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    Reporting period: 1/2017 - 12/2017

    SOLVIT

    About

    SOLVIT is a service provided by the national administrations. There is a SOLVIT centre in each EU country and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. They work together via an online database.

    SOLVIT helps people who encounter difficulties in another country when public authorities do not apply EU legislation correctly.

    It is a faster, informal alternative to filing a court case, submitting a formal complaint to the Commission or putting forward a petition.

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    Performance

    [1]Home centre sending an initial reply within the 7-day target in:≥ 75% of cases   55-75% of cases< 55% of cases
    [2]Home centre submitting case to lead centre within 30-day target in:≥ 75% of cases 55-75% of cases < 55% of cases
    [3]Cases handled by lead centre within 10-week target in:≥ 75% of cases  55-75% of cases< 55% of cases
    [4]Resolution rate:≥ 90%70-90%< 70%
    *Countries with under 10 cases   

    2. overall
    (all 4 indicators combined)

    A country’s overall performance  is calculated by assigning the following values to each of its 4 indicators:
    RED = -1, YELLOW = 0 and GREEN = +1.

    Definitive colours are assigned based on the sum of these scores:

    2 or higher-1, 0 or 1 -2 or lower

    * countries with less than 10 cases

    No assessment has been made for Iceland and Liechtenstein as they had no cases.

    How does SOLVIT work?

    People who encounter a problem exercising their rights apply to their Home centre (usually in their home country).

    The Home centre prepares the case and sends it to the SOLVIT centre in the country where the problem occurred (the Lead centre), which deals with the authority in question.

    The indicator measures the time taken to establish initial contact with the applicant. The target deadline is 7 days maximum.

    Comments

    It is important to establish an initial contact with applicants promptly. In that way SOLVIT's role can be explained to them and any possible issues can be checked. Overall there has been an improvement in this area in recent years and in 2017. However, additional efforts are still required from France and Greece (Iceland had only one case).  

    The indicator measures the time taken to prepare cases for transfer to the Lead centre. The target deadline is 30 days maximum. On average SOLVIT centres took 13 days to prepare a case in 2017 compared to 12 days in 2016.

    Comments

    Preparation time is satisfactory.

    The indicator measures the time taken by the Lead centre to handle a case. The target deadline is 10 weeks maximum. Cases which relate to a structural problem (see separate chapter) are excluded from the calculation as they have an atypical case handling.

    Comments

    Average number of days taken: 62 (59 previously). Greece, Austria and the Czech Republic should take steps to deal with cases more quickly.

    Over 10 weeks:  27% of cases (25% previously).

    Over 20 weeks (twice the target time): 9% of cases (9% previously).

    Although 63% of the cases which took longer than 20 weeks were ultimately solved (68% in 2016), this figure is not acceptable - SOLVIT's key aims include providing help promptly.

    Factors affecting resolution speed:

    • cooperation with national administrations
    • caseload
    • case complexity
    • number and continuity of staff (many centres are understaffed, have other tasks in addition to SOLVIT-related work or members rotate frequently).

    The indicator measures the percentage of cases solved. The aim is to solve all cases submitted. Cases which relate to a structural problem (see below) are excluded from the calculation (see separate chapter).  

    Comments:

    In 2017, the resolution rate was 87% (89% in 2016).

    Countries below 70%: Ireland, Sweden and the Netherlands.

    In these countries, the low resolution rate can be explained by their taking up a number of cases to evidence administrative practice in breach of EU law that SOLVIT did not manage to change this year.

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    Achievements

    • In 2017 SOLVIT helped more than 4100 people by resolving their problem, clarifying the issue(s) or signposting them towards another service.
    • 2nd May 2017 Adoption of the Action plan on the Reinforcement of SOLVIT
    • SOLVIT received about the same number of cases than last year from the network partners (369 in 2017 compared to 376 in 2016), mostly from Your Europe advice, 289 cases in 2017) and Europe Direct Contact Centre (80 cases in 2017)
    • SOLVIT highlighted the problem of delays in the payment of family benefits in Germany and contributed to the reduction of waiting time for citizens.

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    Facts and figures

    The caseload in 2017 consolidated (2 079 cases).

    • 46% (956) of all cases were submitted online, 14% (289) were transferred by YEA and 4% (80) were transferred by EDCC. The rest were submitted via other means (e-mail, phone, post, in person).

    In 2017 SOLVIT also received an additional 2 100 complaints that were not within its remit (the figure for 2016 was 2 600). The proportion of these cases out of the scope of SOLVIT decreased to 50% in 2017 compared to 52% in 2016 and 53% in 2015. In these cases, SOLVIT helped complainants by explaining their EU rights in more detail or by finding another means of redress.

    Net recipients of cases: Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, Sweden, Cyprus, Portugal, Austria, Malta, Spain, Romania, Netherlands, Liechtenstein, Norway and Austria

    Net submitters of cases: Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Spain, Croatia, Luxemburg Estonia, Slovenia, Norway, Denmark, Finland

    Biggest submitters: Hungary, UK, Poland, Bulgaria, Germany, Spain, Italy and France

    Comments

    The sharp decrease in the number of cases submitted by SOLVIT HU is due to the fact that a problem with delays on decisions of family benefits in Germany was, after it had been highlighted by SOLVIT in the past years, significantly reduced.

