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CJEU: Court should dismiss the EC’s action against the UK concerning allowances for children

Advocate General Cruz Villalón proposes that the Court should dismiss the EC’s action against the UK concerning allowances for children.  Checking whether claimants are lawfully resident in the host Member State in accordance with EU law when claims for certain social benefits are dealt with is justified by the necessity of protecting that State’s public finances.

Checking whether claimants are lawfully resident in the host Member State in accordance with EU law when claims for certain social benefits are dealt with is justified by the necessity of protecting that State’s public finances

Regulation No 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems1 lays down a series of common principles to be observed by the legislation of the Member States in this sphere. Those principles guarantee that persons exercising their freedom of movement and of residence within the EU will not be adversely treated by the various national systems because they have exercised that right. One of those common principles is the principle of equality. In the particular ambit of social security, it takes the form of prohibiting discrimination on grounds of nationality.

The Commission received many complaints from nationals of other Member States resident in the United Kingdom, stating that the competent UK authorities had refused their claims for certain social benefits because they had no right of residence in that State. The Commission has brought an action against the UK for failure to fulfil obligations on the grounds that the legislation of that Member State was incompatible with the provisions of Regulation No 883/2004, inasmuch as it required checking whether applicants for certain social benefits, including child benefit and child tax credit,2 which are the subject-matter of this case, are lawfully resident in its territory. The Commission takes the view that that condition is discriminatory and contrary to the spirit of that regulation, which takes into consideration only the claimant’s habitual residence.

In response to those arguments, the United Kingdom, relying on the judgment in Brey, 3 maintains that the host State may lawfully make the grant of social security benefits to EU citizens conditional upon them meeting the requirements for obtaining a right of residence in its territory, which are laid down in Directive 2004/38.4 On the other hand, the UK, although acknowledging that it is easier for UK nationals, who as a matter of principle enjoy the right to reside in that Member State, to fulfil the conditions giving entitlement to the social benefits in question in this case, claims that its national system is not discriminatory and that the condition of a right of residence is, at all events, a proportionate measure for ensuring that the benefits are paid to persons sufficiently integrated in the United Kingdom.

In his Opinion yesterday, Advocate General Pedro Cruz Villalón proposed that the Court of Justice should dismiss the Commission’s action.

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