Open Europe Blog

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.
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