The Romanian government has slammed Austria for slashing child benefits for migrant workers by making them indexed to the cost of living back home in a move that has seen social benefits for Romanians halved, but increased for British workers.
The change was approved last year but only came into effect at the start of this year, with indexed child support benefits for all migrant workers.
Parents who work in Austria still retain the right to child support even if their children reside in their home countries with other family members.
But as the standard of living is lower in many of these countries than in the Alpine country, the Austrian government decided to index the benefits according to country.
Parents with children living in countries deemed more expensive than Austria like the UK actually saw their benefits increase.
While parents with a child aged between 10 and 18 years old living in Austria receive 141.50 EUR (127 GBP) per month, someone with a child in Iceland of the same age is now entitled to 200.51 EUR (180 GBP), the highest rate in the new index system.
Those workers with children living in the UK also get more money under the new system as they are now indexed at 162.30 EUR (146 GBP) for the first child between 10 and 18 years old each month.
Migrant workers with children in Eastern European countries are however hit hardest by the new law as Romanians and Bulgarians saw their child support benefits decrease by more than 50 percent.
A Romanian worker will now only receive 69.76 EUR (62.6 GBP) for a child back home while a Bulgarian migrant gets even less at 63.68 EUR (57.2 GBP) a month.
The Romanian government, which took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from Austria for the next six months, has blasted the Austrian government in a strongly-worded statement.
According to the statement from the Romanian Foreign Ministry, the indexing of child benefits is “unfair” and “against EU values” as it discriminates Romanian workers who are paying their taxes in Austria.
The statement read: “Romanian citizens who work in Austria pay the same taxes as citizens from that country, and they must be treated equally in terms of their rights in this regard.”
The Romanian Foreign Ministry said that it is both in talks with EU representatives and with countries “which have similar interests as Romania” in the hope to force Austria to change their new law.
The EU Commission had already announced in October that it would launch an infringement procedure against Austria.
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen signed the law but said at the time that he had “considerable doubts as to whether this law also complies with European Union law”.
Since assuming office on 18th December 2017, Austria has been led by a right-wing government of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (OVP) and the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPO).
The government is led by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (OVP), who at the age of 32 is the youngest head of state in the world.
The Austrian government has introduced strict anti-immigration measures in recent months and slashed benefits for both asylum seekers and migrant workers.