Not a good day for Germany before the European Court of Justice: The highest European court throws away several rules that affect the rights of refugees and migrants. Especially the judgment on child benefit

According to the Federal Ministry of Finance, the federal government wants to “immediately review” the judgment of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the payment of child benefit to immigrants from other EU countries.

It is an “urgent concern (…) to prevent an inappropriate use of the social system in Germany,” said a ministry spokesman for the “Bild” newspaper on Tuesday. Criticism of the judgment came from the CDU.

The ECJ decided on Monday that Germany may not generally exclude parents from other EU countries from receiving child benefit during the first three months of their stay. Previously, EU citizens had to provide proof of employment during the first three months of their stay in Germany in order to receive child benefit. The ECJ has now decided that it is sufficient for the right to child benefit that EU foreigners want to settle here permanently.

The Hamburg member of the Bundestag Christoph de Vries (CDU) criticized the decision. The basic idea of ​​freedom of movement in the EU is “not based on the use of more attractive social benefits,” he told “Bild”. The verdict harbors the risk of “child benefit tourism to Germany”. He called on the federal government to find a “legally secure solution” that would prevent this.

On Monday, the ECJ overturned several German regulations on dealing with refugees and migrants. On Monday in Luxembourg, the highest European judges declared a rule on the reunification of family members of refugees and restrictions on child benefit payments for newcomers from other EU countries to be illegal. In another case related to Germany, the rights of underage refugees who apply for international protection were strengthened.

In the confederation of states, EU law takes precedence over national law. ECJ judgments must therefore be implemented by the EU states.

According to the refugee organization Pro Asyl, the judgment on family reunification will result in a “180-degree turnaround” in refugee policy. So far, it has been common practice in Germany for such a subsequent immigration to be denied if a minor child becomes of legal age during the procedure. “According to this logic, the families pay for the fact that the German bureaucracy works so slowly,” argues Pro Asyl.

The ECJ shares this view. According to the German rules, the competent authorities and courts would have no reason to process the parents’ applications with the necessary urgency. In addition, the success of an application depends mainly on circumstances that are in the hands of national authorities and courts.

The background to the decision are several cases that followed from the large flight to Germany in 2015 and are pending in German courts. On the one hand, it is about Syrian parents who applied for visas for family reunification with their underage son who was recognized as a refugee in Germany. On the other hand, there is a case in which an underage Syrian woman wanted to go to her father, who was recognized as a refugee in Germany. The minors came of age in the course of the proceedings, which is why German authorities rejected the applications for family reunification.

The rule that restricts child benefit payments for people who have moved from other EU countries was also overturned. According to this, claims in the first three months of the stay may not be made dependent on income from gainful employment.

The ECJ judges argued that the child benefit in question does not constitute a social assistance benefit in the sense of possible exception provisions. The reason for this is that it does not serve to ensure subsistence, but to compensate for family burdens. Since EU law does not provide for any exceptions to the principle of equal treatment of nationals and nationals of another member state with regard to such family benefits, EU law opposes German unequal treatment.

In another case, the ECJ strengthened the rights of underage refugees who apply for international protection in Germany. In the case of such an application, it should not play a role whether the minor’s parents had previously been granted international protection in another Member State, the judges ruled. One of the prerequisites, however, is that the minor has not previously asked for protection in writing in another country.

The ECJ contradicted the German authorities. They actually did not feel responsible for the application for international protection of a Russian minor because their family had already received protection status in Poland.