A decision by the European Court of Justice is being hailed by some as an end to so-called “benefit tourism” in the EU.
Germany had gone to the court because a Romanian woman who had arrived in Germany to live with her sister claimed for a jobseeker’s allowance. She already gets housing, child and fuel benefits. The German authorities said she had to be looking for work, but she was a stay-at-home carer to her young son with no qualifications.
Another similar case involving a Romanian family involves a woman with four children who had to stop work in order to look after her sick husband, and cannot get jobseeker’s allowance. “I have to pay the rent, I have to pay for electricity. And I need help with the German state,” said claimant Luminita Caldararu.
EU residents may now find they are unable to go to another member state and get unemployment benefits there if they have never worked.
But as the principle of freedom of movement of citizens comes under pressure, the leader of the centre-right in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, said the decision proved EU countries could “avoid social benefits tourism without violating the free movement of citizens,” and that “It sends a clear signal to the member states and to the British prime minister in particular”.
Britain’s David Cameron clashed with Angela Merkel when he questioned free movement as he battles to outflank the anti-immigration UK Independence Party (UKIP) at home, but it is thought this ruling may strengthen his position and weaken one of UKIP’s key policy arguments.