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Electronic exchanging of social security data

Is RINA chaos looming? This is the social-security-related question currently being asked in Europe.

UM – 01/2021

Centralised development and maintenance of the RINA (Reference Implementation for a National Application) software by the European Commission (EC) should be completed by the middle of the year. However, it is important that this major European project facilitates electronic communications between the social insurance funds in Europe.


Cross-border electronic exchanging of social security data in Europe should enable national institutions to process claims from migratory citizens for social benefits and the reimbursement of healthcare costs more quickly and efficiently. This is why an IT system is currently being introduced with EESSI to facilitate quick and secure exchanging of information by the social security institutions.

EESSI and RINA must be thought of together

In many cases, RINA will be used to support the implementation process from a central location and to get EESSI “up and running". With RINA, the relevant social security authorities in the countries within the European Economic Area as well as the UK and Switzerland have been given a tool by the EC to gradually establish electronic communications with each other.

Even very small authorities still need RINA

Whereas EESSI describes the framework, procedures and communications sequences, RINA is the "electronic writing tool". More precisely: it is one of many possible writing tools. With RINA, the Commission has made an electronic offer for practical implementation of the online application on a transitional basis. Member states will have to develop and finance their own software solutions on a permanent basis. The larger social security authorities have already done this. This is because RINA was designed for handling a small number of cases and it is only suitable to a limited extent for large institutions with a high communication densities. Institutions with a low number of cases did not consider it worth investing in their own software solutions. They bet on RINA.

The first exchange of a structured electronic message occurred in January 2019. This was preceded by years of preparatory work. The EC’s overly-ambitious timetable for EESSI inevitably led to delays due to a large number of unresolved procedural issues. All in all, they have still come a long way: social security institutions are working on getting digital processes up and running reliably throughout Europe. The end is now in sight for the introduction of EESSI in many countries.

Successful conclusion at risk

However, the EC now wishes to hand over the further development and maintenance of RINA in the midst of the ongoing development and implementation of EESSI. Individual member states or RINA users will now have to take over the financing and development themselves in the short term and in addition to the introduction of EESSI. This is highly problematic because RINA users have not yet been able to set up structures to jointly continue electronic communications via RINA by themselves and without the Commission. If the EC does end its own work on RINA by mid-2021 as intended, then EESSI is in danger of running into a wall. Many social security institutions would then simply lose the "writing tool" needed to participate in EESSI. This has also been made clear to the EC by the Platform of European Social Insurance Institutions in Europe (ESIP statement of 26/11/2020).

Unpredictable consequences

The EC's position is hardly comprehensible. The fact is that the process of setting up EESSI will still need more time; at least until the end of 2021 for Germany. As things are, no one can currently say when the last relevant body in the last of the 32 participating countries will be able to put the final EESSI communications channel into operation. With that said, it is incomprehensible that the EC still wants to stick to the July 2021 deadline and transfer the operating, maintaining and financing of RINA. Especially as it has failed to analyse the anticipated specific consequences for the communicating and interacting in the entire cross-national exchanging of European social security data.

The Commission is showing little flexibility

The time factor is a sensitive point in the transition, which was acknowledged also by the EC in mid-December. However, at best, a postponement of the transition date, originally scheduled for the end of July, should be possible by a few months. This won't do especially as there is no viable concept for the transition. The EC will have to provide additional information.