 2006/126 reads:

‘This Directive shall enter into force on the twentieth day following that of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.

Article 2(1), Article 5, Article 6(2)(b), Article 7(1)(a), Article 9, Article 11(1), (3), (4), (5) and (6), Article 12, and Annexes I, II and III shall apply from 19 January 2009.’

 Directive 91/439

13      According to Article 1(2) of Directive 91/439, ‘[d]riving licences issued by Member States shall be mutually recognised’.

14      Article 8 of that directive provides:

‘...

2.       Subject to observance of the principle of territoriality of criminal and police laws, the Member State of normal residence may apply its national provisions on the restriction, suspension, withdrawal or cancellation of the right to drive to the holder of a driving licence issued by another Member State and, if necessary, exchange the licence for that purpose.

...

4.       A Member State may refuse to recognise the validity of any driving licence issued by another Member State to a person who is, in the former State’s territory, the subject of one of the measures referred to in paragraph 2.

A Member State may likewise refuse to issue a driving licence to an applicant who is the subject of such a measure in another Member State.

...’

 German law

15      Paragraph 2 of the Law on road traffic (Straßenverkehrsgesetz; ‘the StVG’), in the version cited by the referring court, provides:

‘(1)       Any person driving a motor vehicle on the public highway must have the authorisation of the competent authority (driving licence authority) to do so (authorisation to drive) ...

...

(4)       Where a person satisfies the necessary physical and mental requirements and has not committed any serious or repeated contraventions of road traffic legislation or criminal law he shall be deemed to be fit to drive motor vehicles. ...

...

(11)       Pursuant to more detailed provisions laid down by regulation … a foreign driving licence shall also entitle the holder to drive motor vehicles in the national territory.

...’

16      Paragraph 3 of the StVG, in the version cited by the referring court, entitled ‘Withdrawal of driving licences’, is worded as follows:

‘(1)       If a person proves to be unfit to drive or incapable of driving motor vehicles, the driving licence authority must withdraw his driving licence. In the case of a foreign driving licence, withdrawal — even if it is made pursuant to other provisions — shall have the effect of a refusal to recognise the right to use that driving licence in the national territory. ...

(2)       Withdrawal terminates the authorisation to drive. In the case of a foreign driving licence, withdrawal terminates the right to drive motor vehicles in the national territory. ...

...’

17      Paragraph 29 of the StVG, in the version cited by the German Government in its written reply to a question put by the Court, provides, under the heading ‘Deadlines for removal’:

‘(1)       Entries made in the register shall be removed upon expiry of the periods prescribed in the second sentence. Those periods shall be:

...

2.       five years

(a)      in the case of decisions on a criminal offence (“Straftat”), subject to point 3(a),

(b)       in the case of decisions on an administrative offence which ... incurs two points as an administrative offence affecting road safety or as a comparable administrative offence,

(c)       in the case of bans or restrictions on driving a vehicle without a licence imposed by the competent authority under the legislation of the Land,

(d)       in the case of notification concerning participation in a fitness to drive seminar, in a training seminar, in a special training seminar or in a driving psychology consultation,

…’

18      Paragraph 11 of the Regulation on the authorisation of persons to drive on the highway (Verordnung über die Zulassung von Personen zum Straßenverkehr), in the version cited by the referring court (‘the FeV’), provides, under the heading ‘Fitness’:

‘(1)      Applicants for authorisation to drive must satisfy the necessary physical and mental requirements. Those requirements are not satisfied, inter alia, in the case of a sickness or deficiency referred to in Annex 4 or in Annex 5 which precludes fitness to drive motor vehicles or entails only limited fitness. ...’

19      Annex 4 to Paragraph 11 of the FeV is worded as follows:

‘Preliminary remark

1.      The following list contains common sicknesses and deficiencies which may affect or preclude in the long term a person’s fitness to drive motor vehicles.

...

3.      The following evaluations apply in standard cases. Adjustments may be made on the basis of a person’s particular predisposition, habits, particular attitude or particular regulation and modification of behaviour. ...

No

Sicknesses, deficiencies

Fitness or limited fitness

Category B ...

...

...

...

9.2

Consumption of cannabis

 

9.2.1

Regular consumption of cannabis

no

9.2.2

Occasional consumption of cannabis

yes

if consumption dissociated from driving and no additional consumption of alcohol or other psychoactive substances, no change in personality, no loss of control

   


…’

20      Paragraph 29 of the FeV, entitled ‘Foreign driving licences’, provides:

‘(1)      Holders of a foreign driving licence may, to the extent permitted by their licence, drive motor vehicles in the national territory when they are not normally resident there within the meaning of Paragraph 7. ...

