Donnerstag, 1. März 2012

Lex Hellas! Germany wimps out on European solidarity…


Updated March 16th

Up until now, one of the more pleasant aspects of social counselling was meeting people from countries which had signed the European Convention on Social and Medical Assistance (Europäisches Fürsorgeabkommen, EFA). This convention, dating from 1953, guaranteed citizens of Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and Northern Ireland, Turkey, Norway, Iceland, Portugal, Spain, Malta and Estonia the right to be treated the same as their German neighbours when they applied for the unemployment benefit II (Arbeitslosengeld II, Alg II).

As such, EFA citizens could apply for financial assistance as of their first day of permanent residence in Germany. They didn’t have to wait until the end of their first three months, and they didn’t have to prove they had a job or German health insurance.
Now though, those days are over. It has recently been made public that Germany revoked its EFA contract commitments with regard to welfare and the unemployment benefit II (Sozialhilfe and Alg II) in December of last year. This, one might argue, is a blatant case of altering legislation in light of the current financial crisis, perhaps in the hope of deterring Greek and other southern European citizens from migrating to Germany.

What are the consequences?

Citizens from the above mentioned countries who up to now were able to invoke their EFA rights will now be turned down for assistance at the job centre unless they either…

  • have a job (to be on the safe side one which provides them with more than 400 € per month and includes health insurance. According to the ruling of the Federal Social Court, 400 € is enough, 100 € is not enough, and between those poles there is a legal grey area where job centre decisions are made on a case-specific basis)…
  • have had such a job in Germany for at least one year…
  • have had such a job in Germany for less than one year and have lost it no more than six months ago
  • are self-employed (preferably with more than just a “marginal” income, whatever that is supposed to mean, with the 400 € as just one possible factor for case-specific decisions)…
  • were self-employed for at least a year, or…  
  • were forced by objective reasons to discontinue their self-employment during the previous six months after working for less than a year…
  • have been living permanently in Germany for at least five years regardless of whether they have ever earned any money in this time or not, or…
  • have any other reason to be in Germany aside from seeking a job. Sadly, the warm and hospitable atmosphere, the mind-bogglingly attractive people and the hot, steamy summers are explicitly not considered valid reasons. Here we are talking for example about having a German partner or child, or humanitarian reasons such as being persecuted or threatened in one’s home country (which might be hard to prove when coming from another EFA country).

Not being blessed with one of those premises now means the following:

  • No Alg II in the first three months of your official permanent residency in Germany.
  • No Alg II without having a job, having had a job for at least a year, having lost your job during the past six months or having been a permanent resident in Germany for five years or more.
  • If you are already receiving Alg II and do not meet the above criteria, you will lose it at latest by your next application.
  • If you were granted Alg II after December 19th the job centre could still overturn their decision and discontinue your benefit. That would mean you would stop receiving money the following month, even if it were originally granted for a longer period. In such cases you are, however, not obligated to pay back the money you have already received.

Should the job centre deny you support, it is essential that you take legal action against their decision, which means submitting an appeal (Widerspruch) directly to the job centre. At the same time you should apply for "interim legal protection with suspensive effect" (einstweiliger Rechtsschutz mit aufschiebender Wirkung) from the Social Court.

Rather than me laying out all of the various grounds you could have to contest the job centre decision in court here, I suggest you apply for an "advisory aid cheque" (Beratungshilfeschein) at your local District Court (Amtsgericht) and go with this to a lawyer to find out what could be of assistance in your particular case.

Applying for Sozialhilfe at the Sozialamt (which I reccommended in an earlier version of this text) would certainly not do any harm and may in fact lead to a positive outcome in some cases. It is however not a substitute for taking legal measures with the aim of receiving the full benefit, which Germany should provide for you.


Helpful but brief information in German for you and perhaps the lawyer of your choice can be found here.

By late February, people in Berlin had already started receiving their rejection and termination notices by mail. So - please keep an eye out for job centre letters in your mailboxes, and don’t hesitate to fight for your rights!


If that doesn’t take take your fancy I’m afraid you‘ll need a job, my dears…


This text might (and should!) be copied and forwarded to whom it may concern (your friends in Germany and abroad or any media in your home country…). It can be downloaded here as a PDF-file .
 www.hartzerroller.de, Berlin, March 2012
*Many thanks to the lovely Mr Kellett who helped putting this hard stuff into smooth English…