Child benefit: EU Commission sues Austria
The EU Commission has brought a lawsuit against Austria before the European Court of Justice over a new provision in the former's child benefit system which has been in force since 2019. Under the new rule, non-Austrian EU nationals living in Austria receive reduced benefits if their children live in their home country and the cost of living is lower there. According to the Commission this is discriminatory and violates EU law. The press sees good arguments on Vienna's side.
Unequal treatment is justified
For the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung things are not as clear as the EU Commission is making them out to be:
“Child benefit is not a form of insurance benefit but a social benefit linked to a child's tax-based minimum subsistence level, including education and training requirements. In the light of this, the principle of equal treatment requires that unequal living costs should not be treated equally. The [German] Federal Cabinet also took this view in 2017, but the coalition government didn't have the courage to act on its convictions. Let's hope the judges in Luxembourg will be braver. If they are, they will contribute greatly to the acceptance of 'Europe' in many countries.”
At last a precedential case
The outcome of this trial will be of interest not only to Austria, Der Standard underlines:
“It has already occurred to other countries to adapt certain family benefits to the cost of living in the EU states, which varies greatly. ... Austria is entering this legal dispute as a pioneer for Germany and other rich EU countries. Austria's arguments are stronger than some experts in European law are making them out to be. Because the idea behind family allowances is to compensate for the real additional burden borne by parents compared to childless people. ... And this burden varies according to whether the children live in Vienna or in a Romanian village. ... It is also useful for the CJEU to examine the arguments of both sides in this conflict of principles - and to finally put an end to the long debate.”