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Condemned to compromise

‘No agreement fully satisfies the wishes of national governments. But it is up to Europe to find an acceptable compromise’ (Marianne Thyssen).

UM – 09/2019

‘The way forward is to listen to everyone, to understand the national problems, and to make evidence-based proposals.’ On 3 September, Commissioner Marianne Thyssen made a strong appeal to the Member States in the Employment and Social Affairs Committee (EMPL). During an exchange of views, the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility made it clear that some countries had hidden behind technicalities. There has to be progress, and it looks as though there will be. The Committee will reopen the dossier amending Regulations (EC) No 883/2004 and (EC) No 987/2009 on the coordination of social security systems and continue negotiations under rapporteur Gabriele Bischoff (S&D, Germany).

The Commission’s proposal to amend the coordination Regulations provides for a package of measures:

Unemployment benefits

The period for exporting unemployment benefits is to be extended from at least three months to at least six months. Unemployment benefits for frontier/cross-border workers are to be paid in the Member State of last employment if the person has worked there for 12 months. The trialogue reduced the period to six months.

Long-term care benefits

The proposal introduces a separate chapter with coordination rules for long-term care which are based on the rules for sickness benefits. In the trialogue, long-term care was included under Title III, Chapter 1, following advice from the German health insurance system.

Access to social benefits for economically inactive persons

The proposal incorporates recent case law from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on the conditions for accessing social benefits by economically inactive mobile workers. Member States may make access for inactive mobile citizens to both social assistance and social security benefits conditional upon their legal residence in the country.

Social security for posted workers

The new rules will strengthen the administrative tools for coordinating the social protection of posted workers. National authorities shall have adequate means to check the social security status of these persons and to put a stop to unfair practices or abuse. The trialogue agreed that A1 certificates will no longer be required for business trips.

Family benefits

The proposal updates the rules on parental benefits, which parents receive as compensation for loss of income during the time they raise a child. The proposal does not change the existing arrangements for exporting child benefits.

What's next?

Thyssen openly admitted that the compromises already on the table are better than its own initial proposal. She was therefore confident that a solution could be found before November to close the dossier. In theory, there are now three options for continuing negotiations. Either the Commission’s proposal will be renegotiated anew or on the basis of the November 2018 report by former rapporteur Guillaume Balas. The third possibility could be to draw on the outcome of the failed trialogue of 19 March. The latter is said to be the most likely option. The Committee will make an official statement in the near future. 

Far from everyone is convinced

Since the chapters on long-term care and family benefits had already been agreed, all indications suggest that the preparatory work already done will be taken into account. It is far less likely that Thyssen’s ambitious ideas will be realised. The proposal drawn up in the trialogue did not find the necessary qualified majority at the end of March because some countries had reservations. Overcoming these reservations will require political finesse.