The free movement of persons within the European Union is often the subject of debate. Preconceived ideas are deeply rooted in the collective imagination, such as the Polish plumber exploiting the directive on posted workers, or poor citizens who exercise their right to free movement solely in order to obtain another Member State’s social benefits, commonly referred to as “social tourism”.
This Study by Martina Menghi, lawyer at the Rome Bar, and Jérôme Quéré, President of the Jeunes Européens-France, has the great merit of taking the heat out of a debate often divided between its enthusiastic defenders and its sworn opponents. It presents and analyses the EU law in order to determine what is truth and what is fiction, while giving figures on the nature and the magnitude of free movement in Europe.
Firstly it gives historic and contextual elements of the free movement of workers, established in the Treaty of Rome in 1957, but which has progressively evolved and now applies to all citizens. This mobility takes place between the EU Member States, independently of their membership of the Schengen Area. EU citizens and their families benefit from the right to move and reside freely within the territories of the Member States. This right however is not without conditions or limits.
As far as access to work is concerned, this Study underlines that EU citizens should not be discriminated against when it comes to employment in another Member State. However, there are some exceptions for certain types of employment in the public sector, and for citizens of new Member States going through transitional periods. The case of posted workers receives particular attention.
This Study notes that equal treatment is not guaranteed in relation to benefits and social welfare for a worker having used his or her freedom of movement. It reminds us that EU law distinguishes between workers and economically inactive persons, while preventing a citizen from becoming an unreasonable burden for the host State.
As António Vitorino, member of our Board of trustees, stresses in this foreword, this Study by Martina Menghi and Jérôme Quéré gives a very salutary intellectual and political contribution to the crucial debate on one of the “4 freedoms” proclaimed by the Treaty of Rome, almost 60 years after its signature.