Accessing social rights in Denmark

Publikation: KonferencebidragPaperForskning


The aim of this report is to give an overview of the Danish system relating to immigration and welfare rights in order to identify the various barriers to the free movement of Union citizens and their family members. This report addresses the legal and cultural framework, how it works in practice, and the attitude of main actors, such as the media and political parties. It thus looks both at theory and practice.
EU-based migration to Denmark is still relatively low, and is essentially exercised by workers and students. Apart from Scandinavians, the most representative EU-citizens actually living in Denmark are in decreasing order Polish, German and British nationals.
Debates among politicians reflected in the media have since the enlargement of the EU to 10 new Member States in 2004 focused on and off on the issue of access by migrants to social benefits and the issue of social tourism. The debate and discussions intensified in the spring 2013 as a result of the CJEU’s ruling in the LN case (case C-46/12) ensuring access to student maintenance grants for Union citizens working in Denmark besides studying there. Discussions got very virulent in the summer 2013 and up to the elections of the European Parliament in May 2014. The reason for that is the government’s change of practice in administrating family benefits, granting them to all Union citizens lawfully residing in Denmark without any requirement of prior residence in the country. This change was the result of a request from the European Commission’s emphasizing that the existing law was incompatible with EU law, especially with Regulation 883/2004 on the coordination of social security schemes.
While Denmark praises itself for being a good pupil in faithfully respecting and applying EU law, reality is another where EU law is seen as a threat to the welfare State. As a result politicians, public opinion and the media all attempt to protect the national system from the ‘intruder’. This might partly be due to the fact that the Danish welfare system is quite generous and essentially financed through general taxes. Another reason could also be the successful attempt of the Eurosceptic right wing party, The Danish People’s Party, to draw attention to migrant Union citizens and circumvent their social rights (like it did in the case of family benefits).
Finally, while the Danish system is at the outset protective of the social rights of non-nationals with its focus on equal treatment of all living in Denmark, the picture is at times more blurred upon a closer look with the imposition at times of residence requirements and obstacles in practice as a result of a rather formalistic approach. In a similar vein, the cases of health care and student maintenance grants are two areas where the Danish authorities have reluctantly accepted to follow the case-law of the CJEU.
Publikationsdato14 dec. 2015
Antal sider50
StatusUdgivet - 14 dec. 2015

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