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.


Freedom of movement of persons has become a politicised and contested issue in the European Union. At the centre of this contention stand EU citizens’ rights to access social benefits in countries of destination. The salience of free movement and access to welfare has grown in pace with the 21th century extension of free movement to all EU citizens, including the economically inactive, and the waves of enlargement which have increased economic and institutional diversity between EU Member States.

However, anxieties and tensions arising from internal freedom of movement of – in particular economically inactive – persons and access to social benefits are historically not unique to the EU but are visible also in other contexts with internal migration and devolved welfare responsibilities. In particular, it resembles other federations. Against this background, the ambition of the FUS project is to historicise and compare political and policy processes tied to internal movement and social rights in the EU with those that have taken place in other federations.

Research Context

In particular, the FUS project focuses on free movement and minimum subsistence programs, with the ambition to better understand the politics of social citizenship in federations. That is to say, that we study how access to social assistance for all federal citizens – i.e. a guaranteed social minimum and thus social citizenship – has been achieved in jurisdictions where citizens enjoy the right to free movement, but social assistance is provided at sub-federal levels and typically only to local residents. To this end the project’s three separate work packages examine the adoption, reform and repeal of laws that have extended and restricted access to social assistance for internal migrants, as well as the impacts that such laws have had at the administrative level at which social assistance is provided (primarily the local).

Studying this is relevant for a number of reasons. First, it can provide insights into processes of social policy integration in federal structures, which are typically marred by large numbers of actors, multi-level interests shaped by economic diversity and regional identities, and thus the risk of lowest-common-denominator policies. In other words, very similar challenges that the EU faces in achieving ‘a more social’ Union. Second, it contributes to the study of citizenship in federal structures, which are inherently marred by the contradiction between federalism’s logic of diversity and citizenship’s ideal of equality. Finally, it is of clear policy relevance: it shows how gaps in social protection for free movers that we currently see in the EU could be resolved, and what implications different policy solutions may have.

To study the laws regulating intra-federation migrants’ access to social minimum benefits and associated implications, the project takes and exploratory, diachronic and comparative case-study approach. In line with other research that adopts a comparative perspective to study the EU, the project conceptualises the EU as a ‘coming-together’ federation, namely those that results from a bargaining process whereby previously independent states join to form a bigger unit by pooling sovereignty to secure a common good. Accordingly, the project compares the North German Confederation (19th century), the United States (20th century) and the EU today.

The cases at the same time differ in important respects. Each is at a different stage in the process of integration at the time examined: the US is one of the oldest existing federations, the EU has matured for several decades and the North German Confederation was a very young federation. They are equally set in different historical, geographical, cultural, political and institutional contexts. Despite that, they compare on key dimensions that we expect to heighten the political tensions associated with free movement and social minimum benefits, in that they have: (i) comparatively high numbers of sub-federal jurisdictions, (ii) strong sub-federal social policy authority and (iii) large internal diversity.


Previous Project-Relevant Publications

Bruzelius, Cecilia (2020): ‘Local government responses to EU citizens’ integration needs’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

Bruzelius, Cecilia (2020): ‘Non-for-profits and EU citizens’ cross-border social rights in different welfare states’, Journal of Social Policy, 49(3): 601-62.

Bruzelius, Cecilia (2019): ‘Freedom of movement, social rights and residence- based conditionality in the EU’. Journal of European Social Policy, 29(1): 70-83.

Bruzelius, Cecilia; Reinprecht, Constantin and Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2017): ‘Stratified Social Rights Limiting EU Citizenship’ (with Constantin Reinprecht), Journal of Common Market Studies, 55(6): 1239-1253.

Bruzelius, Cecilia and Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2017): ‘European citizenship and social rights’. In: Patricia Kennett and Naomi Lendvai (eds.), A handbook of European social policy. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 155-166. 

Pennings, Frans and Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2018): European Citizenship and Social Rights: Entitlements and Impediments to Accessing Welfare. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 

Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2019): EU citizenship, duties, social rights. In: R. Bauböck (ed.), Debating European Citizenship. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 231-234.

