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EU Citizens to Benefit from EU Coordination Rules

The new regulations on social security coordination which came into force in May 2010, are currently being applied in all EU countries. To accompany the change, the European Commission is launching an EU-wide information campaign to ensure European citizens are aware of their social security rights.

The new EU rules benefit everyone who moves to another EU country to settle permanently, work temporarily or study and those who are travelling for business or to take a holiday.

According to the latest Eurobarometer figures, one out of ten Europeans say they have lived and worked in another country (inside or outside the EU) at some point in the past, three percent have lived in another country but did not work there, and one percent worked in another country before but did not live there. An estimated 11.3 million EU citizens, or 2.3% of the overall EU population, live in a different Member State to their birthplace. More than 750,000 people cross a border every day for work. Recent figures show that around 187 million (37%) Europeans currently hold a European Health Insurance Card which allows access to healthcare during temporary stays in Europe. For all these EU citizens, potentially confronted with a mosaic of 31 different national social security systems, coordination is an issue.

To make life easier for the millions of EU citizens on the move, and allow them to preserve their rights on unemployment benefits, child care benefits, health care or pensions when moving within Europe, a new system of modernised coordination came into force this summer (May 2010) to speed up the exchange of social security information. EU Citizens will benefit from a reduction of the number of papers issued and the reduction of time taken to process the calculation and payment of benefits.

What is social security coordination?
The EU rules on social security coordination do not create any new entitlements to social security, but guarantee that rights in the area of sickness insurance, pensions, unemployment and family benefits are preserved for people moving within Europe (27 EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). Each country is entirely free to determine its own social security system: this results in a mosaic of systems each with their own very different rules. Social security coordination works as a bridge between the national social security systems: the objective is that citizens do not lose out as a result of their choice to live or work in another country.

Who benefits from coordination?
The EU rules benefit anyone who moves to another EU country to settle permanently, work temporarily or study, and even those who are travelling to take a holiday.

How? Anita has worked in countries A, B and C.

  • In country A, to be entitled to a pension, 15 years of contributions are required: she has 14.In country B, 5 years are required: she has 4.
  • In country C, 10 years are required: she has 7.

Anita has worked for 25 years, but, according to the national legislation of the countries where she has worked, she would not be entitled to receive a pension! EU coordination rules set up a system to avoid this, thanks to the principle of aggregation of periods. In other words, each of the three countries will take into account the total insurance years in any of the 31 countries applying these rules, when awarding their pension. Anita will then receive a pension from each of the countries where she has worked corresponding to her record in that country.

Jobseekers and pensioners
Unemployed people who go looking for a job in another EU country can arrange with their local social security office to continue receiving unemployment benefits for a minimum of three months, extendable to six months. In 2009, close to one European in five (17 %) envisaged working abroad according to a special Eurobarometer (337) on geographical labour market mobility.

Anyone who has worked in several EU countries throughout their career is entitled to combine their periods of contribution to the national systems in order to obtain a full pension. Likewise, Europeans who decide to retire in another EU country will maintain their rights to a pension, even if they have never worked in, or paid social contributions in that country. Every year some 250,000 people are able to export a proportion of their pension rights when they retire because they have worked in more than one EU country.

Tourists, seasonal workers and business travellers
During the summer months, millions of Europeans travel to another European country on holiday. Many others are working temporarily for short periods in another EU Member State. They are protected by social security coordination if they need healthcare in the event of an accident or illness during their stay. The European Health Insurance Card provides access to health services in each Member State for anyone requiring care during a temporary stay. Care is provided on the same basis as for residents of the Member State in question. So far around 187 million European Health Insurance Cards have been issued (37% of the population).

How to spread the word?
With the theme of ‘Europe is your playground’, the European Commission is launching an EU-wide information campaign to ensure that people are aware of their social security rights when living, working, studying, travelling or retiring in other EU countries.

Why talk about these rights now?
First, it is a priority of the Barroso Commission to ensure that citizens do not have to face obstacles when they decide to move across borders within the EU. Building citizens’ awareness on their rights is an important step in this direction.

Secondly, new regulations came into force on 1 May 2010 modernising the rules which coordinate social security in Europe. It was therefore necessary to update information and make it more accessible. The information campaign is part of this effort.

What are the new rules about?
The reform introduced in May 2010 is the culmination of 50 years of cooperation at European level as the first efforts for European coordination date from 1959. Its main objectives are simplification, more information, modernisation and cutting red tape.

The number of paper documents which may be issued to citizens has been cut down. In addition to the European Health Insurance Card, only nine other “forms” may end up in the user’s hand. These “portable documents” have a new, easily identifiable design and present information in a user-friendly way.

A new electronic network, EESSI (Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information) is being set up. By 2012, this system will allow national social security institutions to exchange information electronically, eliminating all paper forms. EESSI will reduce administrative burden and shorten the process of claims involving more than one country.

Further information