(3)      Authorisation under subparagraph 1 shall not apply to foreign driving licence holders,

3.      whose authorisation to drive in the national territory has been provisionally or definitively withdrawn by a court, or has been withdrawn by an immediately enforceable or definitive decision of an administrative authority ...

(4)      Following a decision referred to in subparagraph 3, points 3 and 4, the right to use a foreign driving licence in the national territory shall be granted upon application, if the grounds for withdrawal no longer exist.’

21      Paragraph 46 of the FeV, entitled ‘Withdrawal, restriction, conditions’, provides:

‘(1)       If the holder of a driving licence proves to be unfit to drive motor vehicles, the driving licence authority must withdraw his licence. The foregoing applies, in particular, in the case of a sickness or deficiency referred to in Annexes 4, 5 and 6, or where serious or repeated contraventions of road traffic legislation or criminal law have been committed and fitness to drive motor vehicles is thereby precluded.

...

(5)      In the case of a foreign driving licence, withdrawal shall have the effect of a refusal to recognise the right to use that driving licence in the national territory.

(6)      Withdrawal terminates the authorisation to drive. In the case of a foreign driving licence, withdrawal terminates the right to drive motor vehicles in the national territory.’

 The dispute in the main proceedings and the questions referred for a preliminary ruling

22      Ms Aykul, an Austrian national who was born on 17 November 1980, has had her normal residence, within the meaning of the first paragraph of Article 12 of Directive 2006/126, in Austria since birth. On 19 October 2007, the Bezirkshauptmannschaft Bregenz (administrative authority of the district of Bregenz, Austria) issued her with a driving licence.

23      On 11 May 2012, Ms Aykul was stopped by police in Leutkirch (Germany). Since Ms Aykul showed signs of being under the influence of narcotic substances, a urine test was carried out, which indicated that cannabis had been consumed. A blood sample was taken that same day, and the analysis of that sample confirmed the presence of cannabinoids in Ms Aykul’s blood.

24      On 4 July 2012, the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Ravensburg (Germany) closed the criminal investigation proceedings which had been opened against Ms Aykul without taking any further action.

25      By a decision imposing a fine, issued by the town of Leutkirch on 18 July 2012, Ms Aykul was fined EUR 590.80 for driving a vehicle under the influence of narcotic substances and banned from driving for one month.

26      By a decision of 17 September 2012, the Landratsamt Ravensburg (Ravensburg District Office, Germany) withdrew Ms Aykul’s Austrian driving licence within Germany. According to the Landratsamt Ravensburg, Ms Aykul had proved to be unfit to drive motor vehicles, since analysis of the blood sample taken on 11 May 2012 had revealed that she used cannabis at least occasionally and that she had driven a motor vehicle under the influence of that narcotic substance. Thus, Ms Aykul was not able to dissociate her driving from the use of narcotic substances.

27      In the annex to its decision of 17 September 2012, the Landratsamt Ravensburg nevertheless informed Ms Aykul that she could, in the future, apply for authorisation to drive again in Germany by producing a medical-psychological expert’s report by a driving fitness test centre with official recognition in Germany establishing her fitness to drive motor vehicles. The Landratsamt Ravensburg also stated that production of a report of that nature was, as a general rule, conditional on proof of one year’s abstinence by the person concerned from any consumption of narcotic substances.

28      On 19 October 2012, Ms Aykul filed a complaint against the decision of the Landratsamt Ravensburg of 17 September 2012. She stated, in essence, that the German authorities had exceeded their competence in adopting the decision on the fine of 18 July 2012 and that, under EU law, those authorities were not empowered to verify her fitness to drive motor vehicles, that being a matter, according to the case-law of the Court of Justice, falling solely within the competence of the Member State that issued her driving licence, namely the Republic of Austria.

29      The Bezirkshauptmannschaft Bregenz, having been informed of the case by the Landratsamt Ravensburg, declared that the conditions under which the authorities may take action against Ms Aykul under Austrian law were not satisfied, since the doctor who took the blood sample on 11 May 2012 had indicated in his report that she did not give any noticeable indication of being under the influence of narcotic substances.

30      By a decision of 20 December 2012, the Regierungspräsidium Tübingen (Regional Administration, Tübingen, Germany) dismissed Ms Aykul’s complaint against the decision of the Landratsamt Ravensburg of 17 September 2012. It stated, inter alia, that inaction by the German authorities in cases of driving under the influence of narcotic substances was not compatible with the objective pursued by Directive 91/439, which is to ensure road safety. The Regierungspräsidium Tübingen added that, contrary to what Ms Aykul maintained, Article 8(2) of that directive did not preclude the withdrawal of her driving licence, and stated that that was one of the measures that can be taken by a Member State on the basis of the first subparagraph of Article 8(4) of the directive.

