Cross-border cooperation stabilises with the end of the COVID-19 pandemic 

UM – 03/2023

The result was foreseeable. Cross-border cooperation in Europe has strengthened again somewhat in 2021 compared to the previous year. in 2020, transnational activity had plummeted dramatically due to the coronavirus crisis and the first lockdown. The free fall was slowed down considerably in the following year. This is according to the annual statistical report of the European Commission.

Postings still declining

The number of portable documents PD A1 issued can be quantified, which is used by employees, civil servants and self-employed persons working across borders to prove that the social security legislation of the sending country applies. In 2020, just under 3.7 million PD A1s were issued – 900,000 fewer documents than in the previous year. in 2021, there were just under 90,000 fewer again – the total number was 3.6 million PD A1s.

Germany is the country to which most classic postings lasting up to 24 months are made. They account for just under one fifth of all postings EU-wide. About 125,000 postings come from Poland alone. Germany is also the country that issues the most PD A1s. The destination countries of the postings are mainly Austria and France, Switzerland and the Netherlands – directly bordering Member States.

Employment increases in several Member States

The PD A1 is also issued for cases where the mobile workers work in two or more Member States. Poland is the frontrunner here. Around 445,000 PD A1s have been issued by the relevant Polish authorities in 2021. That is eleven per cent more than in the previous year. The high numbers in Poland are due, among other things, to the large share of Polish workforce in road freight transport.

Reluctance to provide healthcare

Cross-border healthcare was also hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. This applies to unplanned medical treatment during stays abroad or holidays. Even though most travel restrictions were lifted in 2021, significant restraint continued to be felt. While 2.4 million reimbursement claims were submitted in 2019, amounting to around 1.2 billion euros, the cost reimbursement volume in the two following years amounted to 700 million euros.

A similar picture emerges for the treatments planned abroad. The cross-border events here refer to only a few countries (in seven out of ten cases neighbours), primarily France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland. The entitlement to planned treatment is documented by the portable document PD S2. After a severe decline in 2019 to 2020 due to the pandemic, 2021 shows a slight recovery of 0.3 per cent in PD S2s issued. The number of PDs received increased by 14.7 per cent. This indicates shifting effects.

Pension figures

During the reporting period, around six million pensions totalling € 24.8 billion were paid to persons residing in another EU/EFTA country or in the United Kingdom. More than half of the payments were made by Switzerland (5.9 billion euros to 886,000 pensioners), Germany (5.4 billion euros to 1.3 million pensioners) and France (3.2 billion euros to one million pensioners).

These figures are also not surprising in view of differences in wealth in the territorial scope of the coordination right. However, the very different pension systems of the Member States must also be taken into account here.