Wednesday, November 12, 2014

EU court rules ‘benefit tourists’ can be excluded from welfare schemes in a landmark ruling, the case highlights the problem of not having an internal EU immigration policy through-out Europe, time the EU politicians ‘grasped the nettle’ of reforming the organisation in a meaningful way

Dear All

Just as 2014 had all eyes in the UK fixated on the Scottish independence referendum, 2015 is shaping up to be firmly focused on the EU despite it being a Westminster election.

What has focused the agenda this way?

The rise of Ukip led by Nigel Farage, the party has tapped into a strong undercurrent of discontent that ordinary people across feel because of the way they have been treated. Previous decisions made by the mainstream parties in the past have come home to roost, it isn’t just voters who are deserting them; their rank and file members are feeling they have no common cause to continue their support. If you can’t get heard in your party, what is the point of continually supporting it or even voting for it?  

Ukip is expected to do well in England. Already Douglas Carswell’s re-election has caused the mainstream political parties to rethink their previously entrenched positions. The Labour Party due to its problems hasn’t signed up for a referendum on the European Question of should we remain as part of the EU.

There is a strong case for leaving the EU.

Equally, a strong case could be made to stay in and reform the organisation, the real trouble is that this has never happened properly despite several treaties by member states. At present there are 28 members of the European Union, much has changed since the early days of the EU when the focus was on better trading ties with the club.

Over the years we have seen good things come out of the EU such as the European Court of Justice and the judgements made on Human Rights have benefited people in Britain. The real trouble with human rights is the law, but the people who put their interpretation on it which has rendered in some cases bizarre judgements. Law in itself is very interesting as a topic because it touches on other policies and how they are enacted or curtailed.

On the issue of immigration, the EU policy is free movement of Labour.

What does that mean?

It means if I wished to go work in Poland and there was a job for me, I could just up sticks and potter off to live there. By the same token if someone from Germany wished to come and teach at Glasgow University and was offered a position, they too could come over and setup a new life.

The reality of the EU policy of free movement of Labour has gone wrong; it isn’t free movement of Labour but in effect just free movement. Sometime ago, I wrote about my idea for an internal EU immigration policy which in my mind was sorely needed to address this problem. Although the UK Government is trying to put in measures, the solution needs to be an EU wide solution and not just a British response to a domestic crisis. This should have been sorted out in a proactive rather than reactive manner which we now find ourselves in. 

The UK has been in the EU for circa 40 years, that is a long time to be a member, but the direction of travel hasn’t always been on the right road. Nation states need to be able to exercise their sovereignty more than they have been able to do so, un-hampered by Brussels. That doesn’t mean decisions should be green lit by a Nation just on the basis of dislike or to get a government out of a local difficulty, the rules should be based on fairness. I have always believed that an internal EU immigration policy was always the way to go, rather than things being done piecemeal by legal judgments and verdicts. 

Under my idea, each EU country would set criteria for people from other EU states who wished to live there; this would be done by the host country in conjunction with the EU. This would mean each Nation state sets a criteria which would apply to everyone from outside that country who is an EU citizen, it would mean that the same rules would apply to a German, a Frenchman, a Polish man or a Romanian if they wanted to live in there.

An EU court has ruled what is termed benefit tourists can be excluded from welfare schemes. It seems to me that rather than this situation of piecemeal which is a running sore and source of annoyance which doesn’t satisfy anyone, they would be better adopting my idea right across the entire EU.

Anyway, the European Court of Justice has declared EU member states must have 'the possibility of refusing' social benefits to 'economically inactive' EU citizens. This is the start of a recognition that free movement of Labour must not now been seen as purely just free movement. We aren’t anywhere near an internal EU immigration policy because there isn’t the political will for it, especially by the German leader Angela Merkel who is said to be opposed any restriction to the current setup.  

Now, Britain can ban European Union migrants from claiming "special non-contributory cash benefits" for up to five years, this is a landmark judgement in Luxembourg. In many ways it is long overdue but doesn’t fix the problem but it is certainly moved the ground a little.

