Thursday

24th Aug 2017

EU court: Countries can deny benefits to 'welfare tourists'

  • Welfare line: Social benefits can be restricted, the ECJ says (Photo: EUobserver)

EU citizens who move to another member state "solely in order to obtain social assistance" may be excluded from benefits schemes, the European Court of Justice (EJC) ruled on Tuesday (11 November).

The ruling is likely to appease critics of "welfare tourism", a marginal phenomenon which has emerged on the back of freedom of movement between member states but which stirred a huge debate in the UK and, to a lesser extent, in Germany.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  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.

The case was brought to the ECJ by a Romanian national and her son, who were refused certain benefits by a social court in Lepizig, Germany.

"Ms Dano did not enter Germany in order to seek work there and, although she is requesting benefits by way of basic provision which are only for jobseekers, it is apparent from the case-file that she is not seeking employment," the ruling reads.

The plaintiff does receive child support amounting to €184 per month and "maintenance payments" of €133 per month - which were not disputed in court.

"The Court of Justice points out that, under the [EU freedom of movement] directive, the host member state is not obliged to grant social assistance during the first three months of residence," the ruling reads.

In case people stay longer than three months but less than five years and have no job, they "must have sufficient resources on their own," the court added.

"A member state must therefore have the possibility of refusing to grant social benefits to economically inactive Union citizens who exercise their right to freedom of movement solely in order to obtain another member state’s social assistance although they do not have sufficient resources to claim a right of residence," the judges ruled.

They add that each person from another EU state has to be examined individually when they claim social benefits.

The ruling also says that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights does not apply in the case of social benefits, because they are a national competence and when member states "lay down the conditions" for non-contributory benefits, "they are not implementing EU law."

The British Conservatives in the European Parliament promptly welcomed the ruling.

"The European Court of Justice has ruled in favour of common sense. The court has made it clear that the original purpose of free movement is to allow free movement of labour and not of benefits tourists," Conservative MEP Anthea McIntyre said in a press release.

Her colleague Timothy Kirkhope said that while the ruling is about German legislation, "it will have wide-ranging implications for how the UK can tighten its welfare system to ensure only migrants that make a contribution can receive something back."

British PM David Cameron is seeking restrictions to EU's freedom of movement in order to stop what he calls "welfare tourism," even though recent studies have shown that EU citizens from other countries pay more into the British welfare system than they get out of it.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for her part, has made it clear that freedom of movement is a red line and that she would not defend the UK if it sought to restrict it. A German government task force earlier this year did, however, propose certain restrictions to access to social benefits in order to limit abuse.

EU court fine tunes migrant welfare rights

EU nationals who move to another country to look for a job are not entitled to social benefits, but they cannot automatically be denied them if they've aready worked in the country, an EU court advisor has said.

Opinion

Managing migration: a European responsibility

"The EU now needs to bring its weight to bear, to ensure non-EU countries cooperate on taking back their nationals arriving as economic migrants", writes migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.

News in Brief

  1. Air Berlin insolvency talks begin amid 'stitch-up' accusation
  2. EU calls on Serbia and Macedonia to remain calm
  3. Schulz wants US to remove nuclear weapons from Germany
  4. Ukraine and Russia to announce another ceasefire
  5. EU to investigate Monsanto-Bayer merger
  6. US will ask Nato allies to send more troops into Afghanistan
  7. Greece to be absent at event on Communism and Nazism
  8. Czechs want observer status in Eurogroup meetings

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEuropean Governments Must Take Stronger Action Against Terrorism
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  3. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  4. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  6. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  9. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  11. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  12. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference