At last week’s meeting of EU Home Affairs Ministers, it was agreed to look at the concerns raised by the UK, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands on this very issue.
But it is not simply the wealthier member states (that are the main destinations for intra-EU migration) that want this deeply sensitive debate around access to welfare to be clarified. Yesterday, Dutch Foreign Minister Frank Timmermans and his Polish counterpart Radosław Sikorski, discussed this very issue. Here is what Timmermans said on the matter:
“The Netherlands strongly believes that the free movement of people is one of the fundamental matters of the EU…We are not talking about restricting this freedom but we believe that a discussion is necessary on whether this freedom should entail full access to the social security systems of member states.”This is what Sikorski said during his subsequent speech at Leiden University:
“I tell you frankly, we will veto any attempt to compromise on one of these four freedoms of the single market. But this not to say that the member states should not be able to regulate their social provisions. You are a richer country then we are, so you have more generous unemployment benefits... if you have gaps in your social security system, you are free to plug them”.Both countries (the host and sending state) have an interest in ensuring that the rules governing access to welfare are clear and transparent and not open to abuse. As we've argued, this could help to restore public confidence in free movement.
And all the more reason for the Commission to sit up and listen to national governments rather than taking them to court!