The EU courts have ruled that it is up to the member states’ own Government, not Brussels, as to how it will draft the appropriate legislation that that excludes foreign, European nationals from claiming social assistance benefits. If you look at this in isolation, you would be tempted to think it is unfair as a first reaction, but there is a wider picture to consider were the rules have been abused by people who aren’t residents dubbed benefit tourists, in some cases they claim for their children, who aren’t even in the country.

That is entirely wrong, it is an abuse of the system and it should be stopped.

The landmark ruling has other implications such as allowing countries to assert their national sovereignty over out-of-work welfare benefits. Importantly, the European Court of Justice has stopped unemployed migrants from using human rights legislation to appeal against measures blocking them from benefits.

Although, this is legal, I feel the way this has been gone about doesn’t sit well, because the entire situation is in need of reform, and I keep coming back to it being an EU wide solution. Ironically, this test case was brought to the Court from Germany; it confirmed that governments can treat European jobseekers differently from their own nationals. The case involved two Romanian nationals, Elisabeta Dano and her son Florin, who were refused benefits in Leipzig because she "did not enter Germany in order to seek work there".

She and her son have been residing in Germany since November 2010.

The Court said:

"One of the conditions for a right of residence is that economically inactive persons must have sufficient resources of their own."

A Germany internal EU immigration policy it appears. If you google on my previous posts and comments elsewhere, you will find I also stated a criteria need to be set along those lines regarding funds and other relevant issues relating to employment. I used an analogy previously regarding the people wanting to study medicine, if a person was rejected after applying because they had no qualifications, it won’t be discrimination or an injustice, it would simply be that they didn’t fulfil the criteria, the person may not like it but that didn’t stop them in the past preparing to make their transitional move. 

And at the same time, they would have no recourse to EU human rights laws because there isn’t unfairness attached to the ruling. This is the bit that is a problem for some people, in general people should have access to justice, but justice cannot and shouldn’t be used to patch over political holes in the dyke.

The Court said:

"The directive on free movement of EU citizens and the regulation on the coordination of social security systems do not preclude domestic legislation which excludes nationals of other member states from entitlement to certain ‘special non-contributory cash benefits’, although they are granted to nationals of the host member state who are in the same situation.".

The European Commission has welcomed the judgment as bringing "more clarity" to the rules on EU free movement.

It gives a temporary fix which doesn’t address certain wider issues that need to be debated. And that is another of the systematic problems; politicians don’t want to debate this openly because of the nature of the topic.

So it is left to the Courts to decide matters.

Whereas people are willing to shout ‘racist’ for political advantage, when judgment comes via the Court, they can’t exercise their brand of political fascism to exploit a situation for votes.

But really there should be the political will by politicians on this matter.

Unsurprisingly there has been a lot of failure to lead. We elect politicians because we realise we can’t have the political will of mob enacted, politicians are supposed to the safeguard of reasoned judgement, abandoned in pursuit of their own political personal agendas.

2015, although a Westminster election is probably going to be dominated by the EU, Ukip should improve their situation, but they could do more by adopting a reformist platform to run alongside their desire for an in/out referendum rather than leave others to do the spade work. This landmark judgment actually works very well for Ukip because it gives in some way recognition of their stance that a problem exists, it also helps the Conservatives to a degree but it does nothing for the Labour Party.   

Labour need to adopt the idea of an internal EU immigration policy….. but won’t!

Labour leader Ed Miliband says he is the descendent of immigrants, fair enough; his problem is getting the ingenious population to vote for him.

He keeps saying, ‘I am on your side’!

According to the polls, people don’t seem to believe that statement which could be a real problem for him.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

1 comment:

Freddy said...

The problem of benefit tourism should have been recognised from the start and measures taken to make it an unattractive option, before widening the membership of the EU to citizens from Eastern Europe. I have no doubt that many people from the EU live productive lives whilst here but the public perception is different with people begging and selling the big issue. My brother lives in the South East and says the pressure for jobs is intense in all sectors. I have no doubt that the UKIP phenomenon is due in a large part to the disenfranchisement of the working class all over the country whilst politicians pay lip service to it. I don't see any sign of reform in the near future right enough the Western EU members would need to address it all at once and in such a manner that it would be impervious to a challenge. To be honest I doubt the political will is there at the moment .