The European Union is taking action against Austria for indexing child benefits to the cost of living in the country where those children reside, saying it discriminates against other EU citizens working in Austria.
EU Social Affairs Commissioner Marianne Thyssen said Austria's move is "deeply unfair" because it means many EU citizens paying social security and taxes in Austria "would receive fewer benefits only because their children are living in another member state".
She said "such a mechanism is not allowed under EU law".
Ms Thyseen said: "There are no second-class workers in the EU and no second-class children either.
"You are hitting those who get up in the morning, work hard and make a real contribution to the Austrian economy.
Today @EU_Commission opens infringement procedure against #Austria for introducing indexation of child benefits & family tax reductions. This goes against #EU law. #EU citizens who work in another country & contribute in same way as local workers are entitled to the same benefits pic.twitter.com/mcS2KAhtp1— Marianne Thyssen (@mariannethyssen) January 24, 2019
"This is a question of fairness and equal treatment."
Austria estimates the measure will affect 132,000 children in a number of countries.
The commission is giving Vienna two months to respond to its "letter of formal notice", a first step in possible legal action.