Europe’s top court has ruled that European Union countries can block jobless immigrants from receiving welfare benefits.
The so-called ‘welfare tourism’ case involved a Romanian woman, 25-year-old Elisabeta Dano, who had applied for, and been denied, unemployment benefit in Germany on the grounds that she was not actively seeking a job. She had received child benefits after giving birth to a baby while in Germany.
Dano then appealed against the German court ruling and the matter ended up before the EU Court of Justice.
The judges at the the Luxembourg-based court said: “Economically inactive EU citizens who go to another member state solely in order to obtain social assistance may be excluded from certain social benefits.”
The German Federal Employment Agency said it was good to have a clear ruling on the matter and the General Secretary of the Conservatives called it a good decision. He added people who want to come to work in Germany are welcome.
Ruling welcomed by British PM Cameron
The ruling was welcomed by British Prime Minister David Cameron who is under growing pressure on the issue from the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) ahead of a May 2015 national election as well as from some of his own lawmakers.
Cameron has promised to try to reshape Britain’s EU ties before holding a referendum on the country’s European Union membership by 2017 if he wins next year’s election.
“One of the things that (the ruling)… underlines is that the freedom of movement, as the prime minister and others have said, is not a unqualified right,” a spokesman for the British prime minister said. “We will look very carefully at what we and other governments can do working together in response to this.”
Cameron’s Conservatives want to stop what they regard as welfare abuse by poor immigrants from eastern Europe with no jobs and no health cover, and ease pressure on local services such as health and housing.
But British government talk of curbing the freedom of movement by people within the European Union has provoked warnings from the European Commission, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU leaders who regard that as sacrosanct.
Critics accuse the British prime minister of exaggerating the problem to curry favour with voters who might turn to UKIP. Laszlo Andor, the former European Employment Commissioner, has accused him of peddling “myths” as there is little evidence of widespread ‘welfare benefit tourism’