EU Court Again Clears German Welfare Limits

     (CN) – EU member states can cut off some social assistance to non-native EU citizens who came there to work but have since become unemployed, the European Court of Justice ruled Tuesday.
     Nazifa Alimanovic and her three children – all Swedish nationals – sued the Jobcenter Berlin Neukolln after officials there cut off long-term unemployment and dependent-child subsistence payments when they determined Alimanovic had only worked temporary jobs upon entering Germany and hadn’t worked at all since 2011.
     While Germany has liberal public-assistance policies, in 2011 it tightened its laws as to non-nationals who came to Germany for the sole purpose of finding work but had since become unemployed.
     The social court in Berlin originally sided with the Alimanovic family, finding that because they were EU citizens they were entitled to the same benefits as any German national would receive.
     But the job center appealed, noting that Alimanovic no longer qualified as a job seeker under German or EU law since she hadn’t worked since 2011, and could no longer rely on the EU’s right of residence as workers or the constitutional freedom of movement to claim public assistance.
     The German appeals court asked the European Court of Justice whether the EU’s principle of equal treatment required the Alimanovics to receive the same benefits as a similarly situated German would.
     In a 9-page opinion, the EU high court ruled that Germany’s limits on public assistance paid to foreign nationals do not violate equal-treatment laws.
     The Luxembourg-based court noted that in order for the Alimanovics to claim right of residency under EU law – and therefore public assistance under the equal treatment principle – they would have to show they had been laid off in the last six months and had registered as a job-seeker with the employment office.
     But Nazifa Alimanovic hadn’t worked since 2011, so Germany’s decision to cut off her benefits complied with EU law, the court found.
     The court also said that under EU law a foreign job-seeker cannot be expelled from a member state as long as the job-seeker can prove he is looking for a job and has a genuine chance of being hired. The court made no finding as to Alimanovic’s chances of staying in Germany, however.
     Alimanovic’s case marks the second time in a year that the EU high court has examined Germany’s welfare laws.
     In 2014, the court held that a Romanian national had no right to public assistance because she had no professional skills, had never worked in Germany and lacked ties to German society.
     The court said in that case that EU law intended that citizens who exercise their right to free movement should also integrate themselves into the society of the member state they choose, and that German restrictions cut down on welfare abuse and “benefit tourism.”

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