European Court Rules In State Benefit Dispute

By Fernand Gagnier, for 14 November, 2014

The European Court of Justice has confirmed that EU migrants may be prevented from claiming certain benefits in another member state if they cannot satisfy certain conditions, such as, in the case of the proceedings, the ability to sustain themselves in such a member state whilst being long-term unemployed and not seeking work.

The court was asked to consider the situation of an unemployed Romanian woman living in Germany who had been refused certain forms of non-contributory social assistance. She had not worked in Romania and had not sought, nor intended to seek work in Germany. The case was recently cited by Germany's Chancellor, Andrea Merkel, in relation to what she said was a problem of EU migrants who repeatedly enter the country, fail to find work, and then attempt to claim social benefits.

The Court concluded that nationals of other member states can claim equal treatment with nationals of the host member state – in the case of the proceedings, Germany – only if their residence complies with the conditions of the Directive on free movement of EU citizens.

Under the directive, the host Member State is not obliged to grant social assistance during the first three months of residence.

Where the period of residence is longer than three months but less than five years (the period which was at issue in the case), one of the conditions is that, for there to be a right of residence, that economically inactive persons must have sufficient resources of their own.

Referring to that provision, the Court explained, "The Directive seeks to prevent economically inactive EU citizens from using the host member state's welfare system to fund their means of subsistence. A member state must therefore have the possibility of refusing to grant social benefits to economically inactive EU citizens who exercise their right to freedom of movement solely in order to obtain another member state's social assistance although they do not have sufficient resources to claim a right of residence; in this connection, each individual case must be examined without taking account of the social benefits claimed."

The Court's ruling allows member states to prevent persons from claiming "special non-contributory cash benefits," if a person does not have a right of residence there under the terms of the Directive, providing there is no discriminatory provisions compared with nationals of that member state.

Tags: Court | Romania | Legislation | Germany | European Union (EU) | Expats | Immigration | Welfare | Europe | Immigration |


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