Tuesday

22nd May 2018

EU ministers target 'benefit tourism'

  • EU nationals working in the United Kingdom use “far less benefits” than the average working population of UK nationals, says the European Commission (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Interior ministers from Austria, Germany, Netherlands, and the UK want to put an end to so-called ‘benefit tourism’ whereby foreign EU nationals take advantage of the social welfare systems in host countries.

The four ministers on Thursday (7 March) said they would draft a letter to get the issue onto the agenda into a justice and homes affairs council meeting, possibly in June.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

“For the moment, it is an initiative of these four countries but we will see what will happen in the next few weeks or months,” an EU diplomat close to the issue told this website.

He said they are targeting nationals from Romania and Bulgaria, who allegedly arrive in the host countries with the sole purpose to claim benefits they are not entitled to.

“After some weeks they say they do not have enough income and then they ask for social welfare,” noted the EU diplomat.

He cited half dozen German cities like Mannheim, Dusseldorf, Berlin and Munich, who each are dealing with “hundreds of cases.”

“Our point is that we have to take into consideration, that there is a problem, that the problem exists and now we want to start a debate on how one could tackle this problem,” said the EU diplomat.

He said the ministers spoke of two possible ideas to stem the abuse.

One is to address the high poverty levels in each state and another is to figure out how to deal with people who make multiple attempts to claim benefits without infringing on basic EU liberties like free movement.

The European Commission, for its part, says no member state has provided any proof that EU foreign nationals deliberately shop around for the best deals on social welfare systems.

“No member state, including the United Kingdom, has been able to give us any evidence that there is a problem of ‘benefit tourism’,” Jonathan Todd, the commission’s spokesperson for employment, told journalists in Brussels on Thursday.

Todd pointed out that the EU nationals working in the United Kingdom use “far less benefits” than the average working population of UK nationals.

The commission says existing EU laws are in place to prevent the practice. It noted that non-working EU foreign nationals could draw benefits only if they are habitual residents.

A persons’ family situation, reason for move, length and continuity of residence, are among the factors that determine if someone is a ‘habitual resident’.

“The European Commission will ensure that all aspects of EU law concerning the free movement of workers will be respected,” said Todd.

The debate on the issue has been sparked by the fact that temporary bans on Bulgarian and Romanian workers will be lifted next year.

The UK’s Home Secretary Theresa May last year said they would be unable to “further transitional controls” without breaching the treaty signed when Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007.

Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline

The EU starts enforcing its general data protection regulation on 25 May - but Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovenia won't be ready. The delay will cause legal uncertainty.

Opinion

Linking EU funds to 'rule of law' is innovative - but vague

Defining what constitutes 'rule of law' violations may be more difficult than the EU Commission proposes, as it tries to link cohesion funds in east Europe to judicial independence. A key question will be who is to 'judge' those judges?

News in Brief

  1. German prosecutor orders Puigdemont to Spain
  2. EU to split trade and investment agreements
  3. EU to start trade talks with Australia and New Zealand
  4. Unknown professor proposed as Italy's new prime minister
  5. 154 German economists warn against eurozone reform
  6. Growing €176bn EU trade deficit with China
  7. All 4.8m Swedish homes get 'war preparation' leaflet
  8. Trump warns Nato allies' low budgets will be 'dealt with'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. US asks EU to go after Russian and African villains
  2. Facebook threatened with removal from EU-US data pact
  3. Defence firms 'reap benefits' of their advice to EU
  4. Athens mayor wants direct access to EU migration fund
  5. Nordics could be first carbon-negative region in world
  6. Zuckerberg and Trump top the EU's agenda This WEEK
  7. Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny
  8. Bulgarian PM: No asylum reform without stronger border