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ECJ ruling on abuse of social systems deals a blow to populists

Today the Court of Justice of the European Union presented its ruling (C-333/13) on the question whether EU foreigners living in another EU country can claim social cash benefits from the host Member State’s authorities without having worked in that host State. The issue was dubbed ‘benefit tourism’ by populists who are trying to use the issue to stir xenophobic and anti-EU resentments.

The Party of European Socialists has always denounced these attempts to put the freedom of movement into question, and that the existing framework is up to the task of dealing with the few marginal and individual cases of abuse. This is further reinforced by the recent judgment of the European Court of Justice which set out that Member States, after a case-by-case review can refuse to grant social benefits to economically inactive Union citizens who exercise their rights to freedom of movement solely in order to obtain another Member State’s social assistance.

PES President Sergei Stanishev comments on the Court’s judgment: "Every citizen’s right to freedom of movement within the EU is one of the biggest achievements on this continent. Of course, this freedom should not be abused, nor lead to social dumping, but it must be noted that the misuse of social systems is a rather marginal problem that is neither widespread nor systematic. It is an issue that was inflated by populist parties and politicians. In recent months the European Commission has repeatedly emphasized that there is no evidence that mobile citizens represent a burden on the welfare systems of the host States; they even pay more in taxes and social security contributions than they receive in benefits. Claims that freedom of movement leads to mass abuses of social systems are simply unfounded".

Mr Stanishev added: "Today the Court made clear that in the limited cases of abuse, the existing EU rules already provide the Member States with the necessary tools to address exploitation of their social benefit systems. The requirement for case-by-case reviews is vital, as it will ensure that every individual’s situation will duly be taken into account, and their rights defended. Once we look at the facts, it is clear that the scaremongering of the populists is just hot air".

The Court’s judgment can be found here.

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