The European Commission is in favour of a single European Social Security Number (ESSN). It believes that this could facilitate the mobility of workers within the EU and it is necessary for moving into the digital world.
However, when it comes to issues of design and implementation, not everything has yet been resolved in Brussels. As such, the European Commission asked the general public about various options in a public consultation that was open until the start of January. According to the Commission, it is conceivable to create a European Social Security Number similar to the IBAN code for bank transfers. But it is also putting other options up for discussion (see article from Dec 2017).
Opinion of the German Social Insurance
According to the umbrella associations of Germany’s social insurance system, an ESSN could have advantages if it is provided in addition to existing national insurance numbers. It would have the potential to simplify and increase the security of the digitisation of administrative processes and communication between the relevant Member State authorities.
However, introducing a single European number in addition to the national insurance numbers is contingent on it being legal to access stored data. This includes social data from the various branches of social security (in Germany this covers pension, health, long-term care and accident insurance, unemployment administration, basic social provision offices) and possibly tax administration data. Accessing stored data from several or all German social security providers via an insurance number is not possible under the current legal situation. Therefore, a solution for this would have to be found first.
A single European Social Security Number could also assist with identifying and registering individuals. Different ways of spelling names and personal data that is not up-to-date make it difficult to identify people in administrative databases at national and Member State level. For example, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) already documents personal data of the cardholder collected by the issuing authority, which can help certain branches of social insurance with identification. However, the ESSN as a common cross-system number in all Member States could reduce difficulties on a wider scale, if properly designed. This would also help in the future with electronic data exchange as part of EESSI.
A European insurance number would also have the benefit of making it easier to classify insured persons when it comes to determining insurance periods from different Member States in order to assess entitlements to social security benefits. It would also make it more difficult to fraudulently obtain benefits. Insurance providers could more easily identify the rights of workers from other Member States.
However, the German Social Insurance believes that the success of the ESSN depends on its design. It is particularly important to ensure that a person can be clearly identified. Simply providing and presenting a European Social Security Number is not enough.
Who should be included?
The German Social Insurance is of the opinion that not only EU citizens should be included but also third-country nationals within the EU. For example, a Japanese person who wants to work in France or has their main residence in Germany and who applies to join a statutory health insurance fund. As such, it is not nationality that should be the deciding factor when allocating an ESSN but rather if a person is residing in the EU for more than just a temporary period of time.
The European Commission’s public consultation gave all interested parties an opportunity to comment on the various options. This means that national particularities and framework conditions can be compared with one another. The comments and responses received by Brussels will now be evaluated and used as part of the preparation for a European initiative to be announced on 7 March 2018.