‘No cuts’ to child benefits for EU-migrants

An internal paper from the EU Commission suggests that there will be no measures to reduce the amount of child benefit payments paid to EU migrants whose children are resident in their native country - something Austria has called for.

‘No cuts’ to child benefits for EU-migrants

Austrian ministers had written a letter to the EU Commission requesting that if, for example, a Romanian couple are resident in Austria but their children live in Romania – then the child benefit money they are eligible for should be reduced to the amount they could claim in Romania.

The child benefit allowance is much lower in countries like Romania and Bulgaria. Austria's benefits for families are very generous, accounting for around 2.8 percent of the country's GDP compared to the EU average of 2.4 percent.

Figures show that the amount of child benefit paid in 2015 to the children of EU migrants living outside of Austria was €249 million. Ministers say they could save around €100 million if the benefit was withheld under certain conditions or based on the cost of living in the migrant's home country.

In June, the European Court of Justice said it was lawful for the UK to withhold family benefits to EU migrants who were not working if they did not have the right to reside in the UK. It said it was justified on the basis of “protecting” a state's finances. However, since Britain later voted to leave the EU in a referendum on June 23rd, the ruling no longer applies.

Some Austrian ministers have said that Austrian families are being “discriminated against” as the child benefit payment covers about half of their monthly costs whereas for parents with children in other member states where the cost of living is lower the benefit payment allows them to live very comfortably.

However, an internal paper from the EU Commission, which has been seen by Austria’s Kurier newspaper, says that there will be no EU-wide indexing of child benefits as such a system would be too complicated to implement and would not have significant economic advantages.

A spokesman from the EU Commission told the Kurier that the goal is to ultimately make social systems across the EU fairer. He added that some members of the commission are in favour of reducing social benefits, but that they are not the majority.



EU court rejects Austria case against Hungary nuclear plant

The EU's second highest court on Wednesday rejected a complaint by Austria against a European Commission decision to approve the expansion of a nuclear plant in neighbouring Hungary with Russian aid.

EU court rejects Austria case against Hungary nuclear plant

Staunchly anti-nuclear Austria lodged the legal complaint in 2018 after the European Union’s executive arm allowed the expansion of the Paks nuclear plant outside the Hungarian capital Budapest with a 10-billion-euro ($12.4 billion) Russian loan.

The plant is Hungary’s only nuclear facility and supplies around 40 percent of its electricity needs.

In its decision the commission judged that the project met EU rules on state aid, but Austria disputed this.

The General Court of the EU ruled Wednesday that “member states are free to determine the composition of their own energy mix and that the Commission cannot require that state financing be allocated to alternative energy sources.”

READ ALSO: Why is Austria so anti nuclear power? 

Hungary aims to have two new reactors enter service by 2030, more than doubling the plant’s current capacity with the 12.5-billion-euro construction. The Paks plant was built with Soviet-era technology in the 1980s during Hungary’s communist period. 

The construction of two new reactors is part of a 2014 deal struck between Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Victor Orban and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The work is carried out by Moscow’s state-owned nuclear agency Rosatom.

The details of the deal have been classified for 30 years for “national security reasons” with critics alleging this could conceal corruption.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What are the chances of blackouts in Austria this winter?

Since the late 1970s, Austria has been fiercely anti-nuclear, starting with an unprecedented vote by its population that prevented the country’s only plant from providing a watt of power.

Last month, the Alpine EU member filed a complaint with the European Court of Justice over the bloc’s decision to label nuclear power as green.

In 2020, the top EU court threw out an appeal by Austria to find British government subsidies for the nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in breach of the bloc’s state aid rules.