Foreigners from fellow European Union states will have to wait five years before qualifying for welfare benefits if a law proposed by German Labor Minister Andrea Nahles is passed. Under the proposal, immigrants who do not work in Germany or have not acquired social security rights through previous work in Germany will not be able to receive social assistance, local media reported Thursday.
“It can’t be the case that someone only has to move to another EU country to extract full social security benefits, even though they have a functioning social system in their own country,” Nahles recently told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ).
German lawmakers have been pushing for welfare reforms since December, when Germany's Federal Social Court ruled that EU-foreigners could obtain social benefits by living in the country for at least six months.
Under Nahles' plan, EU citizens would be able to receive welfare benefits only after living in Germany for five years without state assistance. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has in the past signaled that she supports the welfare overhaul.
"We have to stop immigration into the social security system," Nahles said in December while announcing plans to restrict social benefits for non-German EU citizens.
The welfare debate comes as Germany's once mighty economy has experienced economic uncertainty — partly due to sinking oil prices. The German economy is expected to grow by 1.7 percent this year and 1.5 percent next year, but local governments are on the hook for paying social welfare costs.
Germany has also seen growing anti-European Union sentiment across the alliance, with British voters weighing on a plan to leave the EU on June 23. The German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has said the so-called Brexit would make Europe “less stable and more volatile” while also shutting Britain out of the single market.