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Brussels, 19 February 2009

Commission warns Spain on EU pensioners' access to necessary healthcare

The European Commission has today sent a reasoned opinion to Spain for failing to comply with EU legislation on social security rights for people travelling in Europe. The Commission takes the view that Spain discriminates against EU pensioners by refusing them access to free medication when they stay temporarily in Spain. The Spanish authorities now have two months to respond. If they fail to do so or if the response is unsatisfactory, the Commission can decide to take Spain to the European Court of Justice.

EU Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimír Špidla said: "European legislation guarantees everyone in the EU the same access as residents to necessary healthcare when visiting another EU country. Spain is the one of the top tourist destinations in Europe, but the current Spanish rules impose additional red tape on EU pensioners who might need access to medication during a temporary stay. We're taking action today to make sure holidaymakers from other EU countries enjoy the same rights as residents."

Under EU legislation (Article 31 of Regulation 1408/71), pensioners who are staying temporarily in another EU country can make use of their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to receive necessary healthcare under the same conditions as pensioners insured in that country.

Spanish legislation allows pensioners insured in Spain to get medication for free. But EU pensioners are required to show an additional document issued by their national social security services, in Spanish, to certify that they are in receipt of a state pension.

The Commission believes this is contrary to European provisions and discriminates against EU pensioners on holiday in Spain. Moreover, the requirement to present a supplementary document is not consistent with the principles of the European Health Insurance Card, which aims to simplify procedures and reduce red tape for people when travelling in Europe.

The 'reasoned opinion' is the second stage in the infringement procedure, following the first 'letter of formal notice'. If there is no satisfactory reply within two months, the Commission can refer the matter to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.


Under Article 31 of Regulation (EEC) No 1408/71 of the Council of 14 June 1971 on the application of social security schemes to employed persons and their families moving within the Community, pensioners are entitled to receive necessary healthcare during a temporary stay in another Member State.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) facilitates access to necessary care when the holder falls ill or has an accident in one of the participating countries. It can be used on any temporary stay abroad, be it for holidays, work or studies. Over 170 million Europeans now hold an EHIC, which is valid in 31 European countries (EU + Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein).

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