EU Citizenship and Social Rights
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EU Citizenship and Social Rights

Entitlements and Impediments to Accessing Welfare

Edited by Frans Pennings and Martin Seeleib-Kaiser

In the 1990s, the Maastricht Treaty introduced the right to free movement for EU citizens. In practice, however, there are substantial barriers to making use of this right, particularly to integration and to accessing the social and welfare rights available. This is particularly true when it comes to accessing social rights, such as social assistance, housing benefit, study grants and health care. This book provides a detailed description and thorough analysis of these barriers, in both law and practice.
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Chapter 8: Social rights, labour market policies and the freedom of movement: contradictions within the European project?

Nadine Absenger and Florian Blank


While the Rome Treaty granted freedom of movement and residence only to workers and other employed persons, this freedom was expanded significantly until it was granted to non-employed EU citizens in 1990. While thus the EU grants its citizens at least some social rights and promotes the use of the freedom of movement, national debates and policy reforms that are supported by judgments of ECJ reinforce the member state’s rights to refuse EU citizens access to social benefits. We want to show in this chapter that the European approach to social rights and labour market policies can hence be described as a contradictory project. First, the EU subscribes to an ambitious labour market programme and to the objective of activating citizens, that is, to enable and/or push them to participate in labour markets. Because of the double guise of activating policies where training measures and placement services are often connected to ‘passive’ social benefits such as unemployment benefits and because of giving EU members states the possibility to restrict access to the latter, the ECJ at the same undermines activating policies and hence EU labour market objectives. Second, the general approach of the ECJ and member states to restricting access to social benefits is in opposition not only to labour market objectives, but also to the more general approach to social rights as enshrined in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. We want to illustrate these points by using an in-depth analysis of the German case; more, an attempt that is highly controversial given the rules of the German Basic Law and recent rulings by the Federal Social Court.

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