Updated social security: supporting mobility in the EU

Fecha Publicación: 
27 Julio 2009

The Council and the Parliament have adopted a legislative package to update the coordination of national social security schemes, planned to take effect from March 2010. This update is essential against the current backdrop of recession and uncertainty for Europeans. 


What is the EU's role in the social security field?

Social security systems are the exclusive responsibility of the national authorities, and are very diverse in terms of both their organisation and the benefits offered. Consequently, the European Union has an important role to play in coordinating these systems. It creates bridges between the systems to  guarantee that citizens can enjoy uninterrupted cover and move smoothly from one country to another and still be covered. By safeguarding the social  security entitlements of people on the move, it prevents them from losing out as a result of their choice to live or work in another country.

The new provisions are based on existing rules, the first of which (Regulation No 3) dates from 1959. The coordination of social security schemes, updated by Regulation 883/04 and its implementing regulation, is therefore the culmination of 50 years of cooperation at European level.

Who is affected?

The provisions cover anyone who moves to another Member State to settle permanently, work temporarily or study, and even those who are travelling to take a holiday. A few examples:

During the summer months, millions of Europeans go to another European country on holiday. The current system of coordination already protects them if they need healthcare during their stay, in the event of an accident or illness. 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.

 Mobile workers
People who cross the border to work receive family benefits paid by the country where they work, even though they do not live there.

Jobseekers who decide to try their luck in another Member State will continue to receive unemployment benefits for a minimum of three months, extendable to six months.

Retired people
Anyone who has worked in several Member States throughout their career is entitled to combine their periods of insurance in order to obtain a full pension.

How many Europeans are affected?

In 2007, 10.5 million Europeans lived in a different EU Member State from the one in which they were born. This represents 2.1% of the population. Over a million people cross a border every day for work.

So far 180 million European Health Insurance Cards have been issued (36% of the population). 27% of EU residents spend at least four nights a year on holiday in another Member State.

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.

Why change the current system?

Worker mobility is essential for the proper operation of the internal market. In these difficult times it is even more important, since it can contribute to reducing the impact on employment. Some areas of Europe are suffering a labour shortage while others have high levels of unemployment. Facilitating mobility also helps to even out the labour markets. Workers who choose mobility should not be penalised as a consequence. Improving and facilitating the coordination of social security schemes therefore became a priority.

What are the main changes?

More people can benefit
Updated coordination has a broader scope. It now covers not only workers and their families but also people who are currently out of work, not yet in work or no longer working.

Its scope also extends to new benefits such as paternity and pre-retirement benefits, so as to adapt to developments in social security legislation at  national level. Numerous simplifications have been made in the different branches of insurance covered by coordination, such as unemployment benefits, family benefits, and sickness insurance.

Simpler and more efficient procedures
While updated coordination entails new rights for individuals, the essential role of the new regulations is to establish instruments and structured  procedures to improve service to users.

A new information network will be launched, namely the EESSI (Electronic exchange of social security information) network. This will enable institutions in different countries to engage in dialogue using electronic means. Paper forms will disappear and the formalities to be completed by citizens will be  streamlined.

Faster access to benefits
Another innovation is temporary affiliation. Whenever the institutions of different Member States are unable to agree on a given individual’s status with a view to identifying the social security legislation applicable to him/her, provision is made for temporary affiliation to a social security scheme, with  payment of benefits. For the person concerned, this offers access to treatment and sickness insurance benefits under a statutory scheme during this  period. Citizens will therefore no longer have to suffer the consequences of the complexity of social security schemes.

What are the next steps?

The new Regulation, like the current one (1408/71 and its implementing regulation 574/72), does not create any new entitlements to social security but guarantees that rights in the area of sickness insurance, pensions, unemployment and family benefits are preserved in the event of moving within Europe.

The Member States and their institutions have nine months to implement the new regulation. Work is well under way on the creation of the EESSI network and the preparation of the electronic messages containing the information required for the calculation and payment of benefits. To take account of the needs of certain Member States to adapt their own systems, provision has been made for a transition period of two years for the electronic exchange of data. By March 2012, however, all of the Member States should be using this technique to exchange information between social security institutions and for all areas covered by coordination.

Training activities are ongoing in all of the Member States. The Commission is lending its support to these efforts. It is preparing easily accessible information for users – for example, the current major information campaign about the European Health Insurance Card.

What else is the European Union doing to encourage worker mobility?

One of the priorities of social Europe is to remove barriers to professional mobility. Currently only 2% of Europeans are exercising their right to work in a different Member State. The EU aims to raise public awareness of this right and to support jobseekers in their search at European level. EURES, the  European employment service network, is at the forefront of the EU’s efforts to promote worker mobility. The vast database brings together job offers from all over Europe and information and advice on living and working conditions in the various Member States. In addition to its web portal, EURES has a network of 700 advisers on hand to inform jobseekers and employers about recruitment at international level.


"Updated social security: supporting mobility in the EU". MEMO/09/353. Brussels, 27 July 2009

Fuente original