EU CIVIL WAR: Austria IGNORES EU demands to increase benefits paid to immigrants
Austria shrugged off the EU’s “letter of formal notice” where Brussels branded unfair for some people in Austria to pay the same taxes but receive lower benefits. But Wien defended its position, saying the policy simply recognises there are lower living costs in other countries. Responding to Brussels in a letter, Austria said the reduction of benefits is “compatible” with EU laws and, actually, maintaining the old system would represent a breaching of Brussels’ regulations.
It said: “According to the principle of equal treatment, unequal circumstances should not be treated equally.
“Treating different living costs equally would therefore be a violation of EU law.”
Austria had announced its decision to cut benefits to immigrants’ children living abroad in late 2018, and on January 1 it started indexing the child benefit payments to living costs.
The move is part of a broader attempt to slash taxes in the country and reduce the benefits aimed at refugees and immigrants.
Austria borders eight countries, including the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia, which make up a large part of its workforce in sectors including healthcare and construction.
These workers come from areas where wages are significantly lower, and often leave the rest of their families behind to make the most out of their wages.
Slovakia was one of the countries which complained the most about these cuts, saying they discriminate against their nationals who leave families in their country of origin.
In 2016, Austria transferred 233million euros (£273million) abroad to EU and European Economic Area (EAA) countries in benefit payments for 132,000 children.
This is not the first attempt in Europe to cut child benefits.
The European Commission criticised pro-EU Germany in 2017 for a similar plan, which was later abandoned.
Austria’s ruling coalition of conservatives and the far-right, led by Eurosceptic prime minister Sebastian Kurz, has welcomed other anti-immigration measures.
Mr Kurz called in June for an anti-immigration “axis of the willing” with Italy and Germany, which raised eyebrows across Europe as the term “axis” is commonly associated with Germany-Italy-Japan alliance during World War 2.
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)
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