Germany to ban EU citizens who abuse welfare system
The German government on Wednesday (27 August) approved draft legislation aimed at curbing 'welfare abuse' by other EU citizens coming to the country.
"Freedom of movement is an indispensable element of European integration, which we fully support. But we must not close our eyes to the problems linked to it," German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said in a press conference when presenting the bill and a 140-page report on the problems relating to freedom of movement and access to welfare for EU citizens.
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One of the new provisions envisaged by the German government is a controversial re-entry ban of up to five years for EU citizens who tricked the system or lied in their applications for welfare benefits.
So far, such bans could only be demanded by German authorities for individuals who were a threat to national security or public safety.
A spokesman for the EU commission told this website the EU executive will "have to look very closely at this re-entry ban to verify its compliance with the Freedom of Movement Directive of 2004."
"But we are reassured by indications that the German ministers have given, regarding their intention to remain compliant with EU legislation," EU commission spokesman Jonathan Todd added.
The draft bill also limits to six months the period in which an EU citizen can stay in Germany and look for a job, a measure which is in line with the EU rules on freedom of movement.
But another controversial measure, demanded by Bavarian Conservatives, is to restrict child allowances for people whose kids stay in the home country.
The language of the draft bill is vague, however, only promising to "verify" if the child allowance could be cut back to the living standards of the home country.
If such measures were to be put in place, it would be a breach of EU law, which states that EU workers who pay taxes are entitled to the same child allowances as nationals, irrespective of the country they come from.
In addition, EU citizens who cash in child allowances will have to give a tax registration number and document the existence of the child, so that they are not being paid both at home and in Germany. This measure is in line with EU law.
Several German cities had complained about the arrival of large families of Roma, notably from Romania and Bulgaria, who are entitled to child allowances and social benefits despite not seriously seeking a job in Germany.
The German state has beefed up by another €25 million an existing pot of €200 million that was allocated in March to the municipalities under strain this year.
The German health ministry plans to chip in with €10 million for the vaccination of children and teenagers from EU member states, even if their health insurance status is unclear.
Meanwhile, further €40 million are to be spent on integration courses sponsored by the interior ministry this year, coupled with funds from the European Social Fund for the most disadvantaged persons.
Klaus Zimmermann from the Bonn-based Institute for the Study of Labour told this website that the new measures adopted by the government are aimed at "scaring people off" from applying to social benefits.
"It's supposed to calm people in Germany, but to the outer world it will have the effect of scaring off qualified migrants, who are afraid of the unemployment risk. This is detrimental to labour mobility," Zimmerman said.