An EU court has said that a member state cannot refuse access to non-contributory benefits to dependent direct ascendants of mobile EU workers on the grounds that they represent an unreasonable burden on that state’s social-welfare system.
Advocate General (AG) Tamara Ćapeta was giving her opinion in a case referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) by Ireland’s Court of Appeal.
The case involved a Romanian national, GV, who is the mother of AC, a Romanian citizen residing and working in Ireland, who is also a naturalised Irish citizen.
GV joined her daughter in Ireland in 2017 and has legally resided here ever since. During the past 15 years, she has been financially dependent on AC.
In 2017, GV suffered degenerative changes in her arthritis, after which she made an application for disability allowance under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005.
That request was refused, on the grounds that under the relevant Irish law, GV must not become an unreasonable burden on the social-welfare system.
The Court of Appeal had then asked the CJEU whether the Citizenship Directive precluded Irish legislation that allows such refusal.
AG Ćapeta stated that the directive was the result of a legislative consensus at the EU level about the acceptable balance between the interests of free movement, and the concerns for the welfare systems of the member states.
“The outcome of that consensus is that neither mobile EU workers, nor their dependent direct ascendants residing legally in a member state, can be regarded as an unreasonable burden by that state,” the judge said.
She added that such family members were a reasonable or unreasonable burden on a state in the same way as nationals of the state, in accordance with the principle of equal treatment.
‘Broad concept’ of dependency
The judge argued that the CJEU should embrace “a broad concept” of dependency, which should be deemed to exist whenever a person is in need of the material, financial, physical or emotional support of a family member.
“Therefore, even if GV would no longer need the financial support of her daughter, she might still fulfil the requirement of dependency on which the derived right of residence is based,” the AG stated.
The opinion of an advocate general is not binding on the CJEU, whose judges will rule on the case at a later date.