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Making social rights more mobile

Blog: Cristina Farinha
Author: Cristina Farinha - Date: 24 Jun 2010, 14:54

The “Modernised EU social security coordination” system has come into force since the 1st of May 2010 translated into two EU regulations: n°s 883/2004 and 987/2009. This new scheme aims to guarantee that rights in the area of sickness, insurance, pensions, unemployment and family benefits are preserved in the event of moving within the European Union. It targets workers and job seekers, but also retired people and tourists.

Social security is a policy area of exclusive responsibility of Member-States yet they are very diverse in terms of both their organisation and the benefits offered. This profusion and diversity of regulations creates a serious obstacle for the freedom of circulation in Europe, most especially that of workers. Laws are not clear neither for citizens nor institutions from local to EU level; even legal experts have a hard time in deciding what applies where.

In the case of the arts field, more complexity is added due to its intrinsic profusion of legal status, high number of employers, temporary contracts, short-term and circular mobility, irregularity of incomes, among other features. The sector professionals’ vulnerability is due to the absence or inadequacy of their social status at the national level, so once they cross borders their fragility increases. Artists and other art operators have been used to this vulnerable condition at their own social expenses and risks. The situation lived by artists is nowadays enlarged to other intellectual and creative professionals (but not only), clearly showing a need to increase integration in this policy area.

The EU just acts at the level of improving coordination among them. The rules on social security coordination do not replace national systems with a single European one. The coordination rules create bridges between national systems to guarantee that citizens can enjoy uninterrupted cover when moving within Europe. By preventing citizens from losing out as a result of their choice to live or work in another country, the coordination rules intend to make the right of free-movement within the Union effective. This new modernised social security coordination package envisages simplifying, accelerating and digitalising social security procedures.

The four main principles:

  1. You are covered by the legislation of one country at a time so you only pay contributions in one country. The decision on which country's legislation applies to you will be made by the social security institutions. You cannot choose.
  2. You have the same rights and obligations as the nationals of the country where you are covered. This is known as the principle of equal treatment or non-discrimination.
  3. When you claim a benefit, your previous periods of insurance, work or residence in other countries are taken into account if necessary.
  4. If you are entitled to a cash benefit from one country, you may generally receive it even if you are living in a different country. This is known as the principle of exportability.

What are the main changes introduced by this Modernised EU social security coordination?

-A major new information network will be launched named EESSI (Electronic exchange of social security information). This will enable institutions in different countries to exchange information electronically. The new system will eliminate around 2000 paper forms and the formalities to be completed by citizens will be streamlined. it aims to limit the number of paper documents which must currently be carried by citizens to prove their entitlements. Employers and workers will also have access to the EESSI system through a directory listing all the national and local institutions involved with social security coordination.

-As a result of the creation of EESSI, former paper E-forms (e.g. E-101 form) will disappear. YET some of them will be replaced by 9 new portable documents that are meant to be easily identifiable and understandable.

-In case the institutions of different EU countries disagree on which social security legislation applies to a particular case, this individual will be temporarily affiliated to a social security scheme with the payment of benefits. This means the citizen will have access to treatment and sickness insurance benefits under a statutory scheme during this period so to no longer have to suffer the consequences of the complexity of social security schemes.

When will it actually start producing effects in the real life of EU citizens?

To take account of the needs of certain EU countries to adapt their own systems, provision has been made for a transition period of two years for the electronic exchange of data. By the 1st of May of 2012, however, all of the EU countries should be using this technique to exchange information between social security institutions and for all areas covered by coordination.

Will this be enough to warranty the free transfer of social rights across EU borders? Certainly not and misinterpretations as well as non-appliance of the EU regulations by national officials in the field are still to be expected. Yet it is also up to us citizens to assume an active role, get informed and claim our social rights so that changes start to happen from bellow as well.

Where to find further information:

From the arts and culture sector:

PEARLE, the Performing Arts Employers Associations League in Europe News release

PRACTICS website and pilot Infopoints in


Netherlands - SICA


Wales - Wales Arts International

PRACTICS is a project supported by the European Commission which aims to provide information to help the mobility of artists and cultural professionals in Europe.

From the EU:

European Commission – Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities: EU social security coordination

EUlisses - EU links and information on social security

2010 update of the guide "The EU provisions on social security"

EURES, the European Job Mobility Portal

European Health Insurance Card

Video News Release on modernised coordination available for audiovisual media

Still need help?

Haven't found the information you're looking for? Do you have a problem to resolve?

Make an enquiry via Europe Direct 00800 6 7 8 9 10 11

Solve problems with a national administration (SOLVIT)

Get legal advice from the EU's citizen service (CSS)




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