EU law does stop 'benefit tourism': top lawyer

20th May 2014, Comments 0 comments

European Union citizens travelling to another member state do not automatically have a right to social welfare benefits there, a lawyer at the EU's top court said Tuesday.

Taking up a German complaint about what has become a hot button issue in European Parliament elections next weekend, the lawyer at the European Court of Justice was careful to stress that freedom of movement remains a core EU right.

A person and their family have the right to stay in another EU state for up to three months "as long as they do not become an unreasonable burden on the social welfare system of the host country," Advocate General Melchior Wathelet wrote in an opinion.

"If such people wish to stay more than three months, they must have sufficient resources" to manage on their own, Wathelet said.

Commenting on the case of a Jobcentre in the east German city of Leipzig which had rejected a benefits request by a Romanian woman and her son, who was born in Germany, Wathelet said the authorities had the right to refuse.

"It is a matter of preventing abuse and a certain type of 'social tourism,'" the lawyer said, using a phrase which has become politically highly charged in countries such as Britain, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, where resentment has grown against some EU immigrants seeking welfare payments.

Lumped together with benefit fraud, eurosceptic and parties to the right have made the issue a rallying call in the current election campaign.

Wathelet's opinion is not binding on the ECJ but in about 80 percent of cases, the court will follow an Advocate General's reasoning in the subsequent ruling.


© 2014 AFP

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