Saturday

30th Apr 2016

UK and Germany dislike EU 'welfare tourism' plan

  • The UK wants to impose restrictions on benefits for new arrivals (Photo: hangdog)

The European Commission on Thursday (5 December) presented its report on free movement to interior ministers after a handful of member states in April complained about EU nationals abusing their welfare systems.

“Free movement is a right to free circulation; it is not a right to migrate in member states' social security systems,” EU commissioner for justice Viviane Reding told the ministers.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But Reding warned against “unfounded wrong perceptions” about abuse of welfare systems.

The commission says very few EU nationals draw on benefits in their host states and that the vast majority move for work related reasons.

Spending linked to healthcare for new arrivals averages around 0.2 percent of the country’s total health care costs, it says

The UK, along with Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, say some EU citizens are a financial burden because they receive benefits they are not entitled to.

Reding’s plans to crack down on the abuse have five elements.

She is proposing a handbook to help local authorities spot sham marriages as well as guidelines on habitual residency. The latter would determine the extent to which a person is entitled to draw benefits in a host EU country.

Topping up the European Social Fund and helping local authorities understand EU free movement rules, are also part of Reding's solution.

Lithuania’s interior minister Dailis Barakauskas told reporters member states have largely backed the plans.

He noted that the overwhelming majority of member states agreed that the free movement of persons is a core principle of the European Union and a fundamental right.

But not everyone is happy.

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said Reding's report "is not sufficient to solve the problems."

An EU official said the UK “is very disappointed with the scale and ambition.”

UK home secretary Theresa May floated her own ideas.

“We need to be able to slow full access to free movement until we can be sure that mass migration is not going to take place. That could be by requiring new member states to reach a certain level of income,” she told reporters in Brussels.

EU sources say May’s proposal would have to be done via a Treaty change or done in the accession treaties of acceding countries via transitional arrangements.

UK officials believe Bulgarians and Romanians will arrive in large numbers once labour restrictions are removed on 1 January 2014.

The issue is highly politicised in the UK.

Last week, prime minister David Cameron introduced proposals to restrict housing and social benefits for the new arrivals.

One idea is to scrap work benefits in the first three months in the UK. After nine months, they would need to prove they are looking for work in order to receive state aid.

EU officials say his plans fall in line with the general rules set of the EU free movement rules.

Member states can issue expulsion orders and re-entry bans. But there are caveats.

“General re-entry bans for a certain group of people are not possible,” an EU official told this website.

Under EU rules, a re-entry ban must be assessed on an individual basis, noted the official.

News in Brief

  1. Netherlands funds €1.3mn Russian media project
  2. Fake euros network dismantled in Bulgaria
  3. Inflation negative in eurozone in April
  4. EU economy registers 0.5% growth in first quarter
  5. Eurovision says No to Kosovo, Palestine, IS flags
  6. EU to decide on future of tobacco agreement 'soon'
  7. Russia blames Sweden for frosty relations
  8. UN chief warns of 'growing xenophobia' in Europe

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Roundtable of IndustrialistsDigitising European Industry
  2. Counter BalanceParliament Gets Tough on Control EU Bank's Funds
  3. ICRCSyria: Aleppo on the Brink of Humanitarian Disaster
  4. CESIWorld Day For Health and Safety at Work: Public Sector Workers in The Focus
  5. EFABasque Peace Process-Arnaldo Otegi Visits the European Parliament
  6. EscardioChina Pays Price of Western Lifestyle With Soaring Childhood Obesity
  7. Centre Maurits CoppetiersThe Existence of a State is a Question of Fact, Not a Question of Law
  8. Martens CentreJoin Us at The Event: Prospects For EU Enlargement After 2019
  9. ICRCSyria: Aid for Over 120,000 People Arrives in Besieged Town Near Homs
  10. Counter BalanceHighway to Hell: European Money Fuelling Controversial Infrastructure Projects
  11. EPSUResponds To Reported €300 Million McDonald’s Tax Bill in France
  12. Access NowAcademics and Privacy Groups Ask Obama to Reject Anti-encryption Law

Latest News

  1. EU fiscal rules, migrants and Belgium's trick
  2. EU should call out Bangladesh on workers' rights
  3. Kosovo: Living in a ghetto on the EU fringe
  4. War crimes law poisons Serbia accession talks
  5. Italy and Austria try to calm tensions on Alpine pass
  6. French MPs call to lift Russia sanctions
  7. EU sides with embattled Greek PM in bailout talks
  8. Former EU commissioners to testify in emissions probe