Benefit tourism was dealt a blow today by the European Court of Justice, after it ruled that people could not go to other countries within the trade bloc just to gain state aid.
The court today announced a ruling that countries within the EU must be allowed to refuse benefits to those who “exercise their right to freedom of movement solely in order to obtain another member state's social assistance”.
The case centered on two Romanian nationals – a “Ms Dano and her son Florin” – who had brought proceedings against Germany's Jobcenter Leipzig, which refused to grant them benefits “by way of basic provision”.
The ECJ said Dano had not entered the country to seek work, and, despite requesting jobseekers' benefits, it was “apparent from the case-file that she is not seeking employment”. The pair have lived in Germany since 2010, with Dano's sister.
She receives child benefit of €184 per month and an advance on maintenance payments of €133 per month, although neither of these are being questioned as part of the case.
The court considered whether nationals of other member states could claim “equal treatment” with citizens of the host country, and in so doing claim for additional benefits.
Member states are not obliged to grant social assistance during the first three months of residence, and where residence is less than five years, as in this case, individuals must have “sufficient resources of their own”. Dano and her son did not, and therefore cannot “invoke the principle of non-discrimination”.
The ECJ said: “The directive thus seeks to prevent economically inactive [European] Union citizens from using the host member state’s welfare system to fund their means of subsistence.”
It is not necessarily benefit tourists who are the only losers from today's ruling. Anti-immigration politics, which claims that a large number of European immigrants move to the UK because of our benefits system, could also suffer.