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Speech - Free movement: Vice-President Reding's intervention at the December Justice and Home Affairs Council

European Commission - SPEECH/13/1025   05/12/2013

Other available languages: none

European Commission

Viviane Reding

Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Justice Commissioner

Free movement: Vice-President Reding's intervention at the December Justice and Home Affairs Council

Justice and Home Affairs Council /Brussels

5 December 2013

Main messages

Free movement is a right, but it comes with duties. Free movement is a right to free circulation; it is not a right to migrate in Member States' social security systems.

Each and every Member State also decide under which conditions it grants access to this or that benefit to non-nationals.

I hear what some Ministers are saying about the pressure that free movement of EU citizens can put on their social security systems.

The Commission is proposing five actions aimed at helping national and local authorities to effectively apply EU free movement rules.

There is no doubt that free movement is good for Europe. It is our duty to ensure that it remains this way, and that it receives the public recognition it deserves, and that unfounded wrong perceptions do not persist.

Full Speech

At our October meeting, I presented preliminary facts and figures on free movement, largely based on the data submitted by 19 Member States.

Today I present the Commission's final report: "Free movement of EU citizens and their families: Five actions to make a difference" which includes the latest European statistics and data from you and independent studies.

For many months, the Commission has discussed with your experts the issue of free movement. In October you expressed concerns, I have heard them. The Commission takes the concerns expressed seriously and that is why we have chosen to present a fully-fledged Communication. Why? Because free movement is too important to leave it to approximations, because free movement is too important to discard comments of those pointing to its challenges.

Dear colleagues, I know you have read the Commission's communication with attention. What we say in this Communication is rather straightforward: Free movement is a right, but it comes with duties. Free movement is a right to free circulation; it is not a right to migrate in Member States' social security systems.

The Commission provides in its final report a detailed explanation of the provisions of the free movement directive and of the possibilities offered by EU law and generally by EU tools to combat abuses of free movement.

I hear what some Ministers are saying about the pressure that free movement of EU citizens can put on their social security systems. Here again the directive on free movement gives the possibility to Member States not to grant social assistance benefits to EU citizens before they become habitual resident. Those safeguards exist in EU law and they shall be used to their full extent. The concerns are a consequence of your national regulatory systems. As you know, social security is not harmonised at EU level, each and every Member State decide on its own social security and assistance rules. Each and every Member State also decide under which conditions it grants access to this or that benefit to non-nationals.

Dear colleagues, implementing EU free movement rules at local level is primary a national responsibility. However, in a spirit of cooperation, the Commission is proposing five actions aimed at helping national and local authorities to effectively apply EU free movement rules. The five actions are concrete ways to help them maximise the benefits of the right to free movement of EU citizens, tackle cases of abuse and fraud, address the challenges of social inclusion, and use available funds on the ground.

Some of them will be discussed more in-depth at the next EPSCO Council, while some require the cooperation of the Interior Ministers. These five actions are:

  • a handbook on marriages of convenience, on which we are already working with your experts and almost finalised;

  • guidance on the concept of "habitual residence" on coordination of social security schemes;

  • increasing the social inclusion priority of the European Social Fund for the new programming period 2014-2020 to 20%, and continuing efforts to help build capacity of local authorities to use structural and investment funds efficiently;

  • promoting exchange of best practices between local authorities, with a study evaluating the impact of free movement at local level and by organising, together with the Committee of the Regions, a first conference of mayors – now scheduled for the 11 February next year; and

  • helping local authorities apply EU free movement rules on the ground. Under this action, the Commission will (1) develop, in cooperation with Member States, an online training module on free movement rights for staff in local authorities by the end of next year; (2) it has presented a proposal on legal support and information bodies for mobile EU workers, and (3) it is planning to shortly present a proposal on reinforcing the assistance to jobseekers and employers that the EURES network offers through its matching of jobseekers and vacancies.

There is no doubt that free movement is good for Europe. It is our duty to ensure that it remains this way, and that it receives the public recognition it deserves, and that unfounded wrong perceptions do not persist. It is our common duty to communicate it.

I count on your full support and look forward to implementing these five actions with you before the end of this Commission's term.


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