23rd Oct 2016

German court confirms social rights for Bulgarians

EU citizens from Bulgaria and Romania are entitled to healthcare and social benefits in Germany even without a valid working permit, a German court has said in a ruling that may overturn welfare restrictions sought by the German government.

The case was filed by Lazarinka R., a 24-year old from Bulgaria who had come to Germany to live with her boyfriend - a Greek with German residency, who left her when she got pregnant - her lawyers told Spiegel magazine.

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  • Bulgarians are entitled to German health care even if they work illegally (Photo: kton25)

She then filed for a working permit, but was rejected and subsequently refused pregnancy care.

Bulgarians and Romanians, as citizens from the EU's newest member states, are still subject to labour market restrictions in Germany and a number of other EU states, including the UK where the government is also considering restricting access to the national health system.

"The plaintiff's appeal was successful. She fulfilled all the requirements for a claim and was not excluded, as a Bulgarian citizen, from [social] benefits," the Federal Social Court, Germany's top appeal court for social security cases said in its ruling on Wednesday (30 January).

The ruling is final and can only be contested in the Constitutional Court, a spokeswoman for the Federal Social Court told this website.

According to fresh migration data, almost a million people came to Germany in 2011, 43 percent of whom were from new member states - Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.

Lazarinka R.'s case sets a precedent for similar cases where EU citizens were refused or advised not to seek welfare benefits in the absence of a legal status.

The German government has sought to limit welfare access for nationals from new member states, claiming that these countries were not signatories of a 1953 European Convention on Social and Medical Assistance. In a caveat to the so-called Hartz IV law underpinning basic medical and social assistance for the unemployed, the government has stipulated that the law is exempted from the European Convention and only applies to German nationals.

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