    Biggest receivers: Germany, France, UK, Italy,  Ireland and Spain

    The percentage of social security-related cases remained high but dropped to 54% in 2017 (58% in 2015 and 62% in 2016).

    Comments

    • Social security remains the biggest problem area dealt with by SOLVIT (1 132 cases);
    • Cases on the right of entry and residence of EU citizens and their family members increased by 16% in comparison to 2016 (538 cases);
    • Cases on free movement of capital tripled - 20 cases received;
    • There were more cases on recognition of professional qualifications (16% more – 183 cases)
    • Fewer cases on vehicles and driving licences (-20%, 67 cases).

    The proportion of citizen to business cases in SOLVIT remains high. In 2017, SOLVIT received 76 cases from business. The highest reduction was in Germany (-9), the highest increase in Sweden (+6).

    Biggest contributors to business cases: UK, Germany, Sweden, Belgium and France.

    Comments:

    • Sweden, Belgium, Norway, Ireland, UK, France, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, maintained or increased numbers of business-related cases.
    • Germany, Poland, Denmark and Spain experienced the highest reduction in business cases.
    • 76% of the business cases were solved.
    • SOLVIT has stepped up its efforts to attract business cases:
      • the COSME 2018 programme foresees advanced training courses for national SOLVIT centres, focusing on legal areas for businesses.
      • SOLVIT is part of a problem solving mechanism included in the review of enforcement of the mutual recognition principle proposed in December 2017 by the EC.
      • Introduced new arrangements to allow intermediary organisations to submit and follow cases directly in SOLVIT
      • Targeted awareness-raising activities to promote a broader knowledge of the help SOLVIT can offer within the business community were developed.
      • Guidelines for cooperation with the Enterprise Europe Network were adopted.
    • The three main problem areas continued to be:
      • free movement of goods (17 cases),
      • taxation (16 cases),
      • free movement of services (11 cases).

     * Structural cases are usually highly complex. They often entail amendments to national laws, so resolving them usually takes longer than the SOLVIT 10-week deadline. The average in 2017 was 116 days.

    • Cases handled: 95 cases (97 in 2016)
    • Main areas: free movement of persons (43), free movement of capitals/financial services (17), recognition of professional qualifications (13), social security (10), free movement of workers (4)

    Structural cases by problem area and Member State

    SE
    LV
    UK
    ES
    IE
    NL
    DE
    HR
    SI
    FR
    BE
    PT
    HU
    NO
    AT
    MT
    LT
    FI
    CZ
    Total
    Free movement of persons and right to reside 20 6 2 6 1 3 1 1 1 1 1 43
    Free movement of capitals and financial services 11 4 1 1 17
    Recognition of professional qualifications 2 2 2 1 2 1 2 1 13
    Social security 2 1 4 1 1 1 10
    Free movement of workers 2 1 1 4
    Vehicles and driving licences 1 1 2
    Others 1 1 2
    Free movement of goods 1 1 2
    Taxation and customs 1 1
    Free movement for services 1 1
    Total 24 13 8 8 8 7 4 4 4 3 3 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 95

    Handling times:

    Cases closed within 10 weeks: 55%

    Longest handling time: 503 days

    Most cases (Lead centre):  Sweden (24) and Latvia (13) handled most structural cases followed by Spain, Ireland and the UK (each 8 cases)

    Examples of difficulties relating to the Single Market in SOLVIT (as reported in the SOLVIT database):

    EU citizens trying to get their professional qualifications recognised in another country met with:

    • difficulties for psychomotor, plumbers, occupational safety technician and telecommunications engineers;
    • delays in the process of recognition of professional qualifications in two Member States;
    • difficulties to recognize and transfer a pilots' licenses.

    Cross border goods and services providers were submitted to the following conditions:

    • non respect of the applicable procedure for resolution of dispute over validity of social security forms for posted workers of EU company;
    • unjustified driving license requirements for intra-EU transport;
    • obstacles to establishment rights and free provision of services in the nautical sector;
    • requirements to market products in another Member State allegedly incompatible with the Mutual Recognition principle.

    Problems with financial services:

    • residence-based discrimination to open and maintain bank accounts,
    • denial of foreign accounts for paying taxes and reimbursement of health expenses, crediting prepaid transport card and paying family benefits;

    Problems with taxation:

    • withholding tax to non-resident companies against proof of genuine supply of services to companies,
    • denial of tax advantages to taxable non-resident workers,

    EU citizens met with the following social security issues when moving cross border:

    • unjustified reduction or refusal of family benefits due to different classification of the benefits when the children live in another country;
    • residence as condition to reimburse medical costs for insured national living abroad in EU;
    • social security contributions to rental income for non-residents.

