Friday

24th Feb 2017

EU spells out rules on migrant access to benefits

  • EU nationals working in other member states contribute more to their welfare systems than they take out, says the commission (Photo: Wonderlane)

The European Commission on Monday (13 January) outlined ways national authorities can prevent EU migrants from abusing state benefits while preserving the right to free movement.

“The guide published by the commission today will make it easier for member states authorities to apply the habitual residency safeguards in practice,” social affairs commissioner Laszlo Andor said.

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.

Habitual residency tests are used to gauge an EU national’s right to access social benefits, like unemployment or housing grants, in a host member state.

Family ties in the host country and how long a person has stayed there are among the determining factors.

The guide gives a number of examples for special cases.

It notes retired Britons who live in Portugal may be considered “habitually resident” in Portugal even if they own a house in the UK and maintain cultural and economic ties with the UK.

Andor pointed out that under EU rules, an EU national is not automatically entitled to draw benefits from the moment they migrate to another country.

“There is certainly a limit to the right of EU nationals to stay in another country so long as they are not working there or not a relative of someone working there or they cannot support themselves financially,” he said.

In some circumstances, authorities reserve the right to expel an EU national if he or she is considered “an unreasonable burden” on the social system of the host member state.

Despite established EU rules, access to benefits has been subject to heated debate in the UK, where politicians and newspapers have stoked fears that there would an influx of Romanians and Bulgarians after labour restrictions were lifted on 1 January.

The highly politicised debate has seen UK Prime Minister David Cameron make promises to curb migrant numbers in an effort to win back voters from the anti-immigrant political party Ukip.

The issue has become intertwined with a planned 2017 referendum on whether the UK should remain in the EU.

Some of the ideas floated by UK authorities would either have to be negotiated via transitional arrangements with future acceding member states or require a Treaty change.

The UK also recently introduced rules preventing migrants from accessing benefits until after three months.

The Brussels-executive, for its part, took Britain to the EU court in Luxembourg in May for applying a so-called “right to reside” test on top of the EU’s habitual residency test.

The commission says the British test discriminates against EU nationals because it can deprive them of welfare benefits even if they paid into the UK system.

Germany has also begun a similar debate.

Last week it announced plans to set up a special panel on labour migration and possible welfare abuse with inquiry results expected over the summer.

The German interior ministry is expected to publish figures in February on the number of Romanians and Bulgarians who have migrated to the country since 1 January.

The commission says mobile workers from other EU countries are more likely to be employed and are generally net contributors to the welfare systems.

The workers are said to fill in skill gaps and labour shortages.

“They tend not to take jobs away from host country workers,” said Andor.

Germany seeks to harden EU border checks

German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said internal EU border controls should be imposed on security as well as immigrations grounds, shifting their legal basis.

Analysis

Why Romania erupted in protest

Current anger over corruption laws can be traced back to a night-club fire in 2015, when many died because of lax safety standards. Romanians then realised that corruption can kill.

French police raid Le Pen's party office

Officers raid the National Front headquarters near Paris over allegations that leader Marine Le Pen used fake EU parliament contracts to pay her personal staff.

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EURORDISJoin the Rare Disease Day and Help to Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  4. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  5. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  6. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  7. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  9. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations