January 9, 2018 / 2:10 PM / 5 months ago

Slovakia says Austria's plan to cut children benefits abroad is discriminatory

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia criticized Austrian plans to cut benefit payments for children living abroad on Tuesday, saying the step may discriminate against Slovaks working in Austria.

Austria’s ruling coalition of conservatives and the far right last week unveiled plans to cut the benefits, which start at around 114 euros ($136) a month for a child.

Austria borders eight countries, including the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia, where wages are significantly lower.

Eastern Europeans make up a large part of its workforce in sectors including healthcare and construction but they often live and work away from their families and children.

Speaking at a news conference in Bratislava after a meeting Austria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Karin Kneissl, Slovakia’s acting Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok called on Austria to honor the principle of non-discrimination.

“Our citizens who work in Austria, and work there legally, pay contributions to Austrian funds, therefore we expect they would receive appropriate benefits from these funds,” Korcok said.

Kneissl said Austria would seek a change on a European level so that children benefits reflect the standard of living, welfare, and purchasing power in each country.

“We diplomats agreed we should open the door for (social affairs) ministers to discuss the issue,” she added.

In 2016, Austria transferred 273 million euros ($325 million) abroad to EU and European Economic Area countries in benefit payments for 132,000 children.

The European Commission criticized Germany last year for a similar plan to cut child benefits, which was later abandoned.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said last week the Austrian proposal was legally possible.

Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Alison Williams

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