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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

German 'crackdown' on EU citizens’ access to benefits: what does it involve?

The issue of how to balance EU free movement and the rights of member states to control their welfare systems has been a long running issue, one which several countries (not only the UK) are struggling with. We've previously reported about how the influx of EU migrants has caused problems in Germany, prompting the grand coalition to commission a review into the issue.

In March, we reported on and analysed the key recommendations of the interim version, and now it appears the final version will be adopted by the German cabinet later this month. According to FAZ, here are the key points, which are virtually unchanged from the draft version:
  • Limiting the period in which EU citizens can be registered as jobseekers to six months, after which they are obliged to leave the country if they are still unemployed. This is similar to the UK's current approach, although David Cameron announced last month that this would be toughened.
  • Banning any EU citizens found guilty of “abusing or defrauding” the German welfare system from re-entering Germany for a period of five years. How easy this will be to enforce in the Schengen border-free zone is questionable.
  • Making it harder to export child benefit abroad by demanding additional documentation and changing domestic taxation rules. David Cameron has also made this a priority and it remains unclear whether limiting payments to working migrants' children who live abroad is permissible under EU law.
  • In addition, German municipalities are to get additional financial assistance from the government to cope with the effects of an influx of migrants to help cope with extra pressures on local services.
This 'crackdown' comes at an interesting time for two reasons. Firstly, today's Bild reports, according to new figures from the German Federal Employment Agency, the number of EU citizens from Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and the ten Central and Eastern European member states claiming unemployment benefits in Germany has for the first time exceeded 300,000 after going up by 53,216 (21.6%) in April compared with April 2013. Secondly, confidence in the German economy is on the decrease which could add political momentum to those who want to further restrict free movement.


Rik said...

Climate is not yet ripe in Germany imho.
Growth has to be low for so long that it will affect things like unemployment. Looks Germany is not that far from that btw as growth is low for a few Qs now and confidence is starting to drop.

Anonymous said...

Rik I agree with your assessment.
Especially now that Merkel is using even more of the citizens' money (and lost revenues) to subsidize European and American expansionism and wars.

Edward Spalton said...

The most sensible thing would be to make a maximum ceiling on claimable benefits for jobless incomers of not more than is available in their country of origin.

That would reduce the influx to people who either had jobs or an early expectation of getting one.

With regard to child benefit, I heard from a lady working in the British social security system that their instructions were simply to pay all claims without checking them.

And, from another official in the system, that women from immigrant communities were playing "pass the parcel" with babies - and turning up at Social Security offices with other women's babies to make child benefit claims.

Certainly some tightening up is long overdue.

Rodney Atkinson said...

This is all part of the fundamental misunderstanding of market economics and free trade. I tried to educate Douglas Hurd in this by explaining that the whole purpose of at least the Anglo Saxon idea was to allow the free movement of goods, services and capital to make the mass movement of people unnecessary.

He replied (this was 1992) that he "had not thought of it like that" !!!!

God protect us from the dilettantes at the Foreign Office!