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3rd Mar 2024

EU jurist backs German refusal of migrant benefits

  • The EU court: Welfare tourism has become one of the hottest topics in EU policy (Photo: katarina_dzurekova)

Unemployed EU migrants can be excluded from accessing social benefits in another EU country for the first three months of their stay, a top EU lawyer has said.

In a legal opinion published on Thursday (5 June), Advocate general Wathelet said that the three month ban imposed by Germany on accessing benefits was “consistent with the objective of maintaining the financial equilibrium of the social security system” of national governments.

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The case is one of a series brought by Germany asking the Luxembourg court whether exclusion of certain EU citizens from accessing welfare benefits breaches EU law.

The case centers on a claim by Spaniard Joel Pena Cuevas, and his son, who arrived in Germany in June 2012. They were supported by a working Spanish woman, with whom they were living.

“Granting entitlement to social assistance to EU citizens who are not required to have sufficient means of subsistence could result in relocation en masse liable to create an unreasonable burden,” Wathelet added.

He also dismissed the premise that benefits were needed for claimants to find a job, commenting that they “are intended (at least predominantly) to guarantee the means necessary to lead a life in keeping with human dignity, and not (or only secondarily) to facilitate access to the labour market.”

However, Wathelet stated that migrants should be given an opportunity to demonstrate a “genuine link” with their new host country, before being automatically excluded. Whether they had worked in the past, should also be taken account of, he said.

The opinion follows a judgement last November by the ECJ, focusing on a Romanian national and her son, which said that EU nationals who move to another member state, don’t have a job, and aren’t seeking one, can be denied benefits.

Welfare tourism has become one of the hottest topics in EU policy.

UK prime minister David Cameron has vowed to make restricting access to benefits a priority in his bid to renegotiate his country’s membership of the 28 country bloc ahead of a planned ‘in/out’ referendum.

For its part, the German government introduced a bill last autumn which limits the period in which an EU citizen can stay in Germany and look for a job to six months, and could also limit access to child benefit for migrants.

A full ruling is likely to be made by the Court later this year.

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