Sunday

4th Dec 2022

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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.

EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary

Prime minister Viktor Orbán's government has to implement 27 measures "fully and correctly" before any payment from the €5.8bn recovery fund can be made, or the suspended €7.5bn of cohesion funds can be unblocked.

Catalan spyware victims demand justice

Victims of the widening spyware scandal in Spain are demanding justice and reparations, following the revelations that journalists, lawyers, civil society and politicians had been targeted.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals
  2. Belarus dictator's family loves EU luxuries, flight data shows
  3. How Berlin and Paris sold-out the EU corporate due diligence law
  4. Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO
  5. In green subsidy race, EU should not imitate US
  6. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  7. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  8. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us