Brussels, 25 April 2013
Old-age benefits: Commission refers Slovakia to Court for refusing to pay an old-age benefit to pensioners abroad
The European Commission has referred Slovakia to the EU's Court of Justice for refusing to pay an old-age benefit, a so called Christmas allowance, to pensioners living in other EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland in breach of its obligations under EU law on social security coordination.
Under EU law, entitlement to an old-age benefit cannot be conditional on a pensioner living in another Member State where he or she claims the benefit. This rule enables pensioners to move to another Member State when they retire whilst retaining their pension.
Slovak legislation provides that all persons who receive a statutory pension, or pensions below 60 % of average wages in Slovakia, are entitled to a Christmas allowance ('vianočný príspevok'). However, this benefit is not provided to pensioners living outside Slovakia. As a consequence, pensioners receiving Slovak statutory pensions who live in another Member State are at a disadvantage compared to pensioners who have not left Slovakia.
As the purpose of the Christmas bonus is to compensate for increased living costs incurred by pensioners, the allowance qualifies as an old-age benefit under EU social security coordination rules as interpreted by the EU's Court of Justice.
The Commission contacted the Slovak authorities after it received complaints from Slovak nationals living abroad. In November 2012, the Commission requested Slovakia to end the discrimination against pensioners living abroad (see MEMO/12/876), but the Slovak authorities have not notified the Commission of any measures taken to end the discrimination. On the contrary, the Slovak authorities confirmed in their official reply to the Commission that the Christmas supplement would not be paid to Slovak pensioners living in another Member State and that they would continue to dispute the classification of this benefit under EU law.
EU Social Security Coordination:
For more information on infringement procedures:
On the April infringement package decisions, see MEMO/13/375
On the general infringement procedure, see MEMO/12/12
László Andor's website: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/andor/index_en.htm
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