Danish unemployment requirements may violate EU regulations

Commission investigating whether EU citizens should have an easier path to benefits

The current requirement that EU citizens must have worked three of their past 12 months on Danish soil before being eligible for the unemployment benefit dagpenge may violate EU regulations.

"We have been looking at the Danish requirements and they may be inconsistent with EU laws," EU spokesperson Jonathan Todd told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “If an EU citizen has, for example worked for a month in Denmark, but has worked for several years in other member states, they are, in principle, entitled to unemployment benefits in Denmark.”

Unemployment insurance association AK Samvirke believes that the Danish rules violate EU regulations, and University of Copenhagen law professor Kirsten Ketscher agrees.

“It falls in line with similar issues like student allowances and child benefits, which tried to establish residency requirements,” Ketscher told Jyllands-Posten. 

AK Samvirke spokesperson Michael Rosenby insisted that any changes the EU may impose will not lead workers to come to Denmark solely to get unemployment benefits.

"They have to work, but if they are employed for even one day, they are entitled to the same benefits as a Dane,” he told Jyllands-Posten.

Employment minister: "reasonable" that EU citizens should work in Denmark first
Mette Frederiksen (Socialdemokraterne), the employment minister, said in a written statement that it is “reasonable” that those who come here to work should have to meet some minimum requirements before receiving benefits.

"That is why we have a requirement that foreigners must at least have worked here for three months to receive unemployment benefits," she wrote.

A spokesperson for far-left party Enhedslisten (EL) said that the Danish government needs to stand up to the EU.

“The government needs to put its foot down and remind the EU that it promised not to interfere in social policy,” EL’s EU spokesperson Nicholas Villumsen told Jyllands-Posten.

The far-right party Dansk Folkeparti (DF) found itself in the unusual position of agreeing with its left-leaning counterparts.

“This is a huge problem,” DF spokesperson Pia Adelsteen told Jyllands-Posten. “Either our entire welfare system collapses or the EU rules are changed. I would prefer the latter.”

'Welfare tourism' debate
For Europeans wondering just what might be on offer in Denmark, the EU website features a page called ‘Your rights, country by country’ with a guide explaining what is available and when.

When it comes to child benefits, the outdated guide still states that to receive Danish child benefits, a child is required to live in Denmark and that the parents have to pay taxes here and have to have worked here for at least one year. Those regulations were recently set aside by a controversial EU ruling that said that EU citizens are entitled to Danish child support money from their first working day in this country.

The war surrounding so-called ‘welfare tourism’ heated up even more when the EU ruled in February that students from other EU countries studying in Denmark have the right to receive the state-allocated student allowance, SU, if they are employed two months before their studies begin, or if they work a minimum 10 hours per week while they study. If EU citizens meet these work requirements, they will be seen as 'workers' and thus cannot be denied social benefits such as SU.

Prior to that ruling, Denmark had argued that students from other EU countries who came to here to work and later began an education should not be eligible for SU.

No dagpenge decision yet
EU spokesperson Jonathan Todd stressed that no decision had been reached on the unemployment issue.

"If we believe we find a problem, the next step will be to ask the Danish authorities how the law is implemented so we can have a more informed assessment of whether it is compatible with EU law,” he told Jyllands-Posten.

Ketscher believes that the Danish regulation will be struck down. 

“There is no way it can stand,” she told Jyllands-Posten. “If you meet EU conditions and come to Denmark then you are entitled to benefits.”

AK Samvirke's Rosenby agreed.

“In the EU, we have a principle of equal treatment where working hours are counted equally no matter where they happen,” he told Jyllands-Posten. “We cannot continue to hide behind a shield.”

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