EU Court Backs Germany in Nobility Name Game

     (CN) — Though the U.K. allowed it, Europe’s highest court said Germany need not recognize titles meaning “count” and “baron” that one citizen added to his name.
     Peter Mark Emanuel Graf von Wolffersdorff Freiherr von Bogendorff, as the man hoped to call himself, had a much shorter name when he was born in Germany in 1963.
     Nabiel Bagadi became Nabiel Peter Bogendorff von Wolffersdorff after he was adopted, and made the latest additions to his name while working over a decade ago in London as an insolvency adviser.
     The United Kingdom, which Bogendorff joined as a dual citizen, had permitted the name change, but the man ran into trouble upon his move home to Germany in 2005.
     Two of the additions to Bogendorff’s name, Graf and Freiherr, translate to count and baron, respectively.
     For the past decade years, Bogendorff has lived in Chemnitz with his wife and a daughter, Larissa Xenia Gräfin von Wolffersdorff Freiin von Bogendorff.
     Bogendorff filed suit when the city of Karlsruhe refused to enter his British name in the German registry, with retroactive effect to Sept. 22, 2004.
     The German national court sought guidance on the parameters of EU law, and the European Court of Justice ruled Thursday that public-policy considerations could justify the restriction on Bogendorff’s freedoms.
     “Confusion and inconvenience are liable to arise from the divergence between the two names used for the same person,” the unsigned ruling states.
     But “there is nothing to show that the name acquired in the United Kingdom is of considerable importance to the identification of [Bogendorff] and his membership of a family,” the ruling continues.
     In alleging that Germany’s obstinacy caused him “serious inconvenience,” Bogendorff pointed to difficulties he has faced in registering a German branch of the company he formed in the United Kingdom, when opening a bank account for the company, and during simple roadside police checks.
     Since Bogendorff’s daughter holds two passports, the father also runs the risk of “encountering difficulties in proving his family links with her,” according to the ruling.
     Yet the court ultimately found that “the change of name under consideration rests on a purely personal choice by [Bogendorff], that the difference in name which follows therefrom cannot be attributed either to the circumstances of his birth, to adoption, or to acquisition of British nationality.”
     Plus, “the name chosen in the United Kingdom includes elements which, without formally constituting titles of nobility in Germany or the United Kingdom, give the impression of noble origins,” the ruling states.
     The ruling says “Article 21 TFEU must be interpreted as meaning that the authorities of a Member State are not bound to recognize the name of a citizen of that Member State when he also holds the nationality of another Member State in which he has acquired that name.”
     That applies when the name was “chosen freely and which contains a number of tokens of nobility, which are not accepted by the law of the first Member State, provided that it is established, which it is for the referring court to ascertain, that a refusal of recognition is, in that context, justified on public policy grounds, in that it is appropriate and necessary to ensure compliance with the principle that all citizens of that Member State are equal before the law,” the ruling continues.
     The court declined to determine costs, leaving that decision to the national court.

%d bloggers like this: