Thyssen slams Schäuble’s proposal to cut childcare benefits for EU foreigners

Marianne Thyssen has criticised a proposal put forward by Germany on childcare benefit. [European Commission]

Marianne Thyssen, the EU social affairs chief, slammed a draft German proposal to cut childcare benefits in half for EU foreigners and insisted she does “not believe in second class children”.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble is drafting a proposal to slash monthly childcare benefits paid to citizens from other EU countries who work in Germany and send the payments – set at a minimum of €192 – to their children living abroad, German media reported today.

More than 180,000 children living in other EU countries receive childcare money from Germany, according to data from the German finance ministry.

Thyssen said today (10 February) in response to Schäuble’s draft proposal that “it is only fair that workers receive the same social benefits when they have contributed to the tax and social system in the same way as nationals have”.

EU law guarantees anyone working in another member state the same rights and social benefits as a citizen of their adopted country.

In December the EU social affairs Commissioner said she rejected calls from some countries to draft an EU-wide law that would allow rich governments to slash childcare benefits to anyone whose children live in poorer countries where those rates are lower.

“Let’s not forget, this would also apply to German citizens whose children live abroad. In the same way that I do not believe there are second class workers, I do not believe in second class children,” Thyssen said today.

Thyssen proposes rules to fight 'populist' charges of welfare tourism

EU countries will be able to deny unemployment benefits to someone from another member state if they have worked less than three months in the country where they’re seeking support, under new rules proposed today (13 December).

Thyssen said it would be a “major bureaucratic exercise” to set up a registry listing residents who live in one EU country and have children in another. EU leaders promised to allow the UK to set up a similar registry – creating uproar in some poorer countries – as part of a compromise deal offered to former Prime Minister David Cameron last year.

But that agreement was put on the back burner when the UK voted to leave the bloc in June 2016.

When asked in December, Thyssen declined to say whether she would open lawsuits against EU countries if they cut benefits for anyone whose children live abroad.

The Commission has said that an EU-wide registry listing parents who send childcare benefits abroad would not be worth the hassle because less than 1% of benefits paid out in the EU are exported to other countries.

Out of the more than 184,000 children living in other EU countries who receive German childcare benefits, around 86,000 of have Polish parents living in Germany. Romanians, Croatians and Bulgarians make up most of the other EU citizens who receive childcare payments in Germany for their children abroad.

Monthly childcare benefits in Germany start at €192 and increase up to €223 per child for families with multiple children. Under Schäuble’s proposal, that minimum would be set at €96 per month instead for foreigners.

Thyssen sent a wave of disapproval across some richer capitals when she in December refused to include measures in a new EU social welfare bill that would have allowed lower childcare benefits for children living abroad. Austria’s family minister said  that she would “not allow” Thyssen’s pending proposal to overhaul unemployment benefits for EU citizens living in other member states without a guarantee that countries could pay lower childcare benefits to children living abroad.

Slovak minister: 'A European unemployment scheme is important'

State Secretary of Finance Ivan Lesay does not include Slovakia among the “hawkish” member states opposed to a fiscal stimulus for the eurozone. In an interview with EURACTIV, he also backed calls for a European unemployment insurance scheme.

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