Open Europe Blog

The European Commission isn’t winning many popularity contests at the moment. The Italians are furious, and the Dutch aren’t happy with it either. A recent Open Europe/Open Europe Berlin opinion poll showed that, out of 13 EU and national institutions, Germans trust the European Commission the least.

As we’ve noted previously, one now hears more rude things about the Commission in Berlin than in London. And sure enough, Germany is now heading for an almighty row with Brussels over EU migrants’ access to benefits. 

EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, László Andor last week told Der Spiegel that migration to Germany from Bulgaria and Romania “only involves benefits for both sides.” The fuss over access to benefits – and potential cost to the welfare state of EU migration – is overblown, claimed Andor.

German politicians have responded with an unusual degree of fury. The CDU/CSU faction’s spokesman for interior policy, Hans-Peter Uhl, labelled the claim “an outrageous denial of reality” and a “first-class frivolity.” In case people didn’t get the message, he added that some Commissioners are as far removed from reality “as the moon from the earth” (which is about 384,000 km, so a considerable distance).

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich also weighed in, telling Die Welt that

freedom of movement is not the freedom to change country because of higher benefits…The Commission needs to take this concern seriously.

Following a meeting of Interior Ministers this morning, interestingly, Friedrich has now demanded

a clear statement from the European Union whether we can send back those people who come to Germany to surreptitiously obtain benefits and also to prevent their re-entry

There are similar noises coming out of the Netherlands – and of course the UK. Issues related to free movement of persons are on Interior Ministers’ agenda this afternoon. Expect this one to run and run.

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