EU court toughens stance on 'welfare tourism'

15th September 2015, Comments 0 comments

The EU's top court toughened its stance on "welfare tourism" on Tuesday, in a decision likely to boost British Prime Minister David Cameron's hopes for EU negotiations ahead of a membership referendum.

The European Court of Justice ruled that member states can end benefits to EU citizens, even if they worked for a certain period in the country, expanding on a decision made in November last year.

"This decision is intended to end abuse and to stop welfare tourism," an EU legal source told AFP.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm welcomed the decision as an "important clarification".

"Free movement (in the EU) comes with rights and obligations ... It is a right to free circulation not a right of access to member state social welfare systems," said spokesman Christian Wigand.

In November 2014, the court said EU citizens going to another member state could only expect to receive social welfare benefits if they met the condition of finding active employment.

Tuesday's decision, based on a case out of Germany involving Swedes, expands this to citizens who actually did work, but only for a short period and then remained inactive for more than six months.

Where this period of six months has elapsed, "the host member state may refuse to grant any social assistance," the court said in a statement.

Cameron, who has promised to hold an in/out referendum by 2017, had hailed November's decision as "simple common sense".

Cameron has said he will campaign to stay in the European Union if he can renegotiate terms of British membership that would include a tougher stance on welfare benefits for EU citizens working in Britain.

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© 2015 AFP

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