Citizenship without Social Rights? EU Migrants' Access to Welfare Rights in Comparative Perspective

Friday, July 14, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - G466 (University of Glasgow)
Roxana Barbulescu , College of Europe
Intra-EU migrants have a unique set of rights within the Union compared with other non-citizens because of the principle of freedom of movement. Access to welfare is part of these rights yet harmonisation has been weaker in this area than in others given EU’s fewer competences in social affairs. As a result, member states have more discretion in being more inclusive or, on the contrary exclusive in giving access to welfare to EU citizens (Sainsbury 2012, Schierup, Hansen and Castels 2006). In the aftermath of the economic recession and confronted with possible new migration from the new member states, some countries have taken measures to make it more difficult for EU migrants to access welfare including withdrawing access altogether to some types of social assistance while others have maintained their status quo. This paper surveys the recent policy responses of four member states with respect to EU migrants’ access  to welfare rights. It builds on a four-country comparison –UK, Germany, Sweden and Spain – four member states that have received large numbers of EU migrants, that have different welfare traditions and a different relationship with the EU. The paper finds remarkable little convergence and great dissonance in the recent policy responses of the member states and examines the causes of this variation. Finally, the paper discusses the political consequences of such transformations for EU citizenship.