Euroopa Kohtu mõju Euroopa Liidu integratsioonitasemele: õppurite õiguste tagamise kaasuste näitel



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Although the European Court of Justice has sometimes even been called the "motor of integration" and the driving force of integration that influences the level of integration through its case law, this notion has not been commonly adopted and accepted by all theoretical approaches dealing with European integration. Debates on the ways how the role and influence of the Court of Justice on the EU integration process should be interpreted are still topical. The choice of subject for this Bachelor's thesis is based on the fact that the free movement of students in the EU and studies in other Member States have become such a common part of everyday life that the author of the thesis became interested in finding out whether and which changes have taken place in connection with the rights of students. The subject of the thesis is topical as the number of students who use the opportunity to move freely in the EU area without internal borders and to study in another Member State has statistically been growing yearly. The aim of the Bachelor's thesis was to analyse the influence of the Court of Justice on the integration level of the European Union and to find an answer to the question whether and in which cases the decisions of the Court of Justice can influence this integration level. The thesis concentrated on the analysis of the rights of students and the European Communities’ competence for education and the role of the Court of Justice in this process. The thesis posed the following hypothesis: the European Court of Justice has a dominant effect on the integration level of the European Union, but this is true only if the Member States lack a common position on the issue brought before the Court of Justice. The empirical data comprised five of the most important rulings of the Court of Justice on students' rights, which were also referred to most frequently in specialised literature. The aim of the methodological framework created for analysing the empirical data and of the analysis was to determine which of the integration theories dealt with in the thesis, i.e. neofunctionalism or liberal intergovernmentalism, better explains European integration. The empirical analysis was carried out separately for each case, but the analysed data were compared to test the hypothesis, and general conclusions were drawn on this basis. The results of the analysis did not confirm the hypothesis of the thesis and the influence of the Court of Justice on the integration level had to be affirmed even in situations where the Member States had a common position which was almost without exception contrary to the opinion of the Court of Justice on the specific issue. The ruling of the Gravier case showed that the Court of Justice does not allow Member States to dictate the way how to interpret Community law or how to define a specific term (in this case the term "vocational training") in Community law. Basically the court stated in the Gravier ruling that the possibilities for obtaining education and internships and participation in studies are regulated by Community law, which is why it is forbidden to discriminate against students from other Member States on the basis of citizenship, which also applies to prescribing an enrolment fee as a precondition to being admitted to a vocational training course. The court ruling in the Blaizot case where the Court found that the term "vocational training" does not exclude university education and extended this term on certain conditions also to university studies was one step forward in increasing integration in the field of the Community's competence for education. The change in the integration level could not be considered defined in the ruling made in the Brown case where the Court stated clearly that the development level of Community law regarding competence for education during the preliminary ruling does not allow for subsistence and education allowances given to university students of other Member States to be considered to belong within the scope of the Treaties. While in the Gravier and Blaizot case, the Member States submitting their comments lacked the necessary number of votes to have a blocking minority in the Council of the European Union during the preliminary ruling procedure, which would have allowed them to block unfavourable decisions taken via qualified majority voting in the Council of the European Union, the blocking minority was reached in the Brown case. In the Grzelczyk case the Court of Justice dealt with rights stemming from European Union citizenship and solved issues related to the conditions of receiving social benefits. The Court of Justice stated in its ruling that developments have taken place in the EU’s competence for education, making it necessary to change previous case law, i.e. the statements of the Brown case, and to take the position that the EU law recognises certain financial solidarity between Member States and hence also the right of students from other Member States to receive social benefits if certain conditions are met. Despite the existence of a common position of the Member States contradicting the Court of Justice in the Grzelczyk case, the Court made a ruling that could be considered as reinforcing the level of integration. The Member States laid a significantly strong emphasis on the preliminary ruling procedure in the Bidar case, which dealt with issues on receiving study loans, and they took the common position that subsistence allowances do not fall within the scope of the Treaties. Despite the strong opposition by the Member States and the European Commission, the Court found that education allowances in the form of study loans and stipends belong within the scope of the Treaties, and hence extended the rights of students. As the Court of Justice made decisions that clearly increased the rights of students and the Community's competence for education and did this despite the common opposition by the Member States, it can be said that the neofunctionalist integration approach proved to be more accurate. However, the court rulings analysed in this thesis alone are not a sufficient basis to state unambiguously that the Court made rulings reinforcing the integration level regarding the competence for education with the clear aim of increasing its own influence and role, which is why the accuracy of the neofunctionalist integration theory cannot be definitively affirmed. The thesis concludes that the European Union integration process is essentially such a multifaceted and complex process that neither approach alone, i.e. either neofunctionalism or liberal intergovernmentalism, can fully explain the European integration process and the role of intergovernmental institutions in it, which is why further research in this field will be necessary.