Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

‘Damn It, I Am a Miserable Eastern European in the Eyes of the Administrator’: EU Migrants’ Experiences with (Transnational) Social Security

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Abstract:  The European Union has given itself unique worldwide regulations so that EU citizens can port their social rights transnationally in case of migration. Yet this political and legal statement becomes flawed once a sociological perspective is adopted to look into the actual experiences of migrants. TRANSWEL (2015–2018), an ongoing international research project—applying a mixed-method approach to compare four country-pairs (Bulgaria-Germany, Estonia-Sweden, Hungary-Austria, Poland-UK)—has shown that mobile EU citizens are confronted with exclusion and discrimination and that their belonging is put into question. Based on qualitative interviews with migrants, we argue that welfare institutions in the ‘old’ EU member states (partially) exclude and potentially discriminate against mobile EU citizens. Exclusion and discrimination are mainly based on two types of experiences: First, the difficulty to navigate through a complex system of (transnational) regulations and administrative structures, and second, the burden to prove that one falls into the competency of the member state in question. The article points out that the EU—commonly referred to as the global best-practice example in terms of the portability of social rights—reveals its flaws and limitations once the actual experiences of migrants are scrutinized in this multilevel system of governance.

Keywords:  European Union; migration; qualitative interviews; social security; transnationalism



© Elisabeth Scheibelhofer, Clara Holzinger. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.