EU Citizens who exercise their right to free movement, by going in another Member State for the sole purpose of obtaining social assistance, not being economically active, may be excluded from certain social benefits, under EU Law- Judgement in Case- 333/2013, from November 2014, Elizabeta Dani, Florin Dani v. Jobcenter Leipzig.
In fact, two Romanian Nationals, Ms. Dano and her son Florin, referred a case to the Social Court- Leipzig, against Jobcenter Leipzig, related to the latter refusal to grant them benefits, i.e.: subsistence benefit (‘existenzsichernde Regelleistung’) and for her son, social allowance (‘Sozialgeld’), as well as a contribution to accommodation and heating costs. The ECJs’ response to that Court (which referred the matter for a preliminary ruling) was that nationals of EU Member States are entitled to claim equal treatment with nationals of the host Member State when their residence conditions are in accordance with the Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States. This means that, beside the fact under the Directive, the host Member State is not obliged to grant social assistance for the first there Months of residence, when an EU citizen is proven to be economically inactive (e.g.: not being trained in a profession, nonexistent previous work experience) he/she must have sufficient resources to provide for themselves (where the period of residence is longer than three months but less than five years). So that the scope of the Directive is to prevent such inactive EU citizens from taking advantage of the host Member States’ welfare system, for funding their means of subsistence. As a consequence, a Member State is entitled to refuse to grant social benefits to the aforementioned EU citizens. Inter alia, the Court points out that each individual case must be assessed on a case by case analysis, with no regard to the amount or nature of the benefits claimed. Finally, the Court ruled that when one doesn’t have sufficient resources for means of subsistence, the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of nationality is not to be relied on, given that a residence right cannot be claimed, according to the above mentioned Directive.
Is the ruling fair? Could it be regarded as an impediment to the freedom of movement of persons? To which extent an EU citizen is entitled to claim social benefits, within the EU, according to the principle of equality and non-discrimination (on grounds of nationality)? To be noted, that despite the bluntness of the said Judgment, the Court also stated that a case by case analysis is required regardless of the amount and nature of the social benefit. It is a fact that no Member State wants to receive “parasites” (economically inactive EU citizens), but where can a Member State draw the line, without being in breach of EU Law, with respect to discrimination and equality values? It remains to be seen how Member States, as hosts, will apply this Judgment…