‘Welfare tourism’ slashed in landmark EU court decision

‘Welfare tourism’ slashed in landmark EU court decision
The European Court of Justice has ruled that EU citizens, who move to a different member-state, but don’t look for a job, could be refused certain benefits. The decision is seen as putting an end to “welfare tourism” from poorer to richer states.

The Luxembourg-based court reviewed the case of a 25-year-old Romanian woman, Elisabeta Dano, living in Leipzig with her 10-year-old son. Dano was denied a welfare payment by a local job center after she refused all job offers made to her.

The woman appealed the job center’s decision in a German court, with the case eventually making its way to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The situation eventually inspired a ruling that is likely to be applied throughout the EU.

A member state must have the possibility of refusing to grant social benefits to economically inactive Union citizens, who exercise their right to freedom of movement solely in order to obtain another member state’s social assistance,” the ruling reads.

The European Commission was quick to explain the court’s decision in no way infringes on freedom of movement within the EU.

"The European Commission has consistently stressed that free movement is the right to free circulation," a spokeswoman for the EC said, as cited by AFP. "It is not a right to freely access the member state's social assistance systems and the court (ruling) confirms this."

Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has praised the decision.

"This judgment will hinder the misuse of social benefits and shuts the door to those who only come to Germany to get money from our benefits system," CDU General Secretary Peter Tauber told The Local.

The decision has also been welcomed by British Prime Minister David Cameron. The issue of migrants has grown into one of the most pressing ones ahead of the 2015 national 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 an unqualified right,” a spokesman for Cameron said, according to Reuters. "We will look very carefully at what we and other governments can do working together in response to this.

The UK government earlier announced plans to reduce the number of low skilled migrant workers coming to the UK from other EU countries.

Cameron’s taking a tougher stance on the issue of migrant workers has been explained as an attempt to tackle the growing popularity of the anti-immigration Independence Party (UKIP).

The European Commission, as well as some EU leaders have criticized the British PM for attempts to limit immigration, which they believe compromise the idea of free movement within the EU.