Unemployment benefits as from day one: Europe wants welfare tourism

11 December 2018
Helga Stevens

“What the European Parliament has today approved is a raft of incentives for Social security Social security is currently managed at the Federal level in Belgium. The most important pillars of Belgian social security are: sickness and invalidity insurance (NIDHI), pensions, unemployment insurance and child allowances. In addition, occupational illness, occupational accidents and annual holidays are dealt with at this level. Some Flemish parties have been campaigning for years for (large parts of) social security to be transferred to the Regions and Communities. social security tourism.” MEP Helga Stevens is dismayed by the set of new European social security rules. As a result of those rules, any EU citizen can get unemployment benefits in Belgium after having worked for just one day. Helga Stevens finds the voting behaviour of CD&V and Open Vld completely incomprehensible. Despite some tough language in the past, the former federal coalition partners did not vote against. “Staying true to their principles is apparently very difficult for the Marrakesh parties,” Helga Stevens notes.

Santa Claus and Father Christmas

Thanks to the efforts of the N-VA, European newcomers currently have to have worked for three months in Belgium before they are entitled to a slice of the Belgian pie. This three-month rule now threatens to be in violation of European law, and can therefore be abolished. “For the EU, benefits are apparently gifts that you get when you cross the border. While December may be the month of Santa Claus and Father Christmas, you would expect a little more of a sense of reality from Europe,” MEP Helga Stevens regrets.

Tourist magnet

Something else that is new is that citizens can take their unemployment benefits with them to a different member state for six months. In this way, a Bulgarian, for example, who has worked in Belgium for just one day can simply return to his native land with his Belgian unemployment benefits. Helga Stevens already sees the storm clouds looming: “This makes a short trip to Belgium particularly attractive, because Belgian unemployment benefits are a lot higher than a Bulgarian wage.”

“Belgium is also the only member state in the European Union with unemployment benefits that are unlimited in time. “Belgium thus risks becoming a veritable tourist magnet due to our social security. In order to preserve the sustainability of our social security, unemployment benefits must be limited in time,” Helga Stevens believes.

Tough talk, wrong button

Helga Stevens is now curious to see the point of view that Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters (CD&V) will adopt on behalf of the federal government. A few weeks ago he was still talking tough by defending the principle that you first have to contribute before you are entitled to social rights, and that this is a fundamental aspect of our social security. The reaction of Open Vld at the time was equally tough, but nevertheless Guy Verhofstadt wasn’t able to find the right button to press during the vote at the European Parliament. And yet it is very clear for Helga Stevens: “These social security rules endanger the sustainability of our social security system.”

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