In a landmark case today the European Court of Justice has ruled that EU migrants moving to another country solely to access the benefits system can have their benefits curbed. The ruling has been welcomed by the Conservative Employment and Conservative Home Affairs spokesmen in the European Parliament, Anthea McIntyre MEP and Timothy Kirkhope MEP.
The Court was asked to look into the case of a Romanian woman who moved to Germany with her child. She received German child benefit and social security payments but, owing to a poor level of education, also applied for a subsistence allowance from the German social security system. This allowance is non-contributory, but the German authorities denied her application on the basis that German law does not allow the payments to be made to EU citizens seeking employment in Germany.
The Court has today ruled that the lady should have had sufficient means of her own to reside in Germany as she was economically inactive. It added that domestic legislation can exclude EU nationals from benefits that are available to nationals of that country, if they do not have a right of residence under the directive.
Anthea McIntyre MEP, Conservative employment spokesman, said:
"The European Court of Justice has ruled in favour of common sense. The court has made it clear that the original purpose of free movement is to allow free movement of labour and not of benefits tourists.
"If people cannot support themselves or make a meaningful contribution to the economy then they can have their benefits curbed, even if they are non-contributory benefits."
Timothy Kirkhope MEP, Conservative Justice and Home Affairs spokesman, said:
"The vast majority of EU migrants come to the UK to pay into the economy, and are contributing more than they take out of national welfare systems. However, any abuse of a national welfare systems, by both EU migrants or UK nationals should not be accepted and be dealt with seriously.
"This ruling may address German legislation but it will have wide-ranging implications for how the UK can tighten its welfare system to ensure only migrants that make a contribution can receive something back.
"This court case and this ruling show quite clearly that the UK is not alone in its concerns about restoring free movement to its core principle: free movement of labour. The government will be heartened by this decision today."