Institut für Politikwissenschaft

FuS - Freedom of Movement and Social Policy in Historical and International Comparison

An interdisciplinary research group, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, will compare the EU and Germany with other historical federations to better understand tensions between free movement and social policy.


In the past years, EU citizens’ fundamental right to free movement has increasingly come to be contested across EU member states. This reflects, amongst other things, concerns arising from perceived and actual social pressures. In Germany, which is one of the Member States with the highest net-immigration of EU citizens, intra-EU migration and its perceived and actual impacts has made issues such EU citizens’ access to social benefits and local social challenges (e.g. homelessness) salient political issues.

Such tensions result from the combination of free movement rights and cross-border social entitlements: whilst supra-national law has created formal social rights for internal movers, substantive social rights remain dependent on national welfare states. This is not unique to the EU. Rather, pressures arising from devolved welfare provision and internal free movement are inherent features of federations. A closer study of such dynamics in comparable federations may thus contribute to a better understanding of EU integration and in particular its social policy dimension.


An interdisciplinary team will explore, through comparative and historical analysis i) local and regional social and social policy impacts resulting from internal migration, and ii) political and policy responses at the local, regional and federal level to free movement of persons and welfare access.

The research will focus on social assistance, an especially contentious benefit to extend to ‘outsiders’ due to its non-contributory character, but also a critical last resort for those not entitled to other social security benefits (as newcomers often are not) and as such fundamental to social citizenship.

Three cases will be studied: the historical cases of the North German Confederation and the United States of America at the time when social assistance rights were extended to all free movers, and contemporary EU (both the EU level and Germany) where social assistance rights have not been extended to all EU migrant citizens.