Commission proposes extension of social security Regulation to third-country nationals

In November 1997, the European Commission adopted a proposal to extend to third-country nationals Council Regulation 1408/71 on the application of social security schemes to employed people and families moving within the European Union. The aim is to support the functioning of the single market and contribute to the fight against racism and xenophobia.

The European Commission adopted in November 1997 a proposal for a Council Regulation aimed at extending to third-country nationals the provisions of Council Regulation 1408/71 on the application of social security schemes to employed people and their families moving in the European Union. The vast majority of the 13 million third-country (ie, non-EU) nationals currently legally resident and working in the EU have so far been excluded from the coordination mechanisms introduced by Regulation 1408/71.

Based on Articles 51 and 235 of the Treaty of Rome, Regulation 1408/71, which was adopted by the Council in June 1971, is designed to ensure that people moving within the Community do not lose their social security rights, such as coverage for healthcare, and their social security contributions' record. It also seeks to make certain that they do not become doubly liable for contributions.

Social security coordination for third-country nationals is currently based on a confusing array of bilateral and multilateral agreements. In order to reduce the high administrative costs incurred as a result of the implementation of these agreements and to establish the principles of non-discrimination and equality of treatment, the Commission now proposes to extend Regulation 1408/71 to third-country nationals.

Speaking in Brussels, Padraig Flynn, the commissioner with responsibility for social affairs, explained that: " the extension of Regulation 1408/71 to third-country nationals is part of the Commission's long-standing policy to improve the legal status of third-country nationals residing in the EU. It is no longer justifiable that a worker who contributes to and is covered by national social security arrangements should be completely excluded from the protection offered by the EU coordination system simply because he or she is not an EU national."

The proposal is seen to represent a further step towards the proper functioning of the single market, as well as an important contribution to the fight against racism and xenophobia. The latter is particularly significant in the framework of the European Year against Racism (1997).

Third-country nationals do not currently enjoy the right of free movement in the EU and these proposals do not imply that such a right will be granted. However, the proposal is designed to extend their rights when they have obtained the right to work and reside in another Member State and to preserve the rights previously accumulated.

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