Weller v. Hungary 2009

Maternity benefits for all mothers, regardless of nationality

The Court . . . considers that the entitlement due to a family under [domestic law] cannot be dependent on which of the two biological parents of the children is a Hungarian national.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, June 2009


A young family was unable to get a maternity allowance because the mother was not Hungarian – even though her husband and twin boys had been born in Hungary.

The boys’ father, Lajos, had applied for financial help from the state in his own name and on behalf of the newborns, Dániel and Máté, in 2005.

However, the authorities refused their claim, pointing to a law which said that only mothers, adoptive parents and guardians could apply for the help.

Lajos appealed but was rejected again. This time the authorities told him that only Hungarian mothers could apply, although exceptions were made for refugees or EU citizens who had a settlement permit in Hungary.

Lajos’s wife lived legally in the country but did not have settled status. She was a citizen of Romania, which was not part of the EU at the time.

Lajos took legal action to challenge the decisions, arguing discrimination, but a Hungarian court dismissed his claim.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court ruled that Hungary had unfairly discriminated against Lajos, Dániel and Máté by excluding them from maternity benefits.

In the court’s view, the allowance was intended to support newborn children and the whole family raising them, not just the new mother (as the Hungarian government had argued).

The court pointed out that the family could have received support if Lajos was a foreigner and his wife Hungarian. There was no justification for this practice.

Moreover, the Hungarian authorities had also failed to justify why natural fathers should be excluded from the benefit, even though mothers, adoptive parents and guardians could apply for it.


In response to the European court’s judgment, the Hungarian government changed the law to allow every mother legally residing in Hungary, regardless of their nationality, to apply for maternity benefits.