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Millions of Europeans would benefit from better coordination of social security systems  

Approximately 14 million EU residents – including mobile and cross-border workers, as well as unemployed and economically inactive citizens – are not living in their home country. In order to grant them the social and health benefits to which they are entitled, the European Committee of the Regions is backing proposals to improve coordination between national social security systems. The opinion drafted by Ulrike Hiller (DE/PES), Member of Bremen Senate, was adopted at the plenary session today.

The European Commission presented in December 2016 a proposal which aims to update the EU rules with regard to unemployment benefits, long-term care benefits, access of economically inactive citizens to social benefits and social security coordination for posted workers. Rapporteur Hiller welcomes the proposal, saying: "Social security services are often delivered by local and regional authorities. LRAs are therefore ideally placed to provide data on labour mobility but also on local and regional labour market needs. At the same time, they provide mobile citizens and jobseekers with assistance and information on their social security rights and obligations at local, regional, cross-border or inter-regional level. This is why LRAs are a key element in the effective coordination of social security systems and they should be provided with the appropriate means to do so".

In its opinion, the European Committee of the Regions calls to strengthen regional advisory and support networks, such as services for cross-border labour mobility provided by EURES. The planned extension of the possibility to export unemployment benefits from 3 to 6 months is seen as positive, though the rapporteur considers it necessary to clarify how Member States can use the possibility to extend the export period so that it corresponds to what the person would be entitled in his/her country of origin.

"This extension gives a breething space to jobseekers, but striking a balance between active and passive labour market policies is essential for labour market reintegration. This requires proper cooperation between Member States because the ultimate goal is not to exhaust the benefit entitlement period but to empower jobseekers to search for and find a job", argues the rapporteur.

While welcoming the fact that economically inactive and needy EU citizens will be entitled to sickness insurance cover in their actual residence, the opinion stresses that the host Member State must have right to reimbursement by the competent Member State. The Committee also considers that the ban on overlapping of sickness and long-term care benefits could be difficult to implement because the rules of various Member States differ considerably in this matter.

Parallel to the revision of the Posting of Workers directive, the Commission aims to address social abuse by setting up standard procedures for the A1 attestation which is granted for posted workers. In this regard 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.

European Parliament rapporteur Guillaume Balas (FR/S&D) welcomed these steps while pointing to numerous challenges arising from the great differences in social security systems amongst Member States. "We urgently need proper electronic data exchange between national authorities in the field of social security coordination, which is particularly relevant for cross-border regions", he underlined, pointing that the CoR is well placed to call for the swift implementation of the European Commission's Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information (EESSI) Project. Moreover, Mr Balas stressed that citizens should be able to export all the unemployment benefits they are entitled to and warned against legal uncertainties which could affect, for example, certain cross-border workers or the definition of economically inactive citizens.

Pictures from the event are available on flickr gallery

Lauri Ouvinen
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