The trilemma of EU social benefits law: Seeing the wood and the trees

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It is often suggested that migrants’ access to social protection should depend on their integration. The article explores the fraught relationship between that idea and two other values, namely guaranteeing continuous social protection to migrants and avoiding the disharmonies that result from the involvement of several, maladjusted legal orders. Each of these three values tells us something about what EU social benefits law does, why certain choices were made, and how judicious they are. All regulatory tools for coordinating the cross-border access to social benefits can serve two values, but not three. Rule-makers thus face a trilemma, in that they must sacrifice one value to achieve the others.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1549–1590
Number of pages42
JournalCommon Market Law Review
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2019

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© 2019 Kluwer Law International. Printed in the United Kingdom. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • social protection
  • Integration
  • Transnational solidarity
  • Nationality discrimination
  • Dano
  • Waiting periods
  • social welfare
  • EU social security law
  • free movement of persons
  • EU citizenship
  • conflict rules

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