Main problem areas
Cases handled by assistance services such as YEA and SOLVIT, as well as those handled through the formal infringement proceedings, demonstrate that problems still exist when it comes to making the Internal Market a reality.
In October 2011, the Commission published a list of 20 main concerns relating to the single market, based on the practical experiences of citizens and businesses when trying to make use of their single market rights. This report was based on an analysis of queries and complaints handled by the Commission (through CHAP and formal infringement proceedings) and assistance services such as SOLVIT, Your Europe Advice, the European Consumer Centres, the European Employment Service and the Enterprise Europe Network.
The 20 main concerns report indicated that the single market still suffers from three inter-related gaps:
- an information gap – people often do not sufficiently know or understand their rights and do not know where to look for information or help;
- an implementation gap – EU rules are not correctly transposed or applied in practice;
- a legislative gap – in some areas EU law does not live up to the expectations of citizens.
This section presents an overview of the main problem areas detected through YEA and SOLVIT. The overview confirms the persistence of the three gaps mentioned above, and points at concerns that need to be addressed:
Citizens find it difficult to locate reliable information on social security issues. Furthermore, there seems to be a lack of communication and coordination between local authorities. Especially problematic areas are:
- pension rights;
- health insurance;
- parental benefits;
- unemployment benefits.
Residence rights and entry
Misunderstanding or misapplication of EU law can be observed in the following areas:
- excessive formalities;
- incompatibility of residence rules with family reunification rules;
- rights of third country family members.
The most important issues concern the registration of cars and consecutive payment of taxes:
- private cars, company cars, cars of cross-border workers and students;
- excessive registration tax when relocating;
- registration of right wheel vehicles;
- road taxes.
Recognition of professional qualifications
The biggest number of problems can be found in the following areas:
- unjustified refusal to recognise qualifications;
- compensatory measures;
- disregard of deadlines;
- lack of information.
As some of the problems are more important in some countries than in others, the Commission asked the experts of the Your Europe Advice (YEA) service in 2012 to give an overview of the main problems reported by citizens to YEA with regard to the different Member States.
Based on their feedback and on the cases handled by SOLVIT and by the Commission, the most important problem areas in the various countries are listed below.
Please not that where problems reported in this section are likely to result from an infringement of EU law, the Commission is undertaking action or is examining the situation.
Students and cross border workers complain about unclear rules on car registration and about enforcement practices not in line with EU law.
EU citizens complain about excessive administrative formalities for obtaining a residence permit and about being asked to leave the country for not having sufficient resources.
Problems are reported regarding enforcement practices concerning motor vehicles registered in neighbouring countries.
Goods and Services
Frontier workers complain that they cannot conclude a contract with a telecom provider when their residence is not in Belgium.
Many non-residents complained about discriminatory tax treatment.
Third country citizens who are permanent residents of Bulgaria and family members of Bulgarian citizens complain about misleading advice received from embassies regarding their EU right to travel without a visa.
EU Citizens complain about the lack of coordination between national authorities concerning pension rights and about their employment record from abroad not being taken into account for the calculation of their pension.
Problems were reported about serious delays in confirming their insurance periods and about being left without the right to obtain insurance cover in Bulgaria.
Third country nationals who are family members of EU citizens report serious delays in obtaining residence cards.
EU citizens moving permanently to Cyprus report excessive customs duty and registration taxes on their cars brought from other EU Member States.
Cross-border workers reported problems in obtaining child benefits for children not living in the Czech Republic.
Danish citizens complain about excessive documentation requirements regarding family reunification with third country family members.
Many complain about extremely high fees for registration of their foreign car and numerous students complain about the obligation to register their car while they are studying in Denmark.
Migrant workers living apart from their families complain about the lack of information on social security rights.
Both Finnish and other EU citizens complain about the lack of reliable information on social security (as regards child benefits, pensions, affiliation to social security and authorised treatment). Another important issue is the unjustified denial of affiliation to social security or denial of unemployment benefits.
Finnish jobseekers report difficulties in obtaining unemployment benefits when seeking employment in another EU country due to a clear lack of communication between the social security institutions.
The main obstacle reported is the local authorities’ lack of knowledge of family rights, delays and difficulties for EU citizens to obtain residence permits and visas, as well as excessive formalities.
EU citizens report that even though their right of residence is not contested, residence cards are not delivered nor can they obtain certificates of registration, which makes access to services and employment very difficult or even impossible.
Citizens repeatedly encounter problems with regard to EU forms and mechanisms (in particular in the field of unemployment), leading to refusal of social security cover, excessive administrative formalities, and problems with reimbursement after healthcare in another country.
Many EU citizens complain about discriminatory treatment regarding direct and indirect taxation.
Many complaints were received about German embassies and consulates asking excessive documentation from third country family members of EU citizens and charging fees for visa where none were due
Problems were reported concerning German health insurance system that is still using the former "E-forms" (E109) instead of the unified Portable documents (S1, S2, P1). Complaints also concern wrongly issued certificates, non-payment of family allowances for family members abroad or the lack of reimbursement of health insurance costs
Greek civil engineers who work in another EU country complain about having to continue paying social security contributions in Greece and lack of cooperation of Greek authorities to solve the problem.
Lack of recognition of professional qualifications obtained in other Member States is frequently reported as a problem.
Third country family members of Hungarian citizens complain about being confronted with excessive documentation requirements and delays.
