Members of the European Committee of the Regions adopted today the opinion on the "Coordination of Social Security Systems", by Member of Bremen Senate Ulrike Hiller (PES, Germany). The opinion responds to a European Commission proposal for a regulation, which updates the current EU rules on coordination of social security in four areas: unemployment benefits, long-term care benefits, access of economically inactive citizens to social benefits and social security coordination for posted workers.
The CoR opinion overall welcomes the revision of the rules on coordinating social security against the background of the increasing mobility of EU citizens within the EU. This applies to mobile workers, including cross-border and posted workers, but also to citizens who are unemployed or economically inactive. Given the breadth of the scope of action, the CoR opinion considers the proposal both necessary at European level and proportionate.
"With some 14 million of Europeans living in a Member State other than their own, it has become imperative to update social security rules and cut red tape in order to ensure that these people have access to the social and health benefits to which they are entitled. Clear procedures for the authorities and proper information for the people concerned are vital in this respect", stressed the rapporteur. She underlined in this respect the key role of local and regional authorities, not least those in border regions, in the delivery of social security services.
The opinion calls for the strengthening of regional advisory and support networks for mobile EU citizens. With regard to posted workers, the opinion reiterates the Committee's view that the time limit beyond which the law of the host country applies in full to employment relationships in posting situations should be 12 months rather than 24. It also insists on the need for a well-coordinated, binding and clear way the A1 attestation is granted (social security document stating the applicable legislation and proving that you pay social contributions in another EU country – if you are a posted worker or work in several countries at the same time).
Regarding the coordination of long-term care benefits and given that there are vast divergences in the definition and inventory of long-term illnesses among Member States, the rapporteur estimates that it will be difficult to implement the ban on the overlapping of sickness and long-term care benefits. She welcomes, however, the fact that the regulation foresees that the protection of a sick person residing in a Member State has to be ensured, even if that person does not have legal right of residence.
Ulrike Hiller welcomes the planned extension of the possibility to export unemployment benefits from 3 to 6 months, pointing, however, that it must be clarified how Member States could extend the export period beyond the 6 months. "We need to strike a balance between passive and active labour market policies, this is why this extension should be coupled with appropriate measures to empower unemployed people to look for work and to foster labour market re-integration", stressed Hiller.
Finally, the opinion regrets the lack of reliable data and information on the number of cross-border workers, pointing that the border regions have extensive experience of mobile workers and that such experience should be used by the Commission and the Member States. This is a role that European Parliament rapporteur Guillaume Balas(FR/S&D) asked the CoR to play to the full, pointing to the urgent need for proper electronic data exchange between national authorities in the field of social security coordination, which is particularly relevant for border regions. The MEP also drew attention to the multitude of challenges arising from the great differences in social security systems amongst Member States and insisted on the need to address legal uncertainties which could affect, for example, cross-border or posted workers and to ensure the clear the definition of key notions such as an economically inactive citizen.