Access to social benefits for EU mobile citizens: ‘tourism’ or myth?

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Series Details No.168, June 2016
Publication Date 20/06/2016
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The free movement of people within the EU is one of the key pillars of the European single market. Despite intra-European mobility remains a limited phenomenon, a fierce debate has emerged in many host Member States with regard to the impact of 'mobile EU citizens' on national welfare states. This is partly due to the sharp increase in mobility within the EU since 2004, together with the fact that mobile citizens enjoy access – under certain conditions – to social benefits in the host country.

Against a backdrop in which there are major differences between national welfare systems (with some based on non-contributory assistance benefits rather than on insurance-based contributory benefits), many voices are raised to denounce possible 'benefit tourism' or 'welfare tourism' within the EU.

The aim of this policy paper by Sofia Fernandes, senior research fellow at the Jacques Delors Institute, is to shed some light on this complex debate on mobile EU citizens’ access to benefits.

1. The first section focuses on the scope of intra-European mobility, the profile of mobile EU citizens and their burden on host countries’ welfare system.

2. The second section presents an overview of the EU’s legal framework with regard to mobile citizens’ access to benefits by identifying the provisions concerning workers, economically inactive citizens and first-time jobseekers.

3. The third section highlights both the responsibility of Member States in the organisation of their welfare system and the recently adopted reforms which limit EU citizens’ access to benefits as well as the modifications foreseen in the EU-UK deal to the relevant European legislation.

4. Lastly, the fourth section presents the challenges to be met and the outlook for the future.

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Related Links
ESO: Background information: Is Germany getting tougher than Britain on ‘welfare tourism’?

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