EU Wants To Give Benefits To All Migrants

A European parliamentary committee apparently wants to force member states to hand out unemployment benefits to migrants even if they have only worked a single day.

According to Belgian local media, the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs voted on a revision of the directive on the coordination of social security systems in EU countries.

A majority of committee members supported the idea that migrants who worked before they moved to another member state can claim unemployment benefits in the new country even if it was for one day of employment.

The committee also ruled that migrants can keep their unemployment benefits going for six months after the date they officially go home.

This would mean overruling current Belgian laws which state that migrants can only claim unemployment benefits after working for at least three months.

Belgian politicians reacted with outrage to the vote as they said it would open the door for “welfare tourism”.

MEP Tom Vandenkendelaere of the Flemish Christian-Democratic Party blasted the vote.

He said: “The reasoning is that people on benefits can be used in labour reintegration projects, but the situation in Belgium is special as unemployment benefits are not limited in time. We do want to keep the situation as it is.”

MEP Helga Stevens of the Flemish nationalist N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) party said: “This will cost our social security system a lot of money and would be a thorn in the side for taxpayers.”

The same fears were heard in the Netherlands, where European migrants need to work for at least six months before they can claim unemployment benefits and count the acquired social security rights from another member state.

Dutch local media listed the example of a Bulgarian migrant who might have worked in his home country for 20 years who could “claim benefits on Dutch levels after just working for one day in the Netherlands”.

MEP Jeroen Lenaers of the Christian-Democratic Appeal (CDA) said: “We think there must be at least a decent connection between the employee and the country where he or she works, and that this employee also should have contributed for a reasonable period, for example six months, to the social security system in a country.”

Fearful of the Netherlands and Belgium becoming a prime destination for people from low-wage EU member states seeking easy benefits, politicians from both countries are seeking action.

The N-VA, which forms a federal government coalition with the Flemish Christian-Democratic Party and both the Flemish and Walloon liberal parties, said the EU vote is “yet another reason to finally limit the unemployment benefits in duration”.

Dutch MEPs said they will lobby in the European Parliament and among member states to stop the proposed changes. The final shape of the rules will now be decided during talks between the entire European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission.

Story By: Koen BerghuisSub-Editor: Joseph Golder,  Agency: Central European News

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