31      On 25 January 2013, Ms Aykul brought an action against the decision of the Landratsamt Ravensburg of 17 September 2012 before the Verwaltungsgericht Sigmaringen (Administrative Court, Sigmaringen, Germany), reiterating the arguments she had previously put forward. She also argued that the second subparagraph of Article 11(4) of Directive 2006/126 did not authorise the Federal Republic of Germany to refuse to recognise the validity of her driving licence, since it had been issued by the Republic of Austria, and that she continued to have her normal residence in the territory of the latter State. Thus, according to Ms Aykul, the Austrian authorities alone were competent to determine whether she was still fit to drive motor vehicles.

32      The Land Baden-Württemberg contends that the action brought by Ms Aykul should be dismissed. It maintains that account should, in particular, be taken of the fact that the ground for the refusal to recognise Ms Aykul’s driving licence did not arise until after that licence had been issued. Facts arising after a driving licence has been issued entitle the Member States of the European Union concerned to refuse to recognise the right to drive in their national territory.

33      The Land Baden-Württemberg submits that that possibility is covered by Article 8(4) of Directive 91/439. Unlike the wording of Article 8(2) of Directive 91/439, the wording of Article 8(4) of that directive allows not only the Member State of normal residence but also any other Member State to refuse to recognise the right to drive in its national territory. A driving ban imposed under criminal legislation or under legislation on administrative offences is a measure for the ‘restriction’ of the driving licence that is covered by the exemption of criminal or administrative measures, subject to the principle of territoriality, under Article 8(2) of Directive 91/439. The refusal to recognise the right to use the driving licence in Germany pursuant to Paragraph 46(5) of the FeV merely constitutes the non-recognition, in the Member State concerned, of the validity of a driving licence issued by another Member State, within the meaning of Article 8(4) of Directive 91/439.

34      In reply to a request by the referring court of 13 March 2013, the Bezirkshauptmannschaft Bregenz stated that the Austrian authorities would take action under Austrian legislation on driving licences only if it was medically certified that the person concerned was incapable of driving motor vehicles owing to the consumption of narcotic substances or if there were indications of drug addiction. The Bezirkshauptmannschaft Bregenz confirmed that, in the case at issue in the main proceedings, Ms Aykul was still considered by the Austrian authorities to be fit to drive motor vehicles, and that she therefore retained her driving licence.

35      The referring court states that the action brought by Ms Aykul would be destined to fail if German law were to be applied. Under the combined provisions of Paragraph 3(1) of the StVG and Paragraph 46(1) of the FeV, the competent driving licence authority must withdraw a driving licence if the holder of that licence proves to be unfit to drive motor vehicles. Under Paragraph 46(5) of the FeV, in the case of a foreign driving licence, that withdrawal has the effect of a refusal to recognise the right to use that licence in Germany. In the present case, Ms Aykul’s unfitness to drive motor vehicles is a product of the combined provisions of the second sentence of Paragraph 11(1) of the FeV and point 9.2.2 of Annex 4 to Paragraph 11 of the FeV. Under those provisions, any person who, being an occasional consumer of cannabis, is unable to dissociate his driving from that consumption is, as a general rule, unfit to drive motor vehicles. In the case at issue in the main proceedings, there are, according to the referring court, sufficient indicia of that unfitness in Ms Aykul’s case.

36      The referring court states, moreover, that, in German law, there are three different levels of response to road traffic offences and to indications of unfitness to drive: criminal law, legislation on administrative offences and legislation on driving licences. The present case is consistent with the practice under driving licence legislation. The competent driving licence authorities and the police proceed on the basis that the German authorities are entitled to withdraw a foreign driving licence where, in the case of a road traffic offence committed in Germany, there are signs of unfitness to drive.

37      In view of its doubts regarding the compatibility of German legislation and administrative practice with the obligation of mutual recognition of driving licences issued by Member States, the Verwaltungsgericht Sigmaringen decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:

‘(1)      Does the obligation concerning the mutual recognition of driving licences issued by Member States which is laid down in Article 2(1) of Directive 2006/126 preclude national legislation of the Federal Republic of Germany under which the right to use a foreign driving licence in Germany must be revoked ex post facto by the administrative authorities if the holder of the foreign driving licence drives a motor vehicle on that licence in Germany while under the influence of illegal drugs and thereafter under the relevant German provisions is no longer fit to drive?

