Commission's social security proposals could provide quality EU mobility

New Commission proposals on social security could improve mobility in Europe, says Guillaume Balas.

Guillaume Balas | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Guillaume Balas

29 Nov 2017

The Commission’s revision proposal aims to encourage people’s mobility, safeguard their rights when moving from one European country to another (EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) and ensure the continuity of their social protection when they go from one national set laws to another. It is proposing changes to how social unemployment benefits are coordinated on three points. 

First, the executive wants to extend the period during which unemployment benefits can be exported from three months to six. Member states would then have the possibility to extend the length of the period until the rights run out. I support this measure. A Commission study showed that extending the period during which benefits can be exported increases a worker’s chance of finding a new job.

The member state where the job seeker last worked will have to take into account the period of insurance used up elsewhere if the job seeker worked in that country for less than three months.


Otherwise, the member state where this person worked previously will have to pay benefits. The current situation is ambiguous for relevant national authorities. Aggregation is one of the basic principles of this legislation; this is why I believe the minimum period should be reduced to one month.

Regarding cross-border workers, the member state where they last worked will have to pay unemployment benefits if they worked there for at least 12 months. According to the current rules, this competency lies with the country in which the worker resides, even though they pay social security in the country where they work.

It makes sense for the country where a worker pays for their social security to pay for unemployment benefits, but some clarification is needed on how the Commission plans to avoid practical, administrative or linguistic difficulties.

The Commission proposes creating a specific chapter on long-term care, following the same logic as for sickness benefits. 

In principle, I support this initiative, but I would like the administrative commission to work more closely with social partners, professional organisations and beneficiaries, particularly on elaborating the list of benefits where this would apply. 

The proposal seeks to integrate recent case law by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on granting social benefits to mobile citizens that are economically inactive. I don’t think it should be up to European legislators to codify ECJ decisions.

The Commission is right to harmonise procedures concerning the issuing, format and content of documents attesting a person’s affiliation to a certain social security regime.

It is also right to outline those situations where these documents can be issued or retrieved if a member state has doubts as to their authenticity.

We must strengthen cooperation between the relevant authorities. The principle of loyal cooperation must be supported through the definition of shorter response times; a lack of response should result in one authority taking over from another.

In order to optimise exchanges between administrations and protect European citizens, I support new measures such as an electronic social security card; documents must be digitised.

It is also important to clarify rules applicable to posted workers - minimum mandatory period of affiliation to the posting country’s social security system, dispatching of documents before posting - and independent workers.

I am against indexing child benefits to the country in which the children reside. Less than one percent of child benefits are paid to children living in a different member state than where their parents work. Therefore, the impact on public finances of an indexation system would be complex and costly.

Ahead of the discussions about to start in the European Parliament, I would like to put an end to the caricatures and fake arguments of “social tourism”, “generalised fraud” or “concealed protectionism”.

If this revision is carried out adequately and to its full extent, it should allow for the continuity of our citizens’ social rights and lead to quality mobility in Europe.


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