EU citizens should be convinced of the added value of Europe. Furthermore, the new Union of 27 should be strengthened, and solutions should be found for major challenges such as creating economic growth and jobs.
In order to achieve these goals, the European Commission has announced a series of plans in its current work programme to strengthen the policy guidelines presented by President Jean-Claude Juncker in his State of the Union address on 13 September 2017. Some of these are of interest for statutory social insurance.
Access to social protection for everyone
Digitalisation has changed our working lives significantly in recent years. This will continue to affect the way people work for years to come. New forms of work also result in new challenges for social security systems.
The European Commission therefore wants to build on the recommendation made to the Member States in the European Pillar of Social Rights that adequate social protection be guaranteed to all workers, regardless of the type or duration of employment relationship, and including self-employed persons working under comparable conditions. It is planning an initiative to ensure access to social security for workers in non-standard employment by modernising social security systems so that they take into consideration new forms of work. This will close the current gaps so that all workers, regardless of employment status, can contribute to and access social protection.
European Pillar of Social Rights
According to the European Commission, the aim of the European Pillar of Social Rights is to give EU citizens new, more effective rights and drive forward the convergence process towards better working and living conditions in the Member States. The Commission wants to monitor social progress by setting up a Social Scoreboard, the results of which will be used in the European Semester to feed into policy guidelines. Dimensions from the Social Scoreboard that are of interest to social insurance include ‘labour force structure’ and ‘healthcare’. Every dimension has a series of indicators which ultimately will be used to measure social progress.
Overcoming the challenges of mobility
A European Labour Authority is to be set up to tackle fraud regarding the posting of workers and to promote fair mobility. A European social security number will initially be used by mobile citizens as proof that they have social insurance against certain defined risks. The Commission plans to publish the legal basis of the social security number in spring next year. The number will also be used by patients in cross-border healthcare and encourage ‘digital exchange’.
Both initiatives are intended to help national authorities to better monitor existing legislation through transnational exchange. In addition, work on revising the coordination regulations will continue.
Digital Single Market
The proposal for a regulation on establishing a single digital gateway is to be further developed. The aims of the gateway are: to improve the availability, quality and accessibility of online information, assistance services and administrative procedures; to reduce red tape; and to modernise administrations. In particular, communication between citizens and (social security) authorities should be simplified in cross-border exchanges. In addition, the proposal for a new European Services e-Card will be finalised.
Digitalisation in healthcare continues to be a key concern of the European Commission. It is pushing forward further measures such as completing the Digital Single Market; simplifying access to public sector data and information; promoting health research; and creating uniform rules and security standards for digital products. On the agenda for next year are a revision of the current directive on the re-use of public sector information; adoption of a directive for digital contracts; and proposals for a regulation on the free movement of non-personal data and cyber security.
Improving vaccination efforts
As already announced by President Juncker in his State of the Union address this year, the Commission intends to present a joint action plan for national vaccination strategies. The aim is to help Member States implement vaccination programmes, reduce vaccination scepticism and improve the availability of vaccines.
The Commission’s implementation plan
Given the upcoming European parliamentary elections in June 2019, the EU Commission has set itself the goal of putting forward all legislative proposals by May 2018 at the latest. This will allow the European Parliament and Council enough time to discuss the legislative proposals and adopt them before the 2019 European elections.