Migrant workers complain about Hungarian pension payments being delayed after the Hungarian pension age is reached until they also reach the pensionable age in their country of origin and about delays in pension payment procedures in general.
Many complaints were received about the Hungarian practice to allow citizens who imported cars from other EU Member States to drive their private cars with foreign number plates for only one day in Hungary, subject to fines or confiscation of the car. Meanwhile this problem has been solved as the use of a car with foreign number plates is now allowed for a period of 30 days before registration in Hungary.
Problems were reported about Irish Embassies requiring excessive documentation for granting visas to non-EU family members to join the EU family members in Ireland.
Following recent case law of the European Court of Justice, problems are still reported regarding the right of residence of families with non-EU parents and children with Irish nationality.
Social Security and taxes
Cross-border workers between Northern Ireland and the Republic report discriminatory treatment with regard to the taxation of child benefits.
Complaints were received from EU citizens about the refusal of recognition of their durable partnerships with non-EU nationals for family reunification reasons.
Problems were reported about work in other EU countries not being taken into account for pension calculations and about social security institutions not recognising professional experience and work seniority.
Italian students complained about professional qualifications obtained in Spain not being recognised.
The main problems reported were related to the application of EU law on rights of residence in different EU Member States in relation to the rights of non-EU family members of Latvian citizens.
There were also a significant number of questions about receiving family benefits in accordance with the EU rules.
Entry and Residence
The most recurrent and important problem is the delay in delivering documents. There is not enough information on appeal procedures following a visa denial.
Citizens have complained about a lot of additional documents/information (hotel reservations, tickets, proof of income etc.) that Lithuanian Embassies in other countries required when applying for a Schengen visa.
Many complain about misleading information from the authorities regarding their right to transfer certain social benefits to another EU country and denial of rights.
A frequently reported issue concerns the refusal of tax advantages to frontier workers in the framework of children allowances.
Goods and Services
EU citizens complain about discriminatory fares for public transport and for water and electricity for which residents who possess a Maltese ID card pay lower prices.
Many complain about a lack of clarity of rules and required documentation for residing in the Netherlands as an EU citizen or as a family member of an EU citizen.
Rules on social security and on reimbursement of health care costs are also reported as very difficult to understand, which results in problems with payments and reimbursements.
Many problems are reported with right hand drive vehicles imported from the UK to Poland where the Polish institutions refuse re-registration.
The key problem areas for Polish citizens abroad were issues like the transfer of unemployment benefits and family benefits (mainly child benefits) for children living in Poland.
There are many concerns regarding the export of unemployment benefits, pension rights and healthcare coverage.
The major recurring problem is the lack of cross-border communication between national authorities. This results in long delays regarding payment of benefits.
Romanian citizens complain about the arbitrary distinction authorities make between "programmed" care requiring authorization and "necessary" care without prior authorisation. Moreover, reimbursement of necessary medical treatment in another Member State takes a long time.
Other problems reported concern portable forms, more specifically their excessive delay or denial. Romanian citizens have difficulties obtaining the S1 form when moving to another Member State. The European Health Insurance Card issued in other EU countries is often not accepted in Romania.
Some citizens did not obtain full payment of pensions which were acquired in Hungary.
Recognition of professional qualifications
Citizens report that the recognition of qualifications obtained in Romania, for instance for nurses, is often problematic because the authorities fail to deliver a "certificate of conformity" or a "certificate of acquired rights".
Slovak citizens report a lack of clarity about the rules on family benefits from other EU countries where they are or have been working abroad.
Citizens who have already acquired the right of permanent residence in Slovenia (after five years of legal residence) lose their entitlement and are required to apply for a temporary residence permit again if they have lived unregistered for more than six months after the five years period.
Problems are reported with obtaining a personal tax ID number without which it is impossible to register for work or undertake any economic activity in Spain.
Unemployed people or workers with temporary contracts report that they cannot get the European Health Insurance Card but only a provisional replacement certificate, which results in problems with reimbursement of medical costs.
Vehicles and Goods
Complaints are received about lack of recognition of spare parts for motor vehicles homologated in other EU Member States and then imported into Spain.
Many complaints concern discriminatory treatment regarding direct and indirect taxation.
EU citizens report as a problem the refusal of a "personal number" if they cannot show the S1 form. No other portable form is accepted nor is proof of private insurance. Without a personal number, a citizen cannot undertake important activities like opening a bank account, renting property, attending Swedish courses, filing with the unemployment agency, entering an agreement with an employer, subscribing to a fixed telephone or mobile phone or television.
A personal identity number is also the key to basic health care in Sweden. Students, retired persons (EU citizens and even Swedes having lived abroad) and their family members report that health insurance is refused.
Third country nationals with residence cards of other Member States complain that they are compelled to apply for a UK visa.
EU citizens report very long delays with residence card applications.
Romanian and Bulgarian citizens report that their applications for registration certificates take on average 9 to 10 months to be resolved. All relevant documentation including passports is retained for the duration of this process, which makes it impossible for them to travel or undertake any official transactions (such as registering for courses, opening a bank account).
Inactive EU citizens report that the right to reside is refused to them unless then can submit proof of private medical insurance. Other types of insurance are not accepted.
Migrant workers report delays in receiving the so-called "Certificate of application" from the authorities. Without this document, third country citizens are not able to persuade their employer that they have the right to work. As a result, it is not uncommon for them to be suspended from work for a few weeks.