SHARE
COPY LINK

DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS

Austria’s benefit cuts for migrants illegal, EU Court rules

Benefit cuts imposed by Austria on migrants whose children live in their country of origin contradict EU law, the bloc's top court said Thursday.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz
Austria's former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had defended the benefit cuts. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The ruling is the latest against a series of measures imposed by a previous government, which included the far-right and sought to restrict benefit payments to foreigners.

The cuts to child benefits constitute “indirect discrimination on grounds of nationality which, in any event, is not justified,” the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled.

The specific case relates to reforms that came into effect in 2019 which indexed child benefits according to where the recipient’s children live.

This meant reduced payments for tens of thousands of eastern Europeans who work in Austria — notably in the care sector — but whose children remain in their countries of origin.

READ ALSO: Austria court strikes down law aimed at cutting benefits for immigrants

Family Minister Susanne Raab had said earlier this year that Austria had already made provisions in case the court ruled against the measures and the state needed to pay back the money it withheld.

In 2020 the European Commission, supported by six eastern member states, brought an action before the CJEU claiming Austria was “failing to fulfil its obligations”.

Former Austrian chancellor, conservative Sebastian Kurz, had said he hoped the cuts would save €114 million a year but in 2019 they
recouped € 62 million.

The former coalition also introduced benefit cuts for immigrants who failed to reach a certain level of German, but those measures were subsequently overturned by the Austrian courts.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Will my children get an Austrian passport if born in Austria?

Kurz’s government that introduced the cuts was brought down in a corruption scandal that engulfed the far-right in May 2019.

Kurz’s centre-right People’s Party (OeVP) still rules Austria. Their current coalition partners, the Greens, opposed the benefit cuts at the time.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

CRIME

EXPLAINED: What to do if you experience online abuse in Austria

Following the suicide of an Austrian doctor who received threats from Covid-19 anti-vaccination activists, the government has now launched a new campaign to help victims of online abuse.

EXPLAINED: What to do if you experience online abuse in Austria

The Austrian medical community was left in shock in July when Lisa-Maria Kellermayr, a local doctor in Seewalchen am Attersee in Upper Austria, took her own life following months of online abuse.

Kellermayr, 36, had been targeted by anti-vaccination activists and Covid-19 conspiracy theorists for her out-spoken support of vaccines, and the abuse even included death threats. 

Her death prompted candlelight vigils and demonstrations in Vienna and the tragic story was picked up by news outlets around the world.

READ MORE: How Austria’s attempt to make vaccines mandatory changed the country

This led to calls for tighter laws against online bullying and the ability for perpetrators to be prosecuted in other EU countries – particularly as at least two of the people who are believed to have targeted Kellermayr are based in Germany, according to the Guardian.

The Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) has even called for the creation of a special public prosecutor’s office to deal with “hate-on-the-net”, but this has been rejected by prosecutors and other political parties, as reported by ORF.

Instead, the Federal Justice Department has launched a new information campaign, website and hotline to help people dealing with online abuse.

FOR MEMBERS: What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

What is in the new campaign?

Austria’s Justice Minister Alma Zadic (Greens) said they have launched the campaign to raise awareness about the issue and to inform victims about the support available.

Zadic said: “It is important to me that those affected know that they are not alone in this situation and that the judiciary supports them with free psychological and legal process support.”

“You don’t have to cope alone with the extraordinary burdens that criminal proceedings can entail, for example through confrontation with the perpetrators.”

READ ALSO: Austria in shock over doctor’s suicide following anti-vax abuse

Part of the support package is the new website Hilfe bei Gewalt (Help with Violence), which details how to access help from the authorities, as well as secure free legal advice and representation from a lawyer.

The website states the service is for victims of bullying and/or hate online, defamation, stalking, terrorism, incitement, sexual violence and robbery.

The service is designed to be anonymous with options to contact the Justice Department by phone or via a chat box. The website also lists contact details for regional support services in all provinces across Austria. 

The free (kostenlos) hotline for Hilfe bei Gewalt is 0800 112 112.

Useful links

Hilfe bei Gewalt

Austrian Federal Justice Department

SHOW COMMENTS