Magazine ed*
ed* Nr. 01/2024

Digital Decade and social protection

ed* Nr. 01/2024 – Chapter 3

In addition to climate change, the digital transformation across Europe must also be managed. The Digital Decade programme, which was adopted at the end of 2022, aims to ensure that at least 80 per cent of people in the EU have basic digital skills by 2030. At least 75 per cent of all companies are expected to use AI, big data or clouds. Special focus of the programme is on the digitalisation of public services. 

Digital Rights and Principles

The graphic shows the six digital rights and principles of the EU. These are arranged in a hexagon. First: People in focus: Digital technology should protect people's rights, strengthen democracy and ensure that all players in the digital world act responsibly and safely. The EU stands up for these values worldwide. Second: Solidarity and inclusion: Technology should unite people, not divide them. Everyone should have access to the Internet, digital skills, digital public services and fair working conditions. Third: Freedom of choice: People should have access to a fair online environment and be protected from illegal and harmful content. They should have the necessary expertise to deal with new and evolving technology, such as artificial intelligence. Fourth: Participation: Citizens should be able to participate in the democratic process at all levels and have control over their own data. Fifth: Protection and security: The digital environment should be safe and secure. All users, both young and old, should be empowered and protected. Sixth: Sustainability: Digital devices should support sustainability and ecological transformation. People should be aware of the environmental impact and energy consumption of their appliances.

Significant progress was made in the area of social security during the last legislative period. Since May, all intergovernmental processes of the social insurance agencies have been handled EU-wide via the Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information (EESSI). The Single Digital Gateway to public administration is online. Together with the regulation for a European Digital Identity, which is to be fully implemented by 2026, the course has been set for a European Social Security Pass (ESSPASS). This is intended to enable mobile workers to access important administrative documents throughout the EU and use them in their everyday dealings with the authorities. Mobility and thus the free movement of people in the EU are digitally supported in this way.

The digitalisation of social security strengthens the single market

Digitalisation will certainly continue to be a high priority in the new parliamentary term. This is shown not least by the electoral manifestos of the major European political groups. The Christian Democrats (EPP), Liberals (ALDE), Greens (EGP) and Left (EL) want to advocate for the regulation and protection of workers’ rights in the digital age, promote the digitalisation of the healthcare system, intensify imparting of digital skills (ALDE) or promote research into AI-based methods in health prevention and treatment or labour mobility through the ESSPASS (EPP). Two pilot projects are currently in progress for the latter, which are to lay the foundations for the A1 certificate for posted workers and thereafter the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to be used electronically by April 2025. The German Federal Pension Insurance (Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund) and the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds (GKV-Spitzenverband) are also actively involved here, along with numerous other social insurance organisations from Europe. The DSV believes that the digitalisation of social security must be consistently implemented in order to further develop the coordination of social security systems and thus the free movement of workers in a citizen-friendly manner as well as to strengthen the single market. 

ALDE – Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (Allianz der Liberalen und Demokraten für Europa)

Foster vocational programmes to urgently upskill key professions, in areas such as manufacturing, education, cybersecurity, healthcare, and agriculture with digital know-how, to accelerate the digital transition and increase competitiveness.

Digitalisation will not be able to resolve the conflict over the “883”

Digitalisation will certainly help to defuse the controversy surrounding the reform of the regulation on the coordination of social security systems – the “883” in short. However, it will not fully resolve the substantive disagreement. After consensus could not be reached on the reform in 18 trialogues, further course of action remains to be seen. Inaction is not an option. The DSV has issued repeated warnings: cross-border employees and companies need modern legislation on the coordination of social security. It would be unacceptable if a dispute over a few points – primarily the exceptions to the advance notification of the A1 certificate and the legal structure of unemployment benefits in the case of cross-border job searches – were to result in the loss of essential, settled compromises, such as the handling of cross-border care services. A solution must be sought with high priority.

European Health Data Space (EHDS)

The next major digital project is at the ready. Following just over two years of negotiations, the political compromise on the European Health Data Space from March 2024 will come into force at the end of the year. This will give an enormous boost to the utilisation of health data and improve medical care for citizens – also across borders. The protection of sensitive health data has long been the subject of debate that was important in order to gain confidence in this significant healthcare project. As a result, each individual will be able to decide whether or not to authorise the use of their health data. 

Common European Data Spaces

Presentation of the Common European Data Spaces. All data spaces are based on the four main concepts and objectives: Extensive data pool (varying accessibility), free data flow across sectors and countries, full compliance with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and horizontal framework for data governance and data access. Nine important sectors of the data spaces are illustrated with pictograms in a separate frame: Health, Industry and Manufacturing, Agriculture, Finance, Mobility, Green Deal, Energy, Public Administration and Skills. The following four requirements apply to all sectors: Technical instruments for the consolidation and joint utilisation of data must be created. Technical and semantic standards and interoperability must be adhered to. Sectoral data governance for contracts, licences, access rights and usage rights must be complied with. IT capacities including cloud storage, processing and services must be provided.