The Danish welfare state has a long history and reputation of being one of the most generous in the world. However, the pressures that European Union (EU) law and immigration lay on the national prerequisites for the welfare system are often pointed out as affecting the Danish universal system of benefits. How has the system dealt with EU-derived law constraints in the area of social protection, and how has it responded in periods of crisis ? The Danish welfare state is based on a principle of solidarity, amongst others, which is difficult to bring to life when immigrants enter the country, although EU law may request in many instances that immigrants are given social protection from day one. This article will introduce the rationales and most relevant recent policy trends of the Danish welfare state, focusing on the ‘liberal turn’ that has characterised the welfare state policies in the last decade. It will review some of the reforms in the area of social protection that targeted non-EU nationals but also Union citizens, seeking to limit immigrants’ access to the Danish welfare state. By analyzing the national legal and policy actions in the area of social protection the case study will serve as an illustration of a broader debate on the tense relationship between EU and national law in the construction of Social Europe, and on the impact of general attitudes towards immigration on issues of solidarity and social cohesiveness, especially in times of crisis.
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