The Community law principle of freedom of movement for workers which prohibits discrimination on grounds of nationality applies not only to Member States but also to private undertakings
Mr Angonese, an Italian national whose mother tongue is German and who is resident in the province of Bolzano, went to study in Austria between 1993 and 1997. In August 1997, in response to a notice published in the local Italian daily Dolomiten on 9 July 1997, he applied to take part in a competition for a post with a private banking undertaking in Bolzano, the Cassa di Risparmio.
One of the conditions for entry to the competition was possession of a certificate of bilingualism (in Italian and German). The certificate is issued by one local authority and the exam is held in only one place, the province of Bolzano. It is usual for residents of the province to obtain the certificate as a matter of course for employment purposes. Obtaining the certificate is viewed as an almost compulsory step as part of normal training.
On 4 September 1997, the Cassa di Risparmio informed Mr Angonese that he could not be admitted to the competition because he had not produced the certificate.
Mr Angonese asked the Italian court to declare that the requirement making entry to the competition dependent on possession of the certificate was void. He maintained that the requirement was contrary to the Community law principle of freedom of movement for workers. The Italian court asked the Court of Justice for a ruling on whether the requirement was compatible with Community law.
The Court's starting point was that the principle of freedom of movement for workers within the Community entails the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality between workers of the Member States as regards employment, remuneration and other conditions of work.
The Court went on to confirm that the prohibition of discrimination applies not only to public authorities but also to private persons. The Court finally examined the question of whether a requirement imposed by a private employer which made access to employment conditional upon possession of one particular diploma constituted an obstacle to freedom of movement for workers.
The Court noted that persons not resident in the province have little chance of acquiring the diploma and thus of gaining access to employment.
In such circumstances, it was not only Italian nationals resident in other parts of Italy who were put at a disadvantage but also nationals of other Member States. It followed that the requirement was discriminatory.
The fact that it was impossible to submit any proof of linguistic knowledge other than one particular diploma issued only in one province of a Member State appeared to the Court to be disproportionate to the aim of recruiting properly qualified staff.
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