Monday, April 15, 2024

New EU social security coordination rules hit a dead end

The modernisation of the EU’s social security coordination rules is once again at an impasse, with time running out in the current mandate and the Council still unable to find a compromise between member states.

In December 2016, the European Commission first proposed a revision of the existing legislation [which applies since 2010] to facilitate the free movement of people within the EU by making the rules of the 27 different national social security systems fairer, clearer and easier to enforce.

More than seven years later, the file has seen 18 trilogues, 12 rotating EU presidencies and two provisional agreements without a positive outcome, MEPs claim.

“At least five million mobile workers, including seasonal and cross-border workers, rely on clear rules regarding the unemployment benefits they are entitled to,” MEP Dragos Pislaru (Renew Europe), chair of the employment committee, said in a statement on Thursday (15 February).

According to the commission’s latest report, in 2020 the number of cross-border workers in the EU and EFTA countries (including Switzerland and Norway) alone stood at 1.7 million.

“As representatives of European citizens, we cannot neglect the rights of cross-border and seasonal workers,” he added.

The file saw the second and final provisional agreement in 2021 [the first was in 2019] and then entered a stalemate until the previous Spanish EU presidency, when member states were “quite close” to a compromise on the whole package, lead MEP Gabriele Bischoff (S&D) told EUobserver.

However, while the revision is an important dossier for the current Belgian EU presidency, it opted to try to split the reform given the tight agenda ahead of the upcoming European Parliament elections in June.

“It’s fair to say that it’s a very complicated and highly-political text,” said an EU diplomat, referring to the Belgian approach of only agreeing on those parts of the reform where it is most likely to find consensus among member states.

And while the council’s vision is to make at least some progress on these issues, the parliament finds it unacceptable to give up what it considers to be essential points of the reform.

“They should really try to use the time left to see if a compromise is possible,” Bischoff told EUobserver.

The German socialist MEP believes there is still a chance to reach an agreement — if the Belgians have the will and the courage to do so.

“Parliament is ready until the last moment to close this file,” she added — but only as a package.

Yet with little time left, there will be no other approach during the Belgian EU presidency, EUobserver has learned.

This means that the reform to facilitate intra-EU labour mobility will have to wait until the next mandate, which will be taken up (if at all) during the EU Hungarian presidency, which begins on 1 July 2024.

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