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Dublin: 5 °C Thursday 20 February, 2020

A European court has ruled against "welfare tourism"

The European Court of Justice said that Germany did not have to give a Romanian man benefits.

Image: Photocall Ireland

THE EUROPEAN COURT of Justice (ECJ) has said that countries do not have to pay welfare to EU citizens who haven’t worked there.

The court found that so-called “welfare tourism” was not covered by the EU’s freedom of movement principle.

Ruling on a case brought by Germany, the ECJ said it was the national authorities who decide the payment of non-contributory social benefits, that is those for which the recipient has not made any contribution via taxes.

As such, they were implementing national laws and not EU legislation, it added.

The ECJ said an EU citizen going to another member state could only expect to receive social welfare benefits if his or her stay complied with the conditions of the EU directive on free movement.

“One of the conditions… for a right of residence is that economically inactive persons must have sufficient resources of their own,” it said.

“The directive thus seeks to prevent economically inactive EU citizens from using the host member state’s welfare system to fund their means of subsistence.”

That means that an EU member state would not be obliged to pay social welfare to “economically inactive EU citizens who exercise their right to freedom of movement solely in order to obtain another member state’s social assistance,” the court said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, for whom the problem has become acute, was quick to hail the decision as “simple common sense”.

“It is a good step in the right direction because, as I have said, the right to go and work in other countries should not be an unqualified right,” Cameron said.

“There should be rules about restricting benefits.”

The European Commission said that the decision clarified the rights of EU citizens.

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