(2)      If the answer to question 1 is in the affirmative, is this also the case where the issuing State is aware of the person in question driving while under the influence of drugs but takes no action and the risk represented by the holder of the foreign driving licence therefore persists?

(3)      If the answer to question 1 is in the negative, can the Federal Republic of Germany make reinstatement of the right to use a foreign driving licence in Germany subject to compliance with the national conditions applicable to such reinstatement?

(4)      (a)      Can the reservation with respect to observance of the principle of territoriality of criminal and police laws laid down in Article 11(2) of Directive 2006/126 justify action under its driving licence legislation by a Member State other than the issuing State? For example, does that reservation allow the right to use a foreign driving licence in Germany to be revoked ex post facto by means of a preventive measure under criminal law?

(b)      If the answer to question 4(a) is in the affirmative, does the competence to reinstate the right to use the foreign driving licence in Germany, taking into account the obligation of recognition, lie with the Member State which imposed the preventive measure or with the issuing State?’

 Consideration of the questions referred

 Preliminary observations

38      Since the questions put by the referring court concern the interpretation of Articles 2(1) and 11(2) of Directive 2006/126, which repealed and replaced Directive 91/439, it is necessary first to determine which provisions of EU law apply ratione temporis to the facts at issue in the main proceedings.

39      It is evident from the order for reference that Ms Aykul’s driving licence was issued to her by the Austrian authorities on 19 October 2007, and that the Landratsamt Ravensburg refused, by its decision of 17 September 2012, to recognise the validity of that driving licence within Germany on account of events that took place on 11 May 2012.

40      In that regard, it must be noted that while Directive 91/439 was repealed with effect from 19 January 2013 pursuant to the first paragraph of Article 17 of Directive 2006/126, a number of provisions of Directive 2006/126, such as Articles 2(1) and 11(4) thereof, became applicable from 19 January 2009 in accordance with the second paragraph of Article 18 of Directive 2006/126 (see, to that effect, judgment in Akyüz, C‑467/10, EU:C:2012:112, paragraph 31). That is not, however, the case as regards Article 11(2) of Directive 2006/126, which is not among the provisions mentioned in the second paragraph of Article 18 of that directive.

41      It follows that, on the one hand, Articles 2(1) and 11(4) of Directive 2006/126 and, on the other, Article 8(2) of Directive 91/439, the content of which was reproduced verbatim in Article 11(2) of Directive 2006/126, are applicable ratione temporis to the facts at issue in the main proceedings.

 The first and second questions and part (a) of the fourth question

42      It should be noted that, in the context of the procedure established by Article 267 TFEU providing for cooperation between national courts and the Court of Justice, it is for the latter to provide the national court with an answer which will be of use to it and enable it to determine the case before it. To that end, the Court may have to reformulate the questions referred to it (see judgment in Le Rayon d’Or, C‑151/13, EU:C:2014:185, paragraph 25 and the case-law cited).

43      To that end, the Court may extract from all the information provided by the national court, in particular from the grounds of the decision to make the reference, the legislation and the principles of EU law that require interpretation in view of the subject-matter of the dispute in the main proceedings (see judgment in Le Rayon d’Or, C‑151/13, EU:C:2014:185, paragraph 26 and the case-law cited).

44      In the present case, it is apparent from the order for reference that, by its first and second questions and by part (a) of the fourth question, which it is appropriate to consider together, the referring court asks, in essence, whether Article 2(1) and the second subparagraph of Article 11(4) of Directive 2006/126 and Article 8(2) of Directive 91/439 must be interpreted as meaning that a Member State in whose territory the holder of a driving licence issued by another Member State is staying temporarily is precluded from refusing to recognise the validity of that driving licence on account of unlawful conduct on the part of its holder in the territory of the first Member State after that driving licence has been issued that results, under the national law of the first Member State, in unfitness to drive motor vehicles.

45      It must be noted that, according to settled case-law, Article 2(1) of Directive 2006/126 provides for the mutual recognition, without any formality, of driving licences issued by Member States. That provision imposes on those Member States a clear and precise obligation which leaves no room for discretion as to the measures to be adopted in order to comply with it (see, to that effect, judgments in Akyüz, C‑467/10, EU:C:2012:112, paragraph 40, and Hofmann, C‑419/10, EU:C:2012:240, paragraphs 43 and 44).

46      Moreover, it is apparent from the case-law of the Court that it is for the issuing Member State to investigate whether the minimum conditions imposed by EU law, particularly those relating to residence and fitness to drive laid down in Article 7(1) of Directive 2006/126, have been satisfied and, therefore, whether the issuing of a driving licence is justified (see, to that effect, judgment in Hofmann, C‑419/10, EU:C:2012:240, paragraphs 45 and 47).

