EU laws on mobility

‘Free movement’ for workers is one of the fundamental freedoms of the European Union. In recent years it has been subject to highly divisive political debates. At the centre of the debate are the current rules for this freedom, according to which EU citizens can move and take up employment in any other EU country and – as long as they are ‘workers’ – enjoy full and equal access to the host country’s welfare state. 

In practice this means that under certain circumstances EU member states have to allow citizens of other EU countries to enter and reside there. This is subject to certain caveats – for instance, the EU citizen should have a job, be actively looking for a job, or be able to sustain themselves financially without a job – or else be a student or there with a family member who is a citizen or is exercising their treaty rights. An EU member state can also remove an EU citizen that they consider to be a threat to public security. 

One of the most contentious elements of free movement within the EU is the rights that mobile EU workers have to access the welfare states of their new host countries. Again, these rules are subject to caveats, and different member states can interpret these rules differently.

Why does having common rules around migration matter?