Kőbler v Austria [2003]

  • Created by: channyx
  • Created on: 20-03-20 22:50


Mr Köbler had been a university professor in Austria for some 10 years, having previously been employed as a professor in other member States. In 1996, he applied for a special length-of-service increment—normally awarded to professors after 15 years of service— arguing that his previous employment in universities outside Austria should count towards his service. His application was rejected, as Austrian law made the award conditional on years of service in Austrian universities. Mr Köbler appealed the decision before the Verwaltungsgerichtshof (Austrian Supreme Administrative Court), arguing indirect discrimination and a violation of Art. 45 TFEU.

When the Supreme Administrative Court requested a preliminary ruling, the registrar of the Court of Justice alerted it to an earlier relevant judgment, asking whether it would maintain the request. The Supreme Administrative Court withdrew the request, but then misinterpreted the case law, dismissing Mr Köbler's case. In fresh proceedings, Mr Köbler brought an action for damages in respect of the Supreme Administrative Court's judgment, arguing it infringed directly effective free movement rights under Art. 45 TFEU, and claiming that the increment did not constitute a loyalty bonus.

The Regional Civil Court, Vienna, made a reference for preliminary ruling, asking (among other things) whether existing CJEU case law on state liability applied where the alleged infringement of EU law was a supreme court ruling; if so, the basis on which such liability was triggered; and whether member States were free to designate the court competent to adjudicate such disputes.


The Court of Justice clarified the scope of state liability in damages, finding that a member State could be found liable for breaches of EU law by a national supreme court (note especially the…


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