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Benefits limited for EU foreigners in Germany

February 25, 2016

The European Court of Justice has ruled that Germany does not have to grant social benefits for EU-foreigners for the first three months in the country. The ruling could help Germany limit economic migrants.

Unemployed line up at a job center in Germany
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Stratenschulte

European Union citizens who move to Germany do not have the right to immediately receive welfare benefits, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Thursday in Luxembourg.

EU citizens have the right to reside in another member state for up to three months without residence formalities. However, the law allows member states "to refuse any social assistance benefits" during this period of time "to promote the financial stability" of their social systems.

The court also said these benefits can be denied without requiring an individual assessment of the case.

The case before the court involved members of a Spanish family who moved to Germany and applied for social welfare upon arrival. The father came to Germany with his son in 2012, but his wife and daughter were already living and working in Germany months before the rest of the family arrived.

The father tried to apply for unemployment benefits at a job center in the area of Recklinghausen, but was denied since he hadn't been in Germany for three months.

The German statues aim to cut down on poverty-driven immigration and so-called "benefit tourism" in order to ease pressure the social security system.

Some within Germany criticized the decision by saying it causes further problems with incoming EU immigrants. Werner Hesse, leader of the German equal rights association "Paritätische," said social benefits are necessary for EU-citizens "from day one."

Without the benefits, EU-citizens "often face problems with health insurance, education, or finding an apartment," Hesse said in an interview on Thursday.

EU leaders just agreed on a new reform package for Britain which includes changes to welfare distribution. They agreed on an "emergency brake" for EU-immigrants which would limit social benefits for four years.

rs/sms (AFP, dpa, KNA)

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