Journal Publications

Bruzelius, Cecilia (2021): 'EU citizenship: Points of Comparison'. GLOBALICIT Observatory - Review Symposium of Menéndez, A.J. and Olsen, E. 'Challenging European Citizenship Ideas and Realities in Contrast'.

Bruzelius, Cecilia (2020): 'Taking emigration seriously: A new agenda for research on free movement and welfare’, Journal of European Public Policy, 28:6, 930-942.

Bruzelius, Cecilia and Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2021): 'Social citizenship in federations: free movement and social assistance rights in the EU and beyond’, West European Politics, 44:7, 1532-1554.

Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2021): 'Regulating the Poor through Internal Borders: The EU in Historical and International Perspectives', European Journal of Social Security.

Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2019): 'Migration, social policy, and power in historical perspective', Global Social Policy, 19: 3, 266–274.

Working Papers

Afscharian, Dominic (2021): Integration and Deterrence – The Local Reactions to Free Movement in Germany and the Contemporary EU.

Afscharian, Dominic (2020): Germany and the Contemporary EU.

Menze, Thore (2021): A Federation in Conflict – The Debate on Inter-German Expulsions of Beggars and Vagrants 1867-1894.

Menze, Thore (2020): The North German Confederation's Relief Residence Law.

Mohr, Edward (2021): The Political Factors Behind US Barriers to Inter-State Aid, 1900-1979.

Mohr, Edward (2020): The Abolition of Durational Residency Requirements for Assistance in the United States.


Bruzelius, Cecilia (2021): Podcast Appearance:  'Politics of Free Movement', Transformative Podcast, RECET Research Centre Vienna, 29 September.

Bruzelius, Cecilia and Ratzmann, Nora (2020): Blog Entry: 'Extended solidarity? The social consequences of Covid-19 for marginalised migrant groups in Germany', LSE EUROPP Blog, 5 October.

Bruzelius, Cecilia and Ratzmann, Nora (2020): Blog Entry: 'The social consequences of Covid-19 for vulnerable migrant groups in Germany’, LSE Social Policy Blog, 30 April.

Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2021): Podcast Appearance: 'Human dignity and a genuinely Social Europe', #106 FEPSTalks, 27 November.


Academic Presentations

Bruzelius, Cecilia (2021): ‘Free movement and commodification: (e)migration instead of social policy’, European Governance Colloquium, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin, 29 November.

Bruzelius, Cecilia (2021): Keynote: ‘Between Mobility and Immobility: EU Free Movement and Social Citizenship’, Centre for Migration Research, Univeristy of Warsaw, 3 November.

Bruzelius, Cecilia (2021): ‘EU Social Policy and Freedom of Movement’, Workshop on intra-EU migration and inequality’, The Academy for Political Education (Akademie für Politische Bildung), Tutzing am Starnberger See, 28 October.

Bruzelius, Cecilia (2021): 'Regulating emigration: international dimensions of national socioeconomic policy', 56th International Conference of Labour and Social History (ITH), Linz/Austria, 23-25 September. 

Bruzelius, Cecilia (2021): ‘EU citizens’ social rights: challenges and outlooks’, Online seminar ‘Integration as regulatory policy? How local actors organise EU migration’, Duisburg-Essen University, 27 May.

Bruzelius, Cecilia (2021): Interview on ‘Stratified Social Rights for EU citizens’ for online course at University of Copenhagen, April.

Bruzelius, Cecilia (2019): 'Free movement, national welfare states and social justice: the European Union’s emigration challenge’, Workshop: ‘Is the EU unjust?', European University Institute, Florence, 16-17 September.

Bruzelius, Cecilia (2019): 'Initiating welfare competition: How freedom of movement for the poor was introduced', SPSA Annual Conference, Zürich, 14-16 February.

Bruzelius, Cecilia, and Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2021): 'Enforcement of minimum standards and labour market hierarchies in open border Europe', Online workshop, Copenhagen Business School, 7-8 December.

