The European Court of Justice has made a ruling that member states can deny certain payments to unemployed EU citizens who move to that country just to claim benefits. Such a ruling sets a precedent for the rest of the EU.
Over the recent years, politicians in several member states have promised to crack down on what they call “benefit tourism”. Yet, the ruling only relates to non-contributory benefits, where the claimant does not make a contribution through the tax system.
Tuesday’s ruling from the Luxembourg-based court relates to a case involving a Romanian woman and her son living in Germany who had been denied access to a non-contributory subsistence allowance from its social security system. The court said the defendant did not have sufficient financial resources to claim residency in Germany after an initial three months, so she could not claim that the rules excluding her from certain benefits were discriminatory.
The EU court said there was no discrimination involved in denying a citizen from another EU country access to a non-contributory benefit which is available to German citizens.
The European Commission said it has consistently stressed that freedom of movement is about the right of circulation, not about an unrestricted right to claim benefits. The European Court of Justice has confirmed this principle. The court pointed to safeguards in EU rules, which it said aim to “prevent economically inactive Union citizens from using the host member state’s welfare system to fund their means of subsistence”.
In addition, it said it supported action by member states to tackle abuse of the benefits system by migrants. The ruling stated that “national parliaments have the competence to define the extent of the social cover” offered in the form of certain non-contributory benefits.