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Can a European leader travel as he wishes in Europe? The Luigi di Maio case

(B2) Paris could very well forbid the visit of the Vice-President of the Italian Council Luigi di Maio if it deemed it inappropriate. If we refer to the case law of the Court of Justice of the EU

National tension over the arrival of a leading politician from a Member State, such as that which arises between France and Italy, is not a first. Recent antecedents exist in Europe, particularly in Central Europe, which have resulted in referral to the Court of Justice of the EU.

In August 2009, Hungarian President L. Solyom (1) wanted to cross the bridge separating his country from Slovakia to inaugurate a statue in honor of St Etienne in the neighboring town on the other side of the border, Komárno /Komárom, populated largely by a Hungarian minority population. A visit deemed totally inappropriate by the Slovak government, which sees it as a nationalist claim, surfing on the ancient history of a territory belonging to Hungary.

This results in the exchange of harsh diplomatic notes between the two countries. Budapest invokes the principle of the free movement of persons, Bratislava defends the reserved diplomatic competence allowing to prohibit the arrival of a Head of State for political reasons. Slovakia ends up signifying the total ban on entering the territory to the neighboring president, if necessary by blocking the convoy by force. The Hungarian gives up... but files a complaint before the Court of Justice. A first.

Three years later, in March 2012, the European judges meeting in the Grand Chamber in Luxembourg agreed with Slovakia. There is no real right to free movement for a Head of State (or government). This emerges from diplomatic relations marked by a certain courtesy. The conclusions of Advocate General Yves Bot on this point are interesting and deserve careful reading because they make it possible to distinguish what comes from the public sphere of the Head of State and what comes from the private sphere (Read: Hungary-Slovakia. The Advocate General specifies the status of the Head of State when he travels to another country).

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read also: A head of state is not an ordinary citizen. Hungary dismissed

  1. Independent personality, former constitutional judge, he was supported by Fidesz.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).