EU judges and Danish welfare
Once again, the EU courts have spurred debate. This time, by hungrily devouring our welfare services.
All EU citizens must have the same rights as us Danes, the European Court of Justice has decided. That means fundamental changes to our social benefit systems like unemployment benefits (kontanthjælp and dagpenge), education support (SU) and child support (børnepenge). The Danish welfare state’s safety net will no longer merely cover Grenen to Gedser, it will go from here all the way to Bucharest! That’s what the EU judges have decided. Some say it’s the wrong time to discuss the rulings and the roll of the EU court. That has got to be because they don’t understand the founding prerequisite of a democracy: that it’s the voters – and not a tiny elite – who should be making political decisions.
Just before Christmas I published the book ‘Intet over og intet ved siden af’ (Nothing above and nothing next to it), a 300-page account of the EU court’s working method.
It should come as no surprise that the EU’s judges make political decisions.
For instance, although they have no political or democratic mandate, it’s the EU judges who have ruled that EU treaties should be directly applied to Denmark, and that the EU court has precedence. And we shouldn’t forget the numerous rulings that have strengthened the EU’s institutions at the expense of the member states.
Time after time, it is decided that the EU Parliament, the EU Commission and the EU Court of Justice have the authority, and our government, parliament and courts should step aside.
In the light of all this, it’s no wonder why EU judges continue their political direction. Throughout the last decade, they were busy hollowing out our foreign policies and now they have made it to our welfare rights. The paradox is that the parties in Christiansborg who are bearing the responsibility – the Euro-friendly parties – won’t talk about the problem. Time after time they are surprised to see the consequences of the treaties that they voted for themselves. But they never think of wrenching the power out of the hands of the EU’s judges and giving it back to – well, the voters.
I remember the debate following the Lisbon Treaty, when all the Euro-friendly parties stated they weren’t going to give the EU more authority. The EU Court of Justice and the European Commission happened to disagree, but instead of fighting back, the parties’ apathy simply spread.
But is there nothing we can do? Of course there is! First we have to say that we didn’t give the EU permission to regulate our welfare politics. And if the EU judges don’t understand that, we will voice reservations that really ram home our point.
Of course we should be part of EU’s Single Market so that we can trade and move around freely. But a free market of welfare benefits is simply absurd!
That is why we need to voice our reservations on welfare and clearly define when a non-Danish EU citizen has the right to our services. Such conditions shouldn’t be enforced by the EU’s judges, but by our own elected officials. The UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria have already joined forces and requested the European Commission to solve the problem. The Danish government, meanwhile, sits on its hands. It is embarrassing. This demands action. And the sooner, the better.
The author is an MEP for Dansk Folkeparti.