Anyone who comes to the Netherlands on an Erasmus grant will probably not be eligible to an OV student card. Discrimination has not been proven, according to the top advisor to the European Court.

Since 2009, the Netherlands has been involved in legal proceedings with the European Commission. A British student complained that it was unfair that he could not get an OV student card and the Commission agreed. The costs for studying in the Netherlands should be the same for all EU citizens. It looks as if the Netherlands will win the case, however, now that the Attorney General has rejected the plea of the European Commission. European courts often adopt that advice.

Clear arguments

The Dutch arguments were clear. Exchange students from Spain, Greece or Poland continue to be registered with their educational institution in their own country and receive study grant from their own government. The OV card is part of the Dutch study grant to which these students are not eligible.

In practice, however, these Erasmus students are studying at Dutch educational institutes, countered the Commission. They are normal students, until they take the train. Then the Dutch student can travel free but his fellow Spanish student with his Erasmus grant cannot.

Nevertheless, according to the Attorney General, the Commission’s defence was so vague that it was not admissible. You can’t conduct good legal cases with such ambiguous arguments. If the Commission had been more careful, hinted the Attorney General, it might have won. For example, it could have claimed that all students, whether from abroad or not, benefit in the same way from cheap public transport.

It does discriminate against students who stay longer

So doesn’t the Netherlands discriminate against students at all? Well yes it does, says the Attorney General, but not the exchange students. The Attorney General feels that the Netherlands discriminates against ordinary students when they come from another EU member state. Before they are entitled to a student grant, they must fulfil conditions which don’t affect Dutch students: they must have their own income or have lived in the Netherlands for several years.

That distinction should not be permitted. The same conditions should apply to all EU citizens. This was the judgement previously issued by the European Court too. Since then, the rules have been slightly amended, in the hope that they will stand up in future legal proceedings.