2.2 The future of the principle of equality of treatment and of freedom of movement
The future of the principle of equality of treatment for economically inactive Union citizens depends on the balance that will be found between two objectives which are not necessarily opposite: the protection of Member States’ national budgets and the protection of the fundamental right of freedom of movement. It is a fight between Member States’ national interests (preservation of national assistance system), on one side, and Union citizens’ interests (preservation of their fundamental right to move), on the other side. On one side, a general prohibition of access to social assistance for economically inactive Union citizens would force economically inactive Union citizens to quit their host Member States and be conducive to a limited freedom of movement of persons reserved only to self- sufficient persons, in the best case, and to workers, in the worst case. On another side, extensive openness of access to social rights to economically inactive Union citizens would be conducive to an overextension (expansion excessive) of Member States’ welfare social systems (Guild, 2014). 42 Two ways are possible, depending on the good will of the Member States and on the capacity of the European Commission, of the Court of Justice and of the Union citizens themselves to protect a long-established fundamental right. 2.2.1 Towards a solidary and social European Union Freedom of movement of persons started, since 1951, with the workers and has been extended later on to economically inactive Union citizens and their family members. It is one of the most successful achievements of European integration. It is considered by Union citizens as their favorite and most tangible right and by the European Commission as the first aspect of European citizenship. Since the Treaty of Lisbon, it is ranked under the values and objectives of the Union, and it has to be taken into consideration while defining other objectives of the Union. Nevertheless, this successful integration is still not total, as we can see that freedom of movement and equality of treatment are still conditional for economically inactive Union citizens, who can be viewed as a kind of “under-class citizens” (Lhernoud, 2012). 43 So shall we continue this positive integration towards a total equality of treatment of Union citizens on the move, independently of their economic status? This would allow realizing at least three objectives of the European Union: prohibition of discrimination, a fight against social exclusion, and an ever closer union amongst the people of Europe. Moreover, access to social assistance for the poorest would be without doubt the best proof that Union citizenship is the fundamental status of 42 See Elspeth Guild, Steve Peers, Jonathan Tomkin, The EU citizenship directive, A commentary , Oxford University Press, 2014. 43 LHERNOUD J. P., Non-discrimination en raison de la nationalité en matière sociale in Francette Fines, La non-discrimination entre les Européens , Ed. Pedone, Paris 2012, p. 230.