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Digital coordination of social security systems in Europe - guide

06 September 2023
by eub2 -- last modified 06 September 2023

The European Commission proposed on 6 September concrete steps to further digitalise the coordination of social security systems in Europe. In a dedicated Communication, it lays out actions to make access to social security services quicker and simpler across borders by making full use of digital tools, reducing administrative burden for citizens and business.


What are the concrete benefits of digitalisation of social security coordination?

For citizens

Citizens travelling, residing or working in another EU country often need to rely on physical paper or plastic documents to prove their social security rights, such as for healthcare, family benefits and pensions. The Commission's initiative aims to enable the electronic verification of citizens' digitalised social security documents which they can easily store and access, for instance on their smartphone. This digital approach will enable citizens to securely prove their entitlements within the EU countries, making access to social security services across borders quicker and simpler. It will not replace paper-based certificates but offer a more convenient and secure alternative for citizens who wish to do so.

For workers

Workers sent by their employer to another EU country need to provide proof that they are covered by the social security system of the country where they usually work. The Commission's Communication sets out actions which, once implemented, will enable verification of workers'  social security coverage through a digital wallet, for instance on their smartphone, offering an easily accessible digital alternative to printed documents, which can be lost or are prone to falsification. This will also improve the protection of workers and ensure fair labour mobility, by allowing swift and correct verification of workers' rights abroad.

For businesses

The actions outlined in the Commission's Communication aim to reduce burdensome procedures for businesses, including small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), for instance, when sending employees to another EU country for work. Both the request and the delivery of the necessary social security documents will be fully digitalised and become more user-friendly and efficient. This will remove administrative costs and hurdles in the process for businesses that need those documents to carry out business abroad. Furthermore, this encourages cross-border mobility, ultimately stimulating sustainable growth and improving competitiveness.

For public administrations

Public administrations in all EU countries already benefit from electronic exchange of social security information, making these exchanges more efficient, reliable and improving the quality of public service. In its Communication, the Commission calls for a sustained investment and commitment by all countries to boost digitalisation further, including interactions with citizens and businesses. This will further simplify procedures and facilitate the implementation and enforcement of social security rules. For example, a labour inspector would be able to verify immediately whether a worker is covered by the social security system of the sending country by checking the digital reference documents, instead of needing to contact the authorities that issued the document.

What measures are already in place to help digitalise social security systems?

Today's proposal builds on several EU initiatives, which provide a foundation for further digitalisation in the area of social security coordination. These measures include:

  • The Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information (EESSI) system, which has successfully digitalised the exchange of social security information among social security institutions in all participating countries. Countries need to finalise their implementation by the end of 2024.
  • The Single Digital Gateway Regulation requires Member States to ensure that EU citizens and businesses can access and complete key administrative procedures, including the European Health Insurance Card and the overview of decisions on pension claims from various countries, fully online by 12 December 2023.
  • As part of the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, the European Social Security Pass (ESSPASS) pilot project aims to facilitate the interaction between citizens who are moving across the EU, and national authorities. The aim is to improve the way EU citizens can exercise their social security rights when moving, and to explore digital solutions for issuing and verifying people's social security entitlements in other European countries participating in social security coordination.

What are some examples of how ESSPASS can help people who travel, live, or work abroad?


Thanks to EU rules, if you are temporarily abroad and you need necessary healthcare, you will be treated under the same conditions and costs as locals. The doctor will ask you to show your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). National administrations will then take care of the reimbursement. However, it may happen that you forget or lose your card. Some problems may also occur given that the hospital cannot verify the validity of the EHIC (e.g. in case of doubts, further exchanges may be needed between relevant institutions of the Member States).

Consider this fictional example:

  • Before going on holiday to Spain, Marija should request the digital EHIC from her health insurance institution in Slovenia. To do that, she visits the Your Europe website (i.e. the Single Digital Gateway), which redirects her to the website of her institution.
  • The institution issues the digital EHIC.
  • Marija easily stores the EHIC in her digital wallet (i.e. future EU digital identity wallet). She does not have to carry a plastic card anymore.
  • While on holiday, if Marija needs a medical treatment, she will present the EHIC in the hospital to prove that she is covered in Slovenia.
  • Through ESSPASS, the hospital can verify in real-time that the EHIC is valid (i.e. it was issued by a competent institution and has not expired yet). This allows people to have increased confidence in the use of the EHIC and reduce the risk of refusal by the healthcare provider.

Posting of workers

According to EU rules, if you have a company and want to send an employee to work temporarily abroad (i.e. posted worker), you need to request an attestation of the social security legislation applicable to the employee/posted worker (i.e. the portable document A1). In the receiving country, the posted worker may be asked by an inspector to show this attestation. In some cases, the inspector may have doubts on the validity of the document and further exchanges may be needed between authorities.

Consider this fictional example:

  • Yiannis has a company in Greece and wants to send his employee, Georgios, to work temporarily in Italy. Yiannis requests the digital portable document A1 from the competent Greek institution. He visits the Your Europe website, which redirects him to the national website of the institution.
  • The national social security institution verifies the request and, if the conditions are met, issues the digital document which is made available to Yiannis and Georgios.
  • Georgios easily stores the document in his digital wallet (i.e. future EU digital identity wallet).
  • The Greek social security institution in parallel informs the Italian institution about the posting via EESSI.
  • An Italian labour inspector, Nicola, requests Georgios to present the portable document A1.
  • Using ESSPASS, Nicola performs a real-time verification of the document. This allows Nicola to verify the validity of the document, increasing trust.

How is this initiative related to other EU initiatives as part of the digital transition?

The digitalisation in social security coordination initiative aligns with the objectives of Europe's digital decade. As per the Digital Decade Policy Programme, all key public services should be accessible online by 2030.

The initiative builds upon existing systems and tools. For instance, the Your Europe website will serve as a single-entry point for EU citizens and businesses to request digitalised social security documents under the Single Digital Gateway Regulation and to complete all relevant administrative procedures in this respect.

Once implemented, the European Digital Identity framework and the standardised EU digital wallets will be used to identify EU citizens, as well as to store and share their digital social security documents in a digital wallet. These digital wallets may also accommodate other entitlement documents like the European Disability Card, once the digital format has been developed.

How can the EU support Member States in digitalising social security systems?

The EU supports digitalisation of social security coordination by:

  • Setting an EU legal framework to promote the digitalisation of public services, including social security coordination, for instance through the Single Digital Gateway Regulation.
  • Offering technical assistance and support. For example, the Commission helps Member States fully implement the EESSI and accompanies them with technical advice in taking the necessary steps for its continuous improvement. Member States can also benefit from support under the Technical Support Instrument.
  • Making available EU funding, for instance through the Digital Europe Programme, InvestEU, the European Regional Development Fund, and the European Social Fund Plus. Digitalising public services and modernising public administration processes feature in all national Recovery and Resilience Plans, which must allocate at least 20% of their total resources to digital objectives.
  • Exchanging best practice on national tools and solutions. The European Labour Authority (ELA) is well-placed to create a community of practice encouraging regular sharing of experiences between national administrations. The Communication asks ELA to facilitate regular exchanges between national authorities and to analyse the various national digital solutions to better target investment and support those lagging behind.

Communication on digitalisation in social security coordination: facilitating free movement in the Single Market

Digitalisation in social security coordination

Source: European Commission

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