EUROPE: Italian competition discriminatory: commission
The commission has sent a letter of formal notice to the Italian authorities and they have two months to respond - the first stage of the infringement procedure.
"Free movement is a founding principle of the EU which ensures people are not being discriminated against on the basis of nationality," said Vladimír ?pidla, EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs.
"Grants awarded to students for maintenance are a social advantage which should be allocated without discrimination to migrant workers and their children. Italy needs to modify its rules and respect the right to equal treatment."
The public notice of competitions, published by the Sondrio Province ('Bando di concorso per il conferimento di alloggi a Milano per studenti universitari della provincia di Sondrio', 2008/2009) concerns access by students to low rent apartments owned by the province in Milan, the closest city providing university courses.
To participate in the competition, a student had to meet, among other requirements, two cumulative conditions: being an Italian national and having resided in the province in the preceding five years.
Under the EU law on free movement, migrant workers should enjoy the same social advantages as national workers. As well, children of a migrant worker should be admitted to general educational courses under the same conditions as the nationals of the country.
The Italian nationality condition could therefore discriminate directly against other EU workers and their family members while the residence requirement could amount to indirect discrimination, prohibited by community law, ?pidla said.
"This condition is liable to operate mainly to the detriment of nationals of other member states since non-residents are in the majority of cases foreigners."
In a second case, the commission has taken the Netherlands to the European Court of Justice over a student grant scheme it says discriminates against workers from other EU countries and their families.
Dutch legislation imposes a residence requirement for grants to study abroad but the commission said this puts migrant and frontier workers - including those residing in neighbouring Belgium - at a disadvantage compared to nationals.
"Grants to study abroad are a social advantage which should be allocated without discrimination to migrant and frontier workers and their children," ?pidla said. "The Netherlands has failed to modify its rules and respect the right to equal treatment so we are now bringing a case before the court."
The Dutch law on student finance provides that to obtain funding to study abroad, the student must have legally resided in the Netherlands for at least three of the previous six years. The commission says this law disadvantages frontier workers and their children: by definition, they reside in another country than the country of employment which makes it impossible to fulfil the "three out of six" years residence criterion.
This is a particular issue for those residing in neighbouring countries such as Belgium.
The commission asked the Netherlands in April last year to meet its obligations under Community law but the Dutch did not comply.
* See also ec.europa.eu