The digitisation of social security coordination is progressing slowly.

TH – 01/2022

The free movement of workers, enshrined long ago in the Treaties of Rome, made it apparent that the various social security systems, and the resulting different benefit entitlements in the various Member States, would be an obstacle to the rights of mobile workers. As a matter of course, it was clear that accompanying measures to safeguard the free movement of workers would be necessary.

Coordination of social security systems was chosen as the way to ensure the preservation of acquired social rights. "Mobile" EU citizens do not lose their social protection if they temporarily reside in another EU country – be it for private or professional reasons. Acquired pension rights, for example, can be taken along, and benefits from health or accident insurance can also be claimed in the host country.  

Even today, this often results in delays and problems. The exchange of information between social insurance agencies as well as with those entitled to benefits, often still takes place in paper form. However, EU regulations require the use of digital technologies and the provision of user-friendly services. In its "Digital Compass", the European Commission has therefore set out targets for a digital transformation of Europe by 2030. Here, it is envisaged that all important services (including the electronic patient file) will be available online. 80% of all EU citizens will then use a digital identity. At the European level, work has therefore already been underway for some time on various digitisation projects in the area of social security.

EESSI, and via ESSN...

With the European Exchange of Social Security Information (EESSI), the European Commission aims to digitise and facilitate the exchange of data between social security agencies in the EU, the EFTA states (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) and the United Kingdom. EESSI is intended to enable a paperless, faster and more efficient exchange of data between different social security agencies and with national authorities, such as those for issuing an A1 certificate. Specific cases and enquiries from insured persons can be processed more quickly and the periods of entitlement to benefits can be shortened. Social security coordination rules are to be properly applied, with special precautions to ensure that the data exchanged is accurate and complete. As of October 2021, the approximately 3,000 affiliated social security organisations from most participating Member States mark at least a partial success. A full connection is expected by mid-2023.

In contrast, an initiative launched by the European Commission in 2017 to introduce a European Social Security Number (ESSN) has since been discarded. The decisive factor here was that the ESSN was not the most economical solution and that its introduction would have meant too great an intrusion into personal data. the ESSP: it can also be done differently

In March 2021, the European Commission proposed the introduction of a European Social Security Pass (ESSP) by 2023 as an alternative to the ESSN in the Action Plan for the Implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. A different approach is to be adopted here.


While the identification of a person is done separately via the European Digital Identity (EUid), the ESSP is to be stored digitally in a so-called "ID Wallet" – an "electronic wallet". This will then provide real-time data access to all participants. The ESSP could be based on blockchain technology .

To test the feasibility of a digital solution for an ESSP, the European Commission launched a pilot project with the Italian "Instituto Nazionale della Previdenza Sociale" (INPS) early 2021. Alongside other countries, Germany is involved as a consulting expert in the project scheduled to be completed by 2023. The already launched first phase runs until 2022 and deals with the digitisation of the procedure for issuing and checking the PDA1 portable document. In a second phase up to 2023, further elements such as the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will then be tested.

What does the (digital) future look like?

In the future, all communication between social insurance agencies and with EU citizens, as well as any audits by labour inspectors will be completely paperless. It should be possible to submit applications entirely online and to get certificates checked in real time.


To achieve this, there is certainly still a lot of work to be done at all levels, and considerable investment is needed. This is because, until now, the EU Member States have had different social security systems with different administrative structures, digital technologies and administrative procedures. Full digitisation is an ambitious proposal. One has to wait and see if the schedule can be met.

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