Latest Public Sector News

11.11.14

EU court makes landmark ruling on ‘benefit tourism’

In a landmark ruling the European Court of Justice has ruled that Germany can refuse welfare benefits to EU migrants if they have never held a job in the country.

The ruling could set an EU-wide precedent on ‘benefit tourism’ and has been welcomed by members of the government and opposition in the UK, who believe it could allow Britain to exclude some unemployed migrants from receiving some benefits such as jobseeker's allowance.

The case was triggered by a Romanian woman and her son who had their applications for benefits refused. In Germany, foreign nationals who enter the country in order to obtain benefits or whose right of residence arises solely out of the search for employment are excluded from non-contributory benefits.

The court stressed that EU rules state that member countries do not have to provide benefits during the first three months of a migrant’s residence, and between three months and five years of residence an “economically inactive person” (someone unemployed who is not actively seeking work) must have sufficient resources to support themselves in order to have a right of residence.

The ECJ ruled that the defendant was economically inactive and did not have sufficient financial resources to claim residency in Germany after the initial three months, and therefore could not claim that the rules excluding her from certain benefits was discriminatory.

Timothy Kirkhope MEP, the Conservatives’ home affairs spokesman, said the UK government should be "heartened" by the ruling.

"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."

The ruling could be viewed as bittersweet for David Cameron as while it will make it easier to curb benefit abuse by EU migrants, if it had gone the other way it would have provided more ammunition for the In/Out EU referendum he plans if re-elected.

(Image: The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, c. Cédric Puisney)

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