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EU: DK must pay grants to EU students

Denmark may now have to pay student grants to students from other EU countries, according to an expert commenting on an EU Court ruling.

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As Danish parties negotiate a student grant reform, Denmark has been defeated at the EU court in connection with grants to students from other EU countries.

The court has rejected Denmark’s argument in a case involving an EU citizen who arrived in Denmark to take a job, but then began studying.

According to Prof. Peter Pagh of Copenhagen University’s Law Faculty, the decision may affect the number of people that Education Minister Morten Østergaard will now have to support. Prof. Pagh is an EU law researcher.

“Denmark has lost the case. The minister is probably going to have to share out more grants than he wants to,” says Pagh after having studied the court’s decision.

The core issue in the case is whether a person from another EU country has arrived in Denmark to take up employment, or as a student. There are different rules in the two cases as to the person’s right to social benefits.

Pagh says that if an EU citizen arrives for the purpose of employment, that person cannot be discriminated against, and has the same rights as Danish citizens. There are exceptions for students which mean that citizens from another EU country are not eligible for Danish student grants during their studies in Denmark.

In the case in question, L.N. arrived in Denmark for employment with an international wholesale company, but prior to arriving had also applied to the Copenhagen Business School, where he was eventually accepted.

When he applied for a grant, however, his application was rejected. Danish authorities said that he had applied to the CBS before arriving in Denmark and had therefore ‘arrived in Denmark with the main purpose of studying’, the court ruling says.

But the court has been unwilling to accept the Danish arguments, with Pagh translating the court’s legalese as follows:

“The ruling states that the Danish authorities cannot use a subjective evaluation of whether or not L.N. was employed or a student when he arrived in the country, but must act in accordance with the fact that he objectively had a status as an employed person,” Pagh says.

He adds that the ruling is particularly interesting, because it opens the door to EU citizens earning the right to Danish student grants by arriving in Denmark to work for a few months before starting their studies.

“If you’re a mother or father in Romania, some good advice for a son or daughter would be to work for some months at Tivoli before beginning to study,” Pagh says.

The case was raised at the court by the Appeals Board for Educational Grants, a move that Pagh praises.

“In other cases you have to go through the entire Danish legal system before you end up at the EU court – and that takes a long time. One could hope that the Social Affairs Appeals Board and others would follow the example,” Pagh says.

It has not yet been possible to get a comment from the Education Ministry on the possible consequences of the ruling.

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