Brussels, 16 February 2011
Coordination of social security: the Commission takes Belgium to the Court of Justice of the European Union for discrimination
Several non-Belgian European citizens who worked in the Belgian Congo or Ruanda-Urundi and contributed to the Belgian social security system do not enjoy the same social rights as their Belgian colleagues. On the basis of their complaints, the European Commission has acted to enforce compliance with the principle of non-discrimination between European citizens in line with the Treaty and European legislation. Following a supplementary reasoned opinion sent to the Belgian authorities in 2010, the Commission has decided to take Belgium to the Court of Justice.
Some 200 European citizens in receipt of a Belgian pension linked to their former employment in the Belgian Congo or Ruanda-Urundi do not enjoy the same pension rights as their Belgian colleagues who worked in those countries, because of their nationality and the fact that they are not currently resident in the Union.
According to their complaints received in the early 2000s, their Belgian pensions payable by the Office de Sécurité sociale d'Outre-mer (OSSOM) were not index-linked, unlike those of their Belgian colleagues also living outside the European Union. Under Belgian legislation, the benefits payable to recipients living outside the territory of the Union were adjusted to the cost of living only in the case of Belgian nationals and nationals of countries which had signed a reciprocity agreement with Belgium.
For example, a complainant who is a French national now living in the USA receives a monthly widow’s pension of 23.55 euros. In 2000, OSSOM confirmed to her that a Belgian national also living outside the Union would receive a widow ‘s pension of 240.46 euros a month.
Such different treatment is contrary to the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of nationality enshrined in the Treaty (Articles 18 and 45 TFEU). It is also in breach of the Regulation on the coordination of social security systems (Regulation 883/2004), according to which nationals of an EU Member State who are subject to the legislation of another Member State are entitled to the same benefits and subject to the same obligations as nationals of that Member State.
Following the Commission’s reasoned opinion in 2004, Belgium removed the residence condition which prevented the indexing of pensions, but only from 1 August 2004. The change therefore did not remove the discrimination the complainants had suffered throughout the period prior to 1 August 2004, during which they were deprived of part of their pension.
The Commission considers that these European citizens are still the victims of discrimination and is asking the Court of Justice to rule that Belgium has failed to comply with European law.
For more information on the coordination of social security:
Download the guide to the European provisions on social security:
For more information on EU infringement procedures, see MEMO/11/86.