Double Dutch barred in Amsterdam brothels

LUXEMBOURG (AFP) - The EU's top court ruled on Thursday that Dutch brothel owners must share a language with the sex workers who display their wares in the shop windows of Amsterdam's notorious red-light district.

Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands but human trafficking is not and the European Court of Justice said that the language requirement would ensure all was above board.

"The Court considers it is possible to require that a brothel owner be able to communicate in the same language with the prostitutes who work there," the ECJ said in a statement.

The ECJ was considering the case of a brothel owner in Amsterdam who wanted to open two other properties but who was refused permission by the local authorities on the grounds he could not speak Hungarian or Bulgarian, the language of the prostitutes in question.

"Operating a shop window brothel could not therefore be organised in such a manner as to prevent abuses and ensure that no criminal action was committed against the prostitutes," it said.

It said other possible remedies such as video cameras or having a third person present did not seem practical.

The Netherlands submitted the case to the ECJ for its opinion on its position that such a language qualification for brothel owners was allowed under the EU's single market rules which are meant to ensure a level playing field for all.