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The radical lowering of the retirement age for Hungarian judges is age discrimination

November 8th 2012
The Court of Justice of the European Union decides that the radical lowering of the retirement age for Hungarian judges is discrimination on grounds of age.
In a recent judgment in an infringement case brought by the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union declared that a retirement reform measure put in place in Hungary constitutes unjustified age discrimination, in contradiction with Directive 2000/78.

The national measure at cause brought the compulsory retirement age for judges and notaries from 70 to 62 with effect on 1 January 2012, removing an exception to the general retirement age in the public sector.

The Court determined that the measure constituted a difference of treatment of judges and notaries aged 62 or more compared to that of their younger colleagues who were not forced to retire, and that this difference was directly based on age. It then examined the objectives pursued by the Hungarian government in adopting this measure, namely to standardise the retirement age in the public sector and to establish a more balanced age structure facilitating access for young lawyers to the concerned professions. Having determined that both these objectives could be qualified as social policy objectives and were therefore legitimate, the Court examined whether the measure was proportionate to these objectives.

To this effect, several aspects of the national measure were taken into account by the Court, in particular its radical nature which meant that the judges and notaries who lived with a well-founded expectation that they would be able to stay in office until the age of 70 could be forced to retire at the age of 62. The rapid application of the reform, which did not provide for effective transitional provisions giving the time to the concerned persons to take appropriate financial measures, was also considered by the Court. A contradiction was also noted as the interests of judges and notaries had not been taken into account in comparison with those of other public servants, as another reform bringing the general retirement age in the public sector from 62 to 65 was implemented over a span of 8 years.

Thus, the Court noted that such a radical and rapid reform measure was not necessary to achieve the aim of standardising the retirement age, nor was it appropriate in pursuing the aim of establishing a more balanced age structure in the professions concerned. Therefore, the national measure constituted unjustified discrimination on grounds of age and Hungary has not fulfilled its obligations under Directive 2000/78.

C-286/12, Commission v Hungary, 6 November 2012.

Read the full press release with detailed information on the case in the document below

Court of Justice Press Release on the Age Discrimination of Hungarian Judges
Court of Justice Press Release on the Age Discrimination of Hungarian Judges