47      Once the authorities of one Member State have issued a driving licence in accordance with Article 1(1) of Directive 2006/126, the other Member States are not entitled to investigate whether the conditions for issue laid down by that directive have been met. The possession of a driving licence issued by one Member State has to be regarded as constituting proof that its holder satisfied those conditions on the day on which that licence was issued (see, to that effect, judgment in Hofmann, C‑419/10, EU:C:2012:240, paragraphs 46 and 47).

48      In the present case, it must be noted that the German authorities called into question the conditions for possession of Ms Aykul’s driving licence not on the day on which that licence was issued but following Ms Aykul’s unlawful conduct in Germany after that licence had been issued.

49      Ms Aykul, whose normal residence is in Austria, did not obtain her Austrian driving licence after the restriction, suspension or withdrawal of a driving licence in Germany. Having driven a vehicle in Germany under the influence of narcotic substances, her Austrian driving licence was withdrawn in German territory by the German authorities, even though she did not have her normal residence in Germany. It is apparent from the order for reference that the effect of that measure, as regards a driving licence issued by a Member State other than the Federal Republic of Germany, was that of a refusal to recognise that Ms Aykul was entitled to use her driving licence in Germany.

50      It is necessary to determine whether such a refusal by one Member State to recognise the validity of a driving licence issued by another Member State can be covered by the permitted limitations of the principle of mutual recognition of driving licences referred to in Article 2(1) of Directive 2006/126.

51      In that regard, as the Advocate General noted in point 65 of his Opinion, the limitation of that principle provided for in Article 8(2) of Directive 91/439 does not apply in the case in the main proceedings.

52      It is apparent from the actual wording of Article 8(2) of Directive 91/439, read in conjunction with the first and tenth recitals in the preamble to that directive, that that limitation covers the situation in which the holder of a driving licence has his normal residence in a Member State other than the Member State which issued that licence. In that situation, subject to observance of the principle of territoriality of criminal and police laws, the Member State of normal residence may apply its national provisions on the restriction, suspension, withdrawal or cancellation of the right to drive to the holder of that driving licence and, if necessary, exchange the licence for that purpose.

53      In the present case, however, Ms Aykul’s normal residence was, at the material time, in the territory of the Member State which had issued her driving licence, that is the Republic of Austria, and not in Germany. Ms Aykul was staying in Germany only on a temporary basis when, on 11 May 2012, she committed a driving offence under the influence of narcotic substances.

54      A situation such as that at issue in the main proceedings does, however, fall within the scope of the second subparagraph of Article 11(4) of Directive 2006/126. That provision which, as is clear from paragraphs 40 and 41 of the present judgment, applies ratione temporis to the facts of the case in the main proceedings, provides that a Member State is to refuse to recognise, in the case of a person whose driving licence is restricted, suspended or withdrawn in its territory, the validity of any driving licence issued by another Member State, irrespective of whether or not that licence had been issued before the date on which that provision became applicable (see, to that effect, judgment in Akyüz, C‑467/10, EU:C:2012:112, paragraph 32).

55      Whereas, according to the wording of Article 8(2) of Directive 91/439, only the Member State of normal residence of the holder of a driving licence has the power to apply to that holder its national provisions on the restriction, suspension, withdrawal or cancellation of the right to drive, the wording of the second subparagraph of Article 11(4) of Directive 2006/126 permits any Member State, and not only the Member State of normal residence, to refuse to recognise the validity of a driving licence issued by another Member State.

56      Admittedly, the Commission argued at the hearing that the second subparagraph of Article 11(4) of Directive 2006/126 should be interpreted as meaning that the possibility of refusing to recognise the validity of a driving licence should be reserved only to the Member State in which the holder of that licence has his normal residence. According to the Commission, the first subparagraph of Article 8(4) of Directive 91/439, the content of which is reproduced in the second subparagraph of Article 11(4) of Directive 2006/126, refers to Article 8(2) of Directive 91/439, which mentions ‘the Member State of normal residence’. The Member State referred to in the second subparagraph of Article 11(4) of Directive 2006/126 could therefore only be the Member State in which the holder of the driving licence at issue has his normal residence.

57      That interpretation cannot be accepted, however. Both the first and second subparagraphs of Article 11(4) of that directive refer to the restriction, the suspension and the withdrawal of a driving licence, but are not limited to decisions taken in that respect by the Member State of normal residence. The third subparagraph of that provision, which refers to the cancellation of a driving licence, also does not relate to decisions taken by the Member State of normal residence. In those circumstances, as the Advocate General noted in points 79 to 82 of his Opinion, the provisions of the second subparagraph of Article 11(4) of Directive 2006/126 apply independently as regards both Article 11(2) of that directive and Article 8(2) of Directive 91/439.

