Towards electronic data exchange within the EU: removing administrative obstacles

Towards electronic data exchange within the EU: removing administrative obstacles

The increasingly developed electronic data exchange within the European Union could remove the administrative hurdles to the exercise of the European freedoms of movement and cross-border mobility, such as the life certificates, described in a previous blog, and the so-called certificate of coverage. This development is particularly welcome from a cross-border perspective.

According to the European regulation on the coordination of social security systems, the Member States are obliged to make increasing use of new technologies for the exchange of social security information. Both regulations are based on the principle of good administration through improved cooperation between the social security bodies of the Member States of the European Union. This improved cooperation includes the information that is provided to citizens, troubleshooting, combating fraud, avoiding errors and a fast cross-border payment of benefits. For the purposes of the application of those regulations, the exchange of information is based on the principles of, among other things, efficiency, fast delivery and accessibility, including e-accessibility, in particular for the elderly. This information exchange between the bodies or the liaison bodies will take place electronically, in particular when determining the rights and obligations of foreign beneficiaries. 

Currently, no EU-wide data exchange system is in place yet, and the exchange of social security information between the bodies in the EU has taken place on paper until now. One of the developments ensuing from the aforesaid objectives and principles of the European regulations is the Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information (EESSI). Under the EESSI-system, all communication between the national bodies on cross-border social security takes place via 'structured electronic documents', to make the exchange easier and more efficient. From 1 May 2010 until the time of entry into force of EESSI, expected in mid 2019, a transition period will apply, in which paper versions of these electronic forms may still be exchanged. The above-mentioned documents will be forwarded by EESSI to the social security body in the other EU member state, while a database will allow these bodies to look up the relevant bodies in the other EU member states. For the time being, the exchange of paper documents, such as an A1-declaration, is catalysed by case-law of the European Court of Justice. 

From a cross-border perspective, a closer and more efficient cooperation between social security bodies in the EU is of vital importance, as it allows foreign benefit recipients, among others, to exercise their rights as soon as possible and under the most favourable conditions. In order to achieve this, the use of electronic communications is the appropriate way, ensuring rapid and reliable data exchange between the bodies of the Member States. Ideally, the electronic data from the authorities of the Member States could be updated in real time, which would facilitate the exchange between the bodies of the Member States.

For foreign benefit recipients, the EESSI-system will lead to a swifter administration of benefit applications and a faster calculation and payment of benefits as the relevant information will be exchanged automatically and electronically between social security bodies across the various EU Member States. For social security bodies, on the other hand, the EESSI will lead to standardized information flows, better multilingual communications and optimized data verification and collection. In this way, it will ease the administrative burden for both foreign benefit recipients and social security bodies. As the paper forms become superfluous, they will remove an administrative obstacle to the exercise of the European freedoms of movement.

Sander Kramer has been a PhD researcher at the Institute for trans-national and cross-border cooperation and Euregional Mobility / ITEM since June 2016. Read more about his research on cross-border pension communication.