In March, the European Commission published
Report on the Coordination of Social Systems. The focus during the 2020
reporting period was on the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted
cross-border social service provision. The result is not surprising. The report
shows: COVID-19 has severely restricted mobility within the EU.
This can be seen in the portable documents that
let one avail social and health services across borders: form A1, which is used
in cases of posting, form S2, which authorises planned cross-border medical
care and document U2 for the export of unemployment benefits.
The number of planned cross-border
treatments decreased by 26 per cent in 2020 over the previous year. The report
also shows the decline in unplanned medical care such as that related to
foreign travel. However, their extent will only become apparent in the 2021
statistics. Overall, the share of expenditure incurred by German health
insurance for treatment abroad within the EU/EFTA area is small anyway, at less
than 0.1 per cent.
Postings to another Member State were down
25 per cent, but did not fall below 2018 levels, allowing conclusions to be
drawn about the sustained increase in labour mobility within EU/EFTA countries.
For cross-border commuters, labour mobility remained stable, as reflected in
the export of family benefits (+0.1 per cent). Overall, 19 per cent fewer U2
documents have also been issued, which means that significantly fewer people
have set out to seek new job prospects abroad during the crisis.
By contrast, exports of old-age, survivors'
and disability pensions have not changed much. Again, this is not surprising
and is further evidence of the lack of movement during the pandemic.
EU law "coordinates" social systems
European freedom of movement and the
coordination of social security systems are two sides of the same coin. No
citizen would move to another Member State if he or she loses entitlements to
sickness, accident, unemployment or old-age benefits.
The complex law of cross-border
coordination of social benefits is codified in Regulation
(EC) 883/2004 on the coordination of social systems and Regulation
(EC) No. 987/2009 laying down the procedure for implementing them.
Both laws ensure that cross-border situations are treated equally, insurance
periods in different Member States are added together, benefits can be
exported, and there is an equal framework of law that is binding for all.