July 25, 2021

a setback for France

The decision of the European justice was feared by Paris, which was against and pointed to the risk of endangering the French model of the army. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) thus estimated, in a judgment delivered Thursday, July 15, that the military of the member states were subject to the same labor law as any worker, except in operation – to the large dam of France, whose armed forces are supposed to be “Available anytime and anywhere”.

Seized by the Republic of Slovenia following a dispute between a non-commissioned officer and his hierarchy concerning the payment of duty shifts, the CJEU makes in this judgment a distinction between activities carried out “As part of a military operation or during its immediate preparation” and other more traditional activities, which “Do not have any particularities preventing any planning of working time” respectful of European regulations.

The European directive adopted in 2003 – and pushed at the time by France – sets thresholds for workers not to be exceeded, in particular a minimum rest of 11 consecutive hours per twenty-four hour period and a maximum weekly working time. forty-eight hours. According to the Court, the activities of the military “Related to administration, maintenance, repair, health, law enforcement or prosecution services” must follow this guideline.

Germany has chosen to apply these rules within its armies. France, Spain and Slovenia were against it. Gold, “For the most part, France did not win the case”, deplores the Ministry of the Armed Forces, which pleaded for the possibility for member states to fully exclude military personnel from the application of this directive, which Paris considers incompatible with its particular model of professional armies, organized according to the principle of “Availability anytime and anywhere”, which goes against a categorization of their activities.

“The military, at any time, can switch to operational functions with very short notice”, we underline within the Ministry of the Armed Forces, while France is engaged on multiple fronts, whether in the Sahel, the Levant, in the Indo-Pacific area or even on the national territory, through the anti-terrorist operation “Sentinel”.

“We open a Pandora’s box”

The ministry also argues that the availability required of French soldiers was compensated by a high number of days of leave and by a right to a full retirement after seventeen years of career. But his arguments, no more than the determination displayed by the president, Emmanuel Macron, to preserve the special status of the French armies, did not hit the mark with the CJEU.

“I am an ardent European, but I believe in the European way when I understand it, and that I think it is good for the national destiny. When it leads us to deny what defends us, what protects us, a militarism that we hold dear, we do not give in to it. We have defended our status and we will hold out until the end ”, assured Tuesday Mr. Macron in his address to the armies, on the eve of the national holiday.

In February, the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, also said “Fiercely opposed” to a possible change in the status of the armed forces, evoking a “Essential issue of national defense as of European security”. “France, which is now the only permanent member country of the UN Security Council, exercises eminent responsibilities in the field of defense. And what makes it possible to constantly ensure the safety of the French and Europeans is precisely this principle of military availability at all times and in all places ”, she had argued in the Senate.

While no appeal is possible against a judgment of the CJEU, the Ministry of the Armed Forces now confides “Check how this is expressed in French regulations”. “With this stop, we are opening a Pandora’s box”, worries a general officer, fearing that a period of “Real question for [le] model [français] ».

The World with AFP