German unemployment benefit for EU migrants only after five years

German Labour Minister Andrea Nahles wants to severely curtail EU migrants' access to social benefits. Under her proposal EU migrants who aren't employed would only be entitled to social benefits and Germany's Hartz IV unemployment benefit after living in the country for five years. Her plan has provoked varied reactions in the German press.

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Die Welt (DE) /

Germany must defend its cosmopolitan stance

For the daily Die Welt, Nahles

“rightly makes clear that the free movement of workers in Europe does not mean that every EU citizen is free to choose the welfare system that suits him best. The European Court of Justice has also repeatedly ruled that national governments have the right to deny transfer payments to EU citizens. This stance was once again explicitly underlined - and even strengthened - in last February's negotiations with Britain. ... If Green and Left Party politicians are now talking about a betrayal of the European ideal, all they're doing is showing once again that they couldn't care less how burdened German taxpayers are. Most Germans view the immigration of Poles, Greeks or Spaniards as a boon for the country. This cosmopolitan attitude will quickly disappear if they have to accommodate more and more EU migrants. And the Alternative for Germany will have a new bone to pick.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Law only promotes prejudices

The Frankfurter Rundschau, however, sees the labour minister's proposal as absurd:

“Of course the state doesn't have to tolerate people coming to Germany to collect welfare benefits. The fact is, however, that there hasn't been a stampede so far. Andrea Nahles operates with if-clauses. ... She says she's trying to maintain popular support for the free movement of persons within the EU. That's fine, even if the preventive measure also includes the defensive stance of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany. But those who have always tended to view newcomers as benefit tourists will feel justified. This law is meant to offset fears, but all it really does is promote prejudices. And it's absurd because those who cannot claim benefits can acquire this right by taking on a mini-job. All they have to do is work a few hours as a waiter or cleaner and they'll be entitled to claim unemployment benefits.”