58      Next, while the Court has principally interpreted the first subparagraph of Article 8(4) of Directive 91/439 and the second subparagraph of Article 11(4) of Directive 2006/126 (which reproduced the content of the former provision) in the context of cases concerning the possibility, for a person whose driving licence had been subject to a measure of restriction, suspension or withdrawal in the territory of one Member State, of the validity of a driving licence issued by another Member State after the adoption of that measure being recognised by that first Member State (see, in particular, judgments in Wiedemann and Funk, C‑329/06 and C‑343/06, EU:C:2008:366; Zerche and Others, C‑334/06 to C‑336/06, EU:C:2008:367; and Hofmann, C‑419/10, EU:C:2012:240), the wording of those provisions also covers situations such as that at issue in the main proceedings in which the first Member State is refusing to recognise the validity of a driving licence issued by another Member State prior to the decision to restrict, suspend or withdraw that licence.

59      Lastly, it must be observed that Article 8(2) of Directive 91/439 permits the Member State of normal residence of the holder of a driving licence issued by another Member State to exchange the licence if necessary, in order that the first Member State may apply to that holder its national provisions on the restriction, suspension, withdrawal or cancellation of the right to drive. It follows from that provision that the Member State of normal residence is entitled to take measures restricting, suspending, withdrawing or cancelling a driving licence issued by another Member State that take effect in all the Member States.

60      It should be noted, however, that the second subparagraph of Article 11(4) of Directive 2006/126, which does not provide for the possibility of exchanging a driving licence, merely allows a Member State that is not the Member State of normal residence to take measures in accordance with its national legislation and as a result of unlawful conduct in its territory by the holder of a driving licence previously obtained in another Member State, the scope of those measures being limited to that territory and the effect limited to the refusal to recognise the validity of that licence within that territory.

61      As the Advocate General noted in point 83 of his Opinion, the second subparagraph of Article 11(4) of Directive 2006/126 is thus an illustration of the principle of the territoriality of criminal law and police laws which is expressly mentioned in Article 8(2) of Directive 91/439 and in Article 11(2) of Directive 2006/126. The second subparagraph of Article 11(4) of Directive 2006/126 concerns measures taken pursuant to the criminal and police laws of one Member State which affect the validity, in the territory of that Member State, of a driving licence issued by another Member State.

62      It must be noted in that regard that the Court has already held that a Member State in whose territory an offence is committed has sole competence to punish that offence by ordering, as necessary, withdrawal of the driving licence or of the right to drive, with or without an order that no application may be made for the issue of a new driving licence during a particular period (see judgment in Weber, C‑1/07, EU:C:2008:640, paragraph 38).

63      In the case in the main proceedings, it must be noted that the fact that Ms Aykul drove a motor vehicle under the influence of a narcotic substance on 11 May 2012 resulted, first of all, in criminal investigation proceedings being opened against her by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Ravensburg, those proceedings ultimately being closed without further action being taken.

64      Next, it is apparent from the order for reference that the town of Leutkirch fined Ms Aykul for driving a vehicle under the influence of narcotic substances and banned her from driving for one month. Lastly, the Landratsamt Ravensburg, the competent driving licence authority, withdrew her driving licence on the basis of German driving licence legislation. Where there are doubts as to a driving licence holder’s fitness to drive, that legislation provides for such fitness to be verified and, if it is established that that fitness is lacking, the competent authority is obliged to withdraw the driving licence in question. In accordance with practice under that legislation, the German authorities consider themselves competent to withdraw a foreign driving licence where, in the case of a road traffic offence committed in Germany, there are signs of unfitness to drive.

65      Referring to the reservation with respect to observance of the principle of territoriality of criminal and police laws in Article 8(2) of Directive 91/439 and in Article 11(2) of Directive 2006/126, the Commission is of the view that the withdrawal of a driving licence due to the holder’s unfitness to drive motor vehicles cannot therefore be regarded as a precautionary measure of a criminal nature and, consequently, as falling within the scope of criminal law covered by that reservation.

66      Suffice it to note in that regard that the provisions to which the Commission refers do not relate only to criminal laws but also to police laws. Nor, moreover, is the possibility, referred to in paragraphs 60 and 61 of the present judgment, that is conferred on a Member State by the second subparagraph of Article 11(4) of Directive 2006/126, of refusing to recognise the validity of a driving licence previously obtained in another Member State, on account of the unlawful conduct of the holder of that licence in its territory, limited to measures taken pursuant to the criminal law of the first Member State. The penalty for an offence committed in the territory of a Member State can take various forms, depending on the nature and seriousness of the offence, and the organisation of the courts in that State, in which there may or may not be a distinction between administrative measures and judicial measures.

