Coordination of social security systems
The coordination of social security systems aims at facilitating the free movement of citizens in the European Union (EU). This coordination is founded on the cooperation of national social security administrations.
The social security systems of the countries of the European Union (EU) are coordinated. However, social benefits and the conditions under which they are granted are determined at national level, depending on the traditions and culture of each country.
European law lays down rules and principles to guarantee the right of free movement of persons in the EU.
This Regulation applies to all nationals of an EU country who are or who have been covered by the social security legislation of one of those countries, as well as to the members of their family and their survivors.
It also applies to third country nationals living legally in the EU and whose situation connects them to several Member States. The Regulation also applies to members of their families and their survivors.
According to the principle of equal treatment, nationals of an EU country and persons residing in that country without being nationals of it are equal in terms of the rights and obligations provided for by the national legislation.
The provisions of this Regulation apply to all the traditional branches of social security:
- accidents at work,
- occupational diseases,
- invalidity benefits,
- unemployment benefits,
- family benefits,
- retirement and pre-retirement benefits,
- death grants.
The Regulation also recognizes the principle of the aggregation of periods, pursuant to which periods of insurance, employment or residence in an EU country are taken into account in all the other EU countries. This means that the acquisition of the right to benefits in one State must take account of periods of insurance, employment, self-employment or residence in another EU Member State.
Determination of the applicable legislation
The insured person is subject to the legislation of a single Member State only. The Member State concerned is the one in which he or she pursues a gainful activity.
Particular rules are provided for certain categories of workers, such as civil servants who are subject to the legislation of the Member State to which the administration employing them is subject, and workers who are employed or self-employed in several EU countries.
Benefits in kind (sickness, maternity and paternity)
Frontier workers are affiliated to the body of the country in which they work, while residing in another EU country and having access to health care in both States. Special provisions are provided concerning benefits in kind intended for members of their family.
Persons staying in an EU country other than their country of residence, in particular during holidays, must be able to receive necessary medical benefits during their stay. It is the legislation of the State in which they are staying which determines the financial conditions for the award of the benefits, but the costs are borne/reimbursed by the social security body of the country of origin. This right is certified by the European Health Insurance card, which every insured person may request from his/her social security body.
Members of the retired worker’s family are entitled to certain benefits in kind, even if they reside in a Member State other than that of the holder of the pension.
Retired frontier workers
This category of insured person can receive benefits in the last State in which they worked if it concerns the continuation of medical treatment which began in that State.
They, as well as their families, can continue to receive medical treatment in the last Member State in which they worked:
- without restriction if they have pursued a frontier activity for two years during the five years preceding the retirement or invalidity;
- provided the Member States concerned have opted for this.
Benefits for accidents at work and occupational diseases
Persons staying or residing in a Member State other than that in which they are affiliated to social security nevertheless benefit from the scheme covering accidents at work and occupational diseases. These benefits are provided by the institution of the place of stay or residence in accordance with the legislation which is applicable there.
The institution of the State in which the worker is affiliated bears the costs of transporting him/her to his/her place of residence. The institution must have previously reached agreement on this form of transport, except in the case of frontier workers.
When an insured person or member of his/her family dies in a Member State other than the competent Member State, death is deemed to have occurred in the competent Member State. Hence the competent institution must provide the death grants payable under the legislation it applies even if the person entitled resides in another Member State.
As regards invalidity benefits, Member States may decide to determine the amount of the benefits on the basis of the duration of periods of insurance or residence (see Annex VI to the Regulation).
All Member States in which a person has been insured must pay an old-age pension when the insured person reaches the age of retirement. The calculation of the amount of the benefits takes into consideration all the periods completed in another Member State.
The Regulation also contains rules concerning the way in which the competent institutions calculate benefits and establishes rules to prevent overlapping.
If a worker is entitled to benefits in several EU countries, the total amount of the benefits must not be less than the minimum provided for in the legislation of his/her Member State of residence, if the State of residence has a minimum pension scheme. Otherwise, the institution of the Member State of residence must pay compensation.
As regards unemployment benefits, the competent institution of a Member State must take into account the periods of insurance, employment or self-employment completed under the legislation of any other Member State as though they were completed under the legislation it applies.
An unemployed person may move to another Member State in order to seek work while retaining entitlement to benefits for three months. The competent services or institutions may extend this period up to a maximum of six months. If the unemployed person does not return on or before the expiry of this period he/she loses all entitlement to benefits.
Beneficiaries of statutory pre-retirement schemes may receive their benefits and be covered for their health care and family benefits in another European country. Based on the principle of equal treatment, they must have the same rights and obligations as other citizens of the country.
Since statutory pre-retirement schemes exist only in a very small number of Member States, this Regulation excludes the rule concerning the aggregation of periods for the acquisition of entitlement to pre-retirement benefits.
A person is entitled to family benefits in a competent Member State, including for members of his/her family residing in another Member State, as if they were residing in the former Member State.
In the case of overlapping benefits, family benefits are provided in line with the priority rules set out.
Special non-contributory cash benefits
Contrary to the general rule, these benefits are not exportable if they are listed in Annex X and if they fulfil certain criteria. Besides, these criteria apply to all Member States, with the result that similar benefits will be treated in the same way.
Coordination instruments in social security systems
This Regulation reinforces the principle of good administration. The institutions must respond to all queries within a reasonable period of time and must in this connection provide the persons concerned with any information required for exercising the rights conferred on them by this Regulation. Besides, in the event of difficulties in the interpretation or application of this Regulation, the institutions involved must contact one another in order to find a solution for the person concerned.
The Regulation provides for mechanisms designed to guarantee smooth functioning and enhanced cooperation between Member States and institutions in the field of social security, notably:
- an Administrative Commission, responsible for handling any question of interpretation arising from the provisions of this Regulation or any accord or agreement concluded in the framework of the Regulation;
- a Technical Commission within the Administrative Commission, responsible for assembling technical documents, studies and the associated activities;
- an Audit Board which will establish the average costs for reimbursement of healthcare costs in Member States;
- an Advisory Committee, responsible for preparing opinions and proposals for the Administrative Commission.
Coordination of social security systems got under way in 1971 with the adoption of Council Regulation (EEC) No 1408/71. This Regulation guaranteed equal treatment and social security benefits to all workers who are Member State nationals, regardless of their place of employment or residence.
|Act||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
Regulation (EC) No 883/2004
OJ L 314 of 7.6.2004
|Amending Act(s)||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
Regulation (EC) No 988/2009
OJ L 284 of 30.10.2009
Regulation (EC) No 1231/2010
OJ L 344 of 29.12.2010
Regulation (EU) No. 465/2012
OJ L 149 of 8.6.2012
Successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purpose only.
- European Commission, coordination of social security in the European Union