Social security and freedom of movement – four proposals for the road ahead
Summary How can we best ensure that the EU’s freedom of movement does not put pressure on Denmark’s social services, as a third of the population fears will be the case?
This question left a significant imprint on the campaign for the European Parliamentary elections in May, and several parties demanded that welfare restrictions and other protective regulations should apply to migrant workers from other EU countries. It is unlikely that Denmark will be able to demand national welfare restrictions and opt out of the central EU system without putting itself into direct conflict with the fundamental principles and rights of the internal market. There are, however, many other potential solutions.
In this report, Think Tank EUROPA presents a range of ideas and concrete suggestions for solutions that can both secure the future of Denmark’s welfare system and respect the EU internal market’s fundamental principles, including freedom of movement for workers.
We investigate Denmark’s relationship to the EU’s inner market and to our neighbouring countries, and we examine the figures indicating how many migrant workers are living in Denmark and to what extent they are claiming different types of social security benefits. The results show that Denmark’s proportion of migrant workers, approximately 3.8 percent of the working population, corresponds with the EU average. And when social security is taken into account, the migrants’ use of these services is more or less on a par with the Danes’. In fact, EU citizens living in Denmark are more like the Danes’ than one might think.
In accordance with our ambition to maintain the right to free movement in the EU and secure Denmark’s social services, we present four proposals to politicians to give substance to their debate.
This is very much needed. And it is also possible. We believe that there are actually a number of things that can be done within the existing national and European regulations and discuss the possibilities to gauge and define a number of elements, first at the Danish level and then at the European level. In addition, we present a proposal for a European mobility fund which would make it a common European concern to alleviate the excessive pressure placed on national welfare systems.
We recognise that there are pros and cons in relation to each suggestion, and that the development of the EU involves a political choice between different visions. When the newly elected European Parliament and the new European Commission are put to work, they will most likely resume this debate on mobility, welfare benefits and working conditions in the EU. Denmark’s specific priorities will only be able to have an influence on this debate if they are based on constructive and objective considerations.
We hope that this report can contribute to getting these arguments across to the various political parties sitting at the table. It is also a matter of establishing the kind of EU Denmark is advocating for.
Download the full report on free movement and social security here
Think Tank EUROPA provides as an appendix to the report a catalogue of the social services, family allowance, unemployment benefits, sickness allowance and income support. Read more and download the full social services catalogue here.