EU court rules Basque police can discriminate recruits on age

The court ruled that the Basque Country's police force are more likely to use "physical force" to maintain public order. [UKBERRI.NET/ Flickr]

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that the Basque Country’s police force can vet potential recruits based on their age, citing physical capabilities as the deciding factor. EURACTIV Spain reports.

In a statement yesterday (15 November), the Luxembourg court ruled that the decision of the Basque Country’s police force, the Ertzaintza, not to recruit to operational positions to people over 35 years-of-age is compatible with EU law.

The ECJ had been asked for an opinion by the autonomous region’s superior court on the Ertzainta’s 2014 rule.

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Gorka Salaberría, who brought the case to the Basque court’s attention, was over 35 when he applied to join the police force and argued that the ECJ had ruled against a similar law in 2014, when Spain’s local police insisted that officers had to be less than 30 years-of-age.

However, the Court decided in this case that “a difference of treatment based on age is not to be regarded as discrimination where a characteristic related to age, such as the possession of particular physical capacities, constitutes a genuine and determining occupational requirement.”

The ECJ’s judges insisted that the operational duties of the regional police, which sometimes needs to use physical force to protect people and property, means that the 35-and-over rule is admissible and that “maintaining public order” needs certain physical capabilities.

In justification, the court explained that the differences in duties between the regional and local forces, as well as the ageing nature of Spanish and European police officers, means that the Basque rule does not breach the EU directive on age discrimination.

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