EU court: Countries are entitled to reject benefit claims
Countries can reject benefit claims by citizens of other EU countries if they are engaging in 'social tourism', the advocate general of the European Court of Justice said Tuesday (20 May) in an opinion likely to be replicated in a final ruling.
Germany may refuse "social security benefits for jobseekers who are in need of assistance" if the persons claiming them went to Germany solely in order to obtain those benefits, according to Advocate General Wathelet.
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The case was filed by a Romanian citizen who gave birth to a child during her stay in Leipzig. She received child benefits, but was rejected by the local authorities when she filed for unemployment benefits, as she was not actively seeking a job and had no professional qualifications.
The ECJ lawyer noted that EU law authorises EU citizens and their family members to reside in another member state for a period of three months.
"Where such persons wish to remain for more than three months, they must have sufficient resources in order not to become a burden on the social assistance system of the host member state," the legal opinion reads.
Germany has the right to demand that welfare applicants demonstrate a "genuine link" as well as efforts to integrate in Germany in order to prevent social benefits abuse.
"The Advocate General takes the view that the criterion chosen appears to be proportionate to the objective pursued," the opinion concludes.
The court still has to make a final judgement but it normally follows the advice of an advocate general.
Meanwhile, the German government is planning to strengthen measures against welfare tourism, as fresh OECD data show that Germany has become the world's second most popular destination for immigrants after the United States.
According to a draft bill seen by Reuters, people who abuse the welfare system may be refused re-entry into German territory for up to five years. Giving false or misleading information to German authorities could lead to fines or prison sentences.
Child benefits will also be restricted to people who have a German tax number, according to the draft, which should be approved by the German cabinet in June.