EU wants to simplify cross-border social security access

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission on Wednesday proposed a series of measures to ease access to social security services across borders by speeding up digitalisation in member states.

The Commission said that in 2021, 16 million people from the EU, the European Economic Area (EEA), the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Switzerland lived or worked outside their own area.

For many EU citizens, gaining access to medical or social services in other member states and getting expenditure on them reimbursed once home can be complicated and require lots of patience and paperwork.

The Commission said it is calling on EU member states to accelerate implementation of the Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information (EESSI) so that it is fully operational across Europe by the end of 2024.

"EESSI digitalises the exchanges among national social security institutions, to move away from paper-based, time-consuming and cumbersome procedures," the commission statement said.

It also wants member states to deliver more social security coordination procedures fully online, to make it easier for people to move and work abroad, and ensure they get fast access to their eligible benefits.

The Commission said it will provide member states technical and financial support and asked the European Parliament and Council to endorse its plan.

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; editing by Philippa Fletcher)