30 years the  voice of the German Social Insurance System

Dear Readers,

in 1993, the umbrella organisations of the German Social Insurance in Germany joined forces to establish a joint European representation in Brussels. 30 years later, we have reason enough to celebrate.

The timing was not coincidental at the time. It was the year when the European single market regulations came into force. This is reason enough as a strong European economic area needs the support of a strong social security legislation. We have brought the expertise with us. This is because the Member States are primarily responsible for health and social policy. There are good reasons for this and they still apply today.

But every rule also has exceptions: The creation of the European single market marks a milestone in European development, especially for health insurance. The Medical Devices Directive is dated 14 June 1993. In 2017, it was replaced by two regulations, thus by directly applicable European law. The Medical Devices regulations aim to increase product safety and thus, patient safety. Unfortunately, their validity is still delayed by several years due to the pandemic, Brexit and implementation problems.

Shortly afterwards, on 1 January 1995, as part of the overall strategy to create a single market for pharmaceutical products, the "centralised" procedure for the authorisation of medicinal products was established and the foundations were laid for today's European Medicines Agency (EMA). Existing Community law has also been further developed by the introduction of "mutual recognition" of national marketing authorisations for medicinal products for human and veterinary use between Member States. Today and in the coming years, we are dealing with what is probably the biggest revision of existing European pharmaceutical legislation.

Since the 1990s, the European Commission has had significantly stronger legislative powers in the area of health policy for medical devices and medicinal products. But already with the creation of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957, clear social policy mandates were anchored at the European level. And there were good reasons for that, too.

In order to make the mobility required within the framework of European freedom of movement possible, the EEC was granted the right to enact the necessary social provisions. For example, on the mutual recognition of agreements on medical treatment abroad and on the retention of already acquired pension rights when changing jobs abroad. It was when the coordination law was drafted. The national social insurance institutions are still involved today in its continuous development and efficient implementation.

Limited European competences with regard to occupational health and safety have also been existing since the 1950s. When we as the German Social Insurance European Representation (DSV) deal today with the implementation of the chemicals strategy and stricter limits for asbestos or lead, we maintain professional discourse with the European institutions in line with the state of the art and cooperate to continually improve occupational safety and health. A cooperation that also works well as we are on site and have short distances. This is how social progress happens.

In the area of pension insurance, the focus is on agreeing on common goals. This is because the actual competence lies with the nation state. An important step was the agreement of common goals on adequate pensions in 2003. Thus, the goal of financially sustainable pension systems and the social policy goal of adequate pensions are being jointly discussed at the European level today. For the future, it is important to further develop these common European goals in the face of the challenges of climate change and digitisation.

The social security systems are facing major changes owing to digitisation, demographic changes and, last but not least, climate change. Challenges can always be mastered better by talking to each other. This is why we came to Brussels 30 years ago. Of course, we are still doing this today – with a committed team of eight staff members and in close exchange with our supporters in Germany as well as with our European partner organisations.

We are looking forward to further work. Let us stay in conversation.

Yours sincerely

Ilka Wölfle