Highlighting the cases of Dano and Alimanovic, which both have an important bearing on in-work benefits for EU citizens.

Austerity is making EU Member States more restrictive about the right of residence and access to benefits that they give to EU citizens living in other EU Member States. Consequently, the Court is now hearing a string of cases on these rights.

First, in autumn 2014, the Court of Justice decided in the Dano case that EU citizens, who want to take up residence in another Member State, and who are not workers or job seekers, cannot use the Citizens Rights Directive to secure the right of access to the social benefits system of the host Member State; they can be excluded both from residence and the right to equal treatment regarding access to social security.

On 15 September 2015, the Court further clarified in the Alimanovic case its position on EU job seekers. According to the Court, job seekers who are EU citizens may lose their right of residence and access to benefits in the host Member State if they become unemployed and their unemployment runs for longer than six months.

The Court states in its reasoning that the Citizens’ Rights Directive is very clear about the position of job seekers; an EU citizen who has previously been employed in a Member State is under the Directive entitled to benefits for only 6 months. The Member States can therefore limit the access to benefits after this period.

The Court highlighted as the secondary reason for its judgment that EU citizens cannot be a burden to the social security systems of the host Member State. It should be noted that the Alimanovic family had not stayed in the host Member State, Germany, long enough to attain permanent residence. It remains to be seen whether the case will be the same for those EU citizens who have lived and contributed to the host Member State’s social security system for five years.

On this note, on 6 October 2015 the Advocate General Cruz-Villalon gave his opinion on the Commission infringement proceedings against the UK on child allowances for children of EU workers where those EU workers are not resident in the UK. The Advocate General advised the Court to dismiss the proceedings and urged the Court to recognise that child allowances are part of the social security system that Member States can restrict to its own residents.

Cruz-Villalon also emphasised that even though this may be indirect discrimination, this is justified by the necessity of protecting the host Member State’s public finances, which is recognised in the Citizens’ rights framework as a valid reason for limiting social security benefits to the host Member States’ own citizens.