AGS Worldwide Movers

EU Social Security digitalisation – over-ambition or actually within reach?

On 6 September 2023, the European Commission (EC) made a proposal to digitalise the coordination of social security in the European Union (EU).

Posted in: AGS Relocation news, Europe
Published Date: 12 December 2023

EU Social Security Digitalisation Proposal

Their aim is to speed up and simplify access to social security services for individuals and business working across borders. We asked a senior global mobility professional for their thoughts on the proposal.


Digitalising EU Social Security: Streamlining Processes

Further digitalisation of social security within the EU will help reduce administrative burdens connected to social security for people and businesses. The EC’s plans intend to improve exchange of information between national and international administrations, opening information exchanges between social security, tax and immigration bodies.

The additional benefits for the EU and national governments are that the system will make it easier to identify and punish non-compliance. Effective coordination between tax, social security and immigration bodies is the holy grail for the authorities.


Proposed Key Measures

  • Accelerate the implementation of the Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information (EESSI), making it fully operational by the end of 2024.
  • Digitalise access to benefits to make it easier for people to move and work abroad.
  • Engage in the European Social Security Pass (ESSPASS) pilot activities, which explore how to simplify issuing and verifying entitlements to social security across borders.
  • Introduce EU Digital Identity (EUDI) wallets, which will allow EU citizens to carry digital versions of entitlement documents such as A1 certificates and the European Health Insurance Card.

EESSI would enable local administrations to communicate and exchange information instantly through structured pre-defined communication flows. Much of the system is already operational and in use, but only sporadically with little coordination between member states.

Not only is there a need for a majority of member states to implement the digital system, more worryingly there are still several member states who need move away from paper-based communication around social security matters.

The proposition made by the EC is to make more social security coordination procedures fully available online, speeding up access to eligible benefits as described above.  The Commission suggestion is for the member states to build on the Single Digital Gateway; however, their timeline of 12 December 2023 is optimistic for several reasons.


Have we been here before?

Digital Social SecurityThere are obvious parallels between immigration and social security. When the revised EC regulations were introduced in 2010, the EESSI was supposed to be the digital answer to all compliance problems. However, uptake of the EESSI was slow and few countries adopted it.

Apart from the standard EU issues such as divergence of national legislation and practice, a larger issue was that it was not centrally funded. As a result, most authorities couldn’t fund and deliver the scheme until much later than the intended go-live date.

Currently (13 years after the EC first proposed the implementation), it is only used by authorities to exchange information between themselves. As it stands, the implementation doesn’t impact any country specific application or processing approach, which makes the current model one of three things:

  1. Nowhere near fully digital (with/without AI); or
  2. Partly digital using online application processes but manual reviews and dispatches; or
  3. Still mainly paper based

Each option is way off the original intention.


A disappointing precedent

While there are some potentially promising ideas within the commentary made by the EC, it is unlikely it will have any immediate impact to aid corporate or personal compliance.

The December 2023 deadline seems especially ambitious when announced by a body such as the EC, which has no real ability to legislate in the individual member state.

And lest we forget, EU’s Blue Card, advertised as the ‘one stop shop adopted by all’ approach, has largely failed, with only one serious user of the scheme.

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