67      As the Advocate General noted in point 104 of his Opinion, while the offence committed by Ms Aykul was punishable both criminally and administratively, the prosecuting judicial authority chose to close the criminal investigation proceedings initially opened against her without taking any further action. By contrast, that same offence led the administrative authority responsible for driving licences, the Landratsamt Ravensburg, to withdraw Ms Aykul’s driving licence.

68      It follows from this that a decision such as the Landratsamt Ravensburg’s decision of 17 September 2012 withdrawing Ms Aykul’s driving licence is among the measures a Member State may adopt on the basis of the second subparagraph of Article 11(4) of Directive 2006/126.

69      Furthermore, it must be held that to compel a Member State to recognise unconditionally the validity of a driving licence in a situation such as that at issue in the main proceedings would be contrary to the EU objective of general interest that is the improvement of road safety and which is precisely what Directive 2006/126 seeks to achieve (see, to that effect, judgment in Glatzel, C‑356/12, EU:C:2014:350, paragraph 51 and the case-law cited).

70      The option whereby a Member State can withdraw the authorisation to drive in its territory from a holder of a driving licence because of an offence committed in that territory does indeed constitute a limitation of the principle of mutual recognition of driving licences. However, that limitation, which allows the risk of traffic accidents to be reduced, reinforces road safety, which is in the interests of all citizens.

71      Having regard to all the foregoing considerations, the answer to the first and second questions and to part (a) of the fourth question is that Article 2(1) and the second subparagraph of Article 11(4) of Directive 2006/126 must be interpreted as meaning that a Member State in whose territory the holder of a driving licence issued by another Member State is staying temporarily is not precluded from refusing to recognise the validity of that driving licence on account of unlawful conduct on the part of its holder in the territory of the first Member State after that driving licence has been issued that results, under the national law of the first Member State, in unfitness to drive motor vehicles.

 The third question and part (b) of the fourth question

72      By its third question and part (b) of its fourth question, which it is appropriate to consider together, the referring court asks, in essence, whether a Member State which refuses to recognise the validity of a driving licence in a situation such as that at issue in the main proceedings is competent to lay down the conditions with which the holder of that driving licence must comply in order to recover the right to drive in that Member State’s territory.

73      In that regard, while the Court has repeatedly found, as is apparent from paragraph 46 of the present judgment, that it is for the issuing Member State alone to investigate whether the minimum conditions imposed by EU law, particularly those relating to fitness to drive, have been satisfied (see, to that effect, judgment in Hofmann, C‑419/10, EU:C:2012:240, paragraph 45), it must be borne in mind that, in the case in the main proceedings, the fitness to drive was challenged not at the stage at which the driving licence was issued but following an offence committed by the holder of that licence after it had been issued, the penalty for which took effect only in the territory of the Member State in which that offence had been committed.

74      It must therefore be held that it is for the authorities of the Member State in whose territory the offence has been committed to determine whether the holder of a driving licence issued by another Member State is once again fit to drive in its territory.

75      As the Polish Government submits, in essence, in so far as the refusal by one Member State to recognise the validity of a driving licence issued by another Member State is based on national rules which may not necessarily exist in the legislation of the issuing Member State, it seems unlikely that the legislation of the latter Member State would itself lay down the conditions with which the holder of a driving licence would have to comply in order to recover the right to drive in the territory of another Member State.

76      It must be pointed out, however, that it follows from the case-law of the Court that the second subparagraph of Article 11(4) of Directive 2006/126 may not be used by a Member State as a basis for refusing indefinitely to recognise the validity of a driving licence issued by another Member State where the holder of that licence has been subject to a restrictive measure in the territory of the first Member State (see, to that effect, judgment in Hofmann, C‑419/10, EU:C:2012:240, paragraph 50 and the case-law cited).

77      Acknowledgment that a Member State is entitled to rely on its national provisions in order to refuse indefinitely to recognise a driving licence issued in another Member State would be fundamentally incompatible with the principle of mutual recognition of driving licences which is the linchpin of the system established by Directive 2006/126 (see, to that effect, judgment in Kapper, C‑476/01, EU:C:2004:261, paragraph 77; order in Kremer, C‑340/05, EU:C:2006:620, paragraph 30; and judgments in Akyüz, C‑467/10, EU:C:2012:112, paragraph 57, and Hofmann, C‑419/10, EU:C:2012:240, paragraph 78).

