Saturday

29th Apr 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.

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.

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.

EU starts legal action against Hungary

The EU Commission is to launch a legal probe into Hungary's attack on a Soros-funded university, but Hungary's Orban was unrepentant the he faced MEPs.

European states still top media freedom list

Nordic countries Norway, Sweden and Finland still have the world's most free media, according to Reporters Without Borders, but the overall situation is declining.

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process