(CN) – Europe’s high court ruled that European Union citizens must live in another member country for five years to be considered permanent residents, and that nations may use discretion in executing arrest warrants against foreigners from other member countries.
The decision relates to the German government’s attempts to extradite a man from the Netherlands after overturning a suspended sentence.
In 2003 German national Dominic Wolzenburg received a suspended prison sentence of one year and nine months after allegedly importing marijuana into Germany. Three years later, the German government revoked the sentence suspension for alleged violations of its conditions and issued an international arrest warrant.
Wolzenburg, who had lived in the Netherlands since June 2005, was provisionally detained but later released when the Dutch court determined that his crime was not punishable under national law. He registered as an EU citizen in the Netherlands in September 2006.
The Netherlands asked the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling on whether residents need to have lived somewhere for at least five years before being considered permanent residents, and if the Netherlands could choose not to enforce an arrest warrant from another EU country.
The Court of Justice determined that states have some discretion in executing arrest warrants. The Dutch government’s decision to not carry out Germany’s arrest warrant was justified, the court ruled, because Wolzenburg showed that he intended to integrate into Dutch society.
Though such a decision can result in nationals being treated differently than foreigners from other EU states, the goal of societal reintegration is compatible with the principle of nondiscrimination, the court ruled.
However, the court upheld the five-year residency requirement, saying it wasn’t an excessive condition.
The court added that the Netherlands may not impose additional requirements, such as possession of an indefinite residency permit, when refusing to execute an arrest warrant from another member state.