78      It is ultimately a matter for the referring court, which alone has jurisdiction to assess the facts in the main proceedings and interpret national legislation, to examine whether in this instance, in applying its own rules, the Federal Republic of Germany is not in fact refusing indefinitely to recognise Ms Aykul’s driving licence. In that context, it is also for the referring court to ascertain whether the conditions subject to which, under German legislation, a person in Ms Aykul’s situation may recover the right to drive in German territory comply with the principle of proportionality and, in particular, do not exceed the limits of what is appropriate and necessary in order to attain the objective of Directive 2006/126, which is to improve road safety.

79      However, the Court of Justice, which is called on to provide answers of use to the referring court, may provide guidance based on the documents relating to the main proceedings and on the written and oral observations which have been submitted to it, in order to enable that court to give judgment (see, to that effect, judgment in Wiering, C‑347/12, EU:C:2014:300, paragraph 63 and the case-law cited).

80      In the present case, it is evident from the order for reference that it is open to Ms Aykul, whose Austrian driving licence was withdrawn in German territory, to apply for renewed authorisation to drive motor vehicles in Germany using her Austrian driving licence. In the annex to its decision of 17 September 2012, the Landratsamt Ravensburg informed her that her fitness to drive motor vehicles could be recognised on the basis of a medical-psychological expert’s report by a driving fitness test centre with official recognition in Germany, and stated that the production of a report of that nature was, as a general rule, conditional on proof of one year’s abstinence by the person concerned from any consumption of narcotic substances.

81      Furthermore, it is apparent from the written answer of the German Government to a question raised by the Court that, even in the absence of such a medical-psychological expert’s report, the right to use a driving licence in Germany that has been issued by another Member State is recovered automatically when, at the end of a specified period, the entry recording unfitness to drive is removed from the driving fitness register referred to in Paragraph 29(1) of the StVG. In Ms Aykul’s case, it is evident from the information provided by the German Government that the deadline for removal should be five years under that provision, given the nature of the offence committed. Thus, at the end of that period, Ms Aykul will again be able to use her driving licence in Germany, without having to produce a medical-psychological expert’s report.

82      In the light of those indications, which it is for the referring court to investigate, it must be held that the German provisions do not appear to constitute an indefinite refusal to recognise Ms Aykul’s driving licence.

83      In addition, the fact that Ms Aykul’s recovery of her right to drive a motor vehicle in Germany is subject either to submission of a medical-psychological expert’s report the production of which presupposes that there is proof of one year’s abstinence from any consumption of narcotic substances, or to a period of five years elapsing, appears to be an effective means of prevention that is proportionate to the objective of improving road safety.

84      Having regard to the foregoing, the answer to the third question and to part (b) of the fourth question is that a Member State which refuses to recognise the validity of a driving licence in a situation such as that at issue in the main proceedings is competent to lay down the conditions with which the holder of a driving licence must comply in order to recover the right to drive in that Member State’s territory. It is for the referring court to examine whether, in applying its own rules, the Member State in question is not in fact refusing indefinitely to recognise a driving licence issued by another Member State. In that context, it is for the referring court to ascertain whether the conditions laid down by the legislation of the first Member State, in accordance with the principle of proportionality, do not exceed the limits of what is appropriate and necessary in order to attain the objective of Directive 2006/126, which is to improve road safety.

 Costs

85      Since these proceedings are, for the parties to the main proceedings, a step in the action pending before the national court, the decision on costs is a matter for that court. Costs incurred in submitting observations to the Court, other than the costs of those parties, are not recoverable.

On those grounds, the Court (Fifth Chamber) hereby rules:

1.      Article 2(1) and the second subparagraph of Article 11(4) of Directive 2006/126/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on driving licences must be interpreted as meaning that a Member State in whose territory the holder of a driving licence issued by another Member State is staying temporarily is not precluded from refusing to recognise the validity of that driving licence on account of unlawful conduct on the part of its holder in the territory of the first Member State after that driving licence has been issued that results, under the national law of the first Member State, in unfitness to drive motor vehicles.

2.      A Member State which refuses to recognise the validity of a driving licence in a situation such as that at issue in the main proceedings is competent to lay down the conditions with which the holder of a driving licence must comply in order to recover the right to drive in that Member State’s territory. It is for the referring court to examine whether, in applying its own rules, the Member State in question is not in fact refusing indefinitely to recognise a driving licence issued by another Member State. In that context, it is for the referring court to ascertain whether the conditions laid down by the legislation of the first Member State, in accordance with the principle of proportionality, do not exceed the limits of what is appropriate and necessary in order to attain the objective of Directive 2006/126, which is to improve road safety.

[Signatures]


* Language of the case: German.