Bruzelius, Cecilia, and Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2021): 'Enforcing outsiders’ rights: migrant agricultural workers and exploitation in the EU', 27th International Conference of Europeanists, Online, 21-25 June.

Menze, Thore (2021): 'Die deutsche Binnenfreizügigkeit und ihre Kritiker - Föderale Konflikte um zwischenstaatliche Landesverweisungen im Kaiserreich von 1871', FIS-Forum, Duisburg, 18-19 November.

Menze, Thore (2021): '"Selig ihr Armen, denn euer ist das Reich[…]". Die Reutlinger Armenpflege zwischen Reichsintegration und lokaler Verwaltungspraxis 1871-1914', PhD Students' Workshop, Tübingen, 30 April.

Mohr, Edward (2021): 'The Dual Devolution of Immigration Policy: Examining Sub-Federal Regulations of Migration Intermediaries', Research Committee 21 on Sociology of Urban and Regional Development of the International Sociological Association, Online, 15 July.

Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2021): 'Regulating the Poor through Internal Borders: The EU in Historical and International Perspectives', Hertie School of Governance, 25 October.

Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2021): 'Regulating the Poor through Internal Borders: The EU in Historical and International Perspectives', 27th International Conference of Europeanists, Online, 21-25 June.

Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2021): 'Territoriality, Citizenship, and Welfare, Workshop', Institut Convergences Migration, Paris, 28 May.

Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2019): 'European Citizenship and Social Rights', University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA, 20 September.

Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2019): 'EU Citizenship, Freedom of Movement and Social Protection', UCD Dublin, 30 May.

Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2019): 'EU citizenship and social rights. Entitlements and impediments to accessing welfare', KU Leuven, 17 May.

Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2019): 'Soziale Sicherung von Unionsbürger*innen: Freizügigkeit und Sozialhilfe', Institute of Sociology, Bielefeld University, 7 May.

Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2019): 'Freedom of Movement and Social Assistance in (con)federations and the European Union', European University Institute, Florence, 19 February.

Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin (2019): 'Citizenship, Europe and Social Rights', Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI) of the Hans Böckler Foundation, Düsseldorf, 5 February.


2022: Paper panel: 'Freedom of Movement and Social Policy in the European Union', ESPANet, Vienna, 14-16 September.

2022: Paper panel: ‘The Politics of Emigration and Free Movement’, Council for European Studies, Lisbon, 29 June - 1 July.

2022: Tübingen Seminar on Social Europe: 'The Future of Social Europe in Practice', lecture by Bea Cantillon (University of Antwerp), Tübingen, 19-20 May.

2021: Meeting of the FuS Advisory Board, Tübingen and online, 3 December.

2021: Paper panel: ‘Perspectives on EU Free Movement and Welfare: Past Present and Future’, Council for European Studies, online, 21-25 June.

2021: Tübingen Seminar on Social Europe: 'Die soziale Dimension der europäischen Freizügigkeit in Deutschland', lecture by Andreas Fahrmeir (Goethe University Frankfurt) on 'Personenfreizügigkeit in der Kritik: Lehren aus den Erfahrungen des Deutschen Reiches für die EU?', Tübingen, 6-7 May.

2020: Meeting of the FuS Advisory Board, Tübingen, 29 October.

2019: Tübingen Seminar on Social Europe: 'The different Dimensions of Intra-EU Migration', lecture by Danny Dorling (University of Oxford) on 'Regional Inequality in the EU and Its Impact', Tübingen, 9-10 May.

2018: Tübingen Seminar on Social Europe: 'Social Europe, Social Union - Perspectives on the Europe's Social Dimension', lecture by Maurizio Ferrera (University of Milan) on 'A European Social Union: Piecing the Puzzle Together', Tübingen, 3-5 May. 

2018: Paper panel: 'EU citizenship and the politicisation of social rights', 25th International Conference of Europeanists, Chicago, 28-30 March.