Open Europe Blog

The German Bundestag today approved changes to the country’s Immigration Act which are meant to prevent the abuse of EU free movement. This is not yet a done deal as the Bundesrat – the German upper house – needs to approve the changes, and the grand coalition doesn’t have an automatic majority there.

Re-capping our previous blogs on this, here are the key proposals – none of them will involve changes to EU law, according to the German government:

Six month maximum stay for EU job-seekers: Jobless EU migrants seeking work in Germany, who don’t have sufficient means of supporting themselves (including health insurance) and have limited job opportunities, will be forced to prove after six months that they have a “reasonable chance” of being employed. Otherwise, they will be forced to leave. Exactly how this will work in practice is unclear. This is very similar to what the UK Government already is doing.

Five year re-entry bans: EU migrants abusing EU free movement (by forging documents or being in a fake marriage, for example) will face a re-entry ban of five years. 
Linking child benefit payments to national tax ID numbers: to avoid duplication of payments to EU migrants – which will only apply to EU migrants, not German citizens (which raises a number of questions and which may well be challenged at the ECJ, depending on the outcome of some pending ECJ rulings). 
€225m (€200m of this was already agreed) in financial assistance to help local authorities to deal with migration (€140m would come out of the European Social Fund). 
Interestingly the report that served as basis for the draft law also has a section on “possible further measures on the European level” which notes that:

“Also in other [EU] member states…the issue is debated, in parts very controversially. In this respect the question arises….if and in how far considerations for further steps on the European level or together with European regulations are necessary and reasonable. The Committee will deliver an opinion on this in its final report.”

There are two separate cases referred from German social courts to the ECJ to keep an eye on. The first ruling – relating to the access to benefits for “economically inactive” EU migrants – will be delivered on 11 November and Angela Merkel stressed already that she “spoke with David Cameron and we are both anxious to receive the verdict and we will interpret it together.”

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