The reform proposals of the EU have been eagerly awaited for months. They shall take into account the “wishes” of the British Prime Minister David Cameron, thereby resulting in Great Britain staying in the EU. However, what is new is that the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, made all proposals public even before the official negotiations among the Member States have begun. So far, results were only presented following secret negotiations at the summits of the EU heads of state and government. Cameron and Tusk, as well as the EU Commission, already declared themselves satisfied, even though no final decisions have been made.

Social benefits for EU citizens of other countries shall be restricted

EU citizens of other countries accessing social benefits in Great Britain, has always been a thorn in the flesh of the British people. Not least because the British welfare system grants a wide range of benefits, such as housing benefit or wage subsidies, independent of the contributions employees have made. This has its historical origin in the so-called Beveridge Model, which enables funding of certain social benefits from a country's general tax pot. Hence, one wants to grant Great Britain the option of putting on the emergency break, hence, of reducing social benefits for employees from other EU countries. However, the basic requirement would be that a country is able to proof an exceptional burden on the social system. Looking at Tusk’s proposal in more detail, one might conclude that such an exceptional situation already exists and that the mechanism could be set in motion with immediate effect. In any case, the regulation should only apply to newcomers and restrict access to benefits for the first four years. The objective is to make Great Britain less attractive for EU migrant workers, without limiting the fundamental right to the free movement of workers and without effecting changes to the EU Treaty, which was the original demand of Great Britain.

Family credits shall be indexed if children do not live in the country of the employer

Another demand, which certainly will be severe, is the option given to all countries and not only to Great Britain, to adjust family credits to the cost of living, hence to index them, if children are not living in the country of the employer. This regulation would also affect British citizens whose children do not live in Great Britain. To achieve this, the Regulation on the Coordination of Social Security Systems would have to be amended. However, this might not only result in years of negotiations but also in strong opposition of the Member States, who reject such a “discriminating’ regulation for their citizens.

Economic management, competitiveness and sovereignty are further aspect of the reform proposals

Tusk’s proposals also include proposals concerning economic management, based on which the rights of non-members of the eurozone shall be strengthened, however, without granting them a veto right for decisions, which concern the euro area. The competitiveness of the EU shall also be increased. To achieve this, legislation shall be simplified and the burden on companies shall be reduced. With regard to sovereignty, Great Britain get the desired exemption from the "ever closer Union", which is enshrined in the EU Treaties. Next on the agenda is the EU Summit, which will take place on 18 and 19 February in Brussels, when the 28 heads of state and government will negotiate the proposals. It remains to be seen whether this meeting will already result in an agreement. If so, Cameron would be able to call his planned referendum this summer.

Further information:

All proposals by EU Council President Tusk