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Brussels, April 6 2011

Free movement of workers: Commission requests Belgium to pay pensions directly to bank accounts where beneficiaries reside

The European Commission has requested Belgium to end complex procedures for paying pensions to beneficiaries residing in another Member State. By refusing to pay pensions directly to a bank account and using cross border payments, Belgian pensions beneficiaries in 19 Member States suffer delayed access to their pension, as well as disproportionate costs and other inconveniences. This contravenes the EU right to move freely to and receive their pension in another Member State. The request takes the form of a 'reasoned opinion' under EU infringement procedures. Belgium has two months to inform Commission of measures it has taken to bring its legislation into line with EU law. Otherwise the Commission may decide to refer Belgium to the EU's Court of Justice.

To export pensions to another Member State, the EU Regulation on social security coordination (regulation 883/2004) ensures that the transfer of cash benefits payable under the legislation of one or more Member States cannot be reduced in any way just because the recipient lives in another Member State.

Belgian authorities are refusing to pay Belgian old age pensions to pensioners residing in 19 EU Member States via a bank account transfer (payments to bank account in BE, DE, FR, LU, NL, IT, PT and ES are being made). Instead of transferring pensions by bank account and using EU provisions on cross-border payments, as requested by the beneficiaries, payments are being made by cheque issued through a financial institution and mailed to the beneficiary. The clearing of cheques takes additional days beyond the date on which the pension would be payable in Belgium. Furthermore, cheques are subject to a high fee, irrespective of the amount. The clearing of a cheque also requires access to a bank, which is not always easy for pensioners with mobility problems or living in rural areas.

This national practice means beneficiaries of Belgian pensions residing in the 19 Member States are at a disadvantage compared to those residing in Belgium who receive their pension directly to their bank account. Consequently, the method chosen by the Belgian institution for providing the pension to residents of other EU Member States is considered an obstacle to the free movement of workers and discriminates, in particular, migrant workers indirectly.

Further information

EU Social Security Coordination

For more information on the infringement procedures:

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social affairs and inclusion :

For more information on EU infringement procedures, see MEMO/11/220

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