    Problems with entry and residence rights:

    • extra conditions for the recognition of marriage certificates in visa procedures for non EU family members of EU citizens,
    • delays in issuance of residence cards to non-EU family members of EU citizens,
    • difficulties for EU citizens to be registered in the population register and obtain a Personal Identification Number (PIN) which is necessary to get access to certain essential public and private services,
    • delays in issuing entry visas to non-EU family members of EU citizens,
    • unjustified conditions such as proof of accommodation, sufficient resources, travel tickets, genuine purpose of travel, etc. for short-term visas for non-EU family members of EU citizens in some Member States,
    • unjustified refusal to visa to family members of EU citizens;
    • validity of only 1 year of EU residence cards;

    Issues of discrimination

    • agriculture land can be purchased in under certain conditions, among others, EU registration ID and B2 level knowledge of the national language,
    • condition of 5 year permanent residence for posts related to national security
    • denial of driving benefit of foreign company cars for family members of employees,
    • condition of residency in the member State on the first day of the first academic year to receive student support to EU migrant workers;
    • difficulties to register right hand drive cars;
    • refusal to allow legislation on surnames in case of dual nationality;
    • restrictive interpretation of entitlement to social assistance benefits for EU citizens residing a Member State.

    Staffing level in SOLVIT centres

    The chart below shows current staffing levels (i.e. staff time to be spent on SOLVIT work) in relation to caseload.

    The number of staff (FTEs or full-time equivalents) should be determined by the caseload of the SOLVIT centres:

    • small SOLVIT centres (16–50 cases) => 1 FTE
    • medium SOLVIT centres (51–150 cases) => 2 FTEs
    • large SOLVIT centres (151–300 cases) => 3 FTEs
    • very large SOLVIT centres (over 300 cases) => 3.5 FTEs

    Red symbol: low staff numbers

    Green symbol: minimum staff numbers/time spent on SOLVIT

    Issues

    1. Caseloads are rising – but staff numbers are static or even decreasing. In many cases, staff may be unable to cope with any further caseload increases. Many centres also seem to experience difficulties with communicating promptly (replying to e-mails, telephone calls etc.).
    2. High turnover in some centres makes business continuity and efficient case handling more difficult.
    3. Many SOLVIT centres often have to give priority to other tasks for their national administrations, leaving insufficient time for SOLVIT duties.

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    Priorities

    Governments:

    • Make sure SOLVIT centres are adequately staffed
    • Enable them to SOLVIT work
    • Ensure the continuity and expertise of staff
    • Ensure that national SOLVIT centres have sufficient authority within their national administration
    • Follow up of relevant structural issues detected through SOLVIT

    SOLVIT centres:

    • Focus on the quality of case handling
    • Ensure a maximum number of cases to reach SOLVIT, especially by business
    • Meet the recommended target times and keep applicants informed on progress
    • Ensure support and recognition of SOLVIT within the national administration by organizing network meetings
    • Ensure that issues linked to breaches of EU law detected through SOLVIT are channelled to the responsible services in the Member State concerned
    • Ensure SOLVIT centres have (access to) legal expertise on business problem areas Signal specific problems in handling business cases to the Commission.
    • Link organizations to SOLVIT by making them SOLVIT partners

    Commission:

    • Make more structured and systematic use of the available data and evidence from SOLVIT in enforcement and formulation of new policy
    • Prepare the database for the necessary adaptations in 2019
    • Continue efforts inside the Commission and other institutions to increase awareness and use of SOLVIT for the signposting of individual complaints
    • Reach out to business – mainly via the Your Europe Business portal, EU-level business organisations, networks like the EEN and goods/services national contact points.
    • Develop further training and networking occasions and meetings, notably in areas of interest for businesses and in particular in the area of free movement of goods.

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    Examples of problems solved

    The following barriers to the free movement of people, goods and services in the EU were removed thanks to SOLVIT:

    • A €3 500 fine imposed by German authorities to an Estonian road transport company was lifted after SOLVIT pointed out the correct rules on delivery of driver attestations to non-EU hauliers
    • Overdue VAT reimbursement paid by Romania to several Bulgarian companies
    • Clarifications on how an Austrian company must issue invoices to facilitate tax refunds for a Hungarian company
    • A €4 400 fine imposed by The Netherlands to an Estonian haulier withdrawn after SOLVIT demonstrated that the placement of the tachographs complied with EU requirements
    • Automatic recognition of the qualifications of Belgian and Portuguese architects made possible after reminding home authorities of their obligation to notify both the name of the academic award and the name of the body conferring it
    • Spain reversed the requirement to validate local marriage certificate at UK embassies to be able to prove family link and obtain a Schengen visa as family member
    • Language testing requirements in the UK as a prior condition to sit a test required to obtain recognition of professional qualifications of nurses and midwifes from other EU countries were abolished
    • Access to the Dutch Digital identity system (DigiD) has been extended to foreigners living in The Netherlands. SOLVIT continues working to ensure access for foreigners living outside The Netherlands
    • A 10% extra cost for a Romanian receiving medical services in Germany was returned after SOLVIT pointed out the discriminatory nature of this practice
    • Issuance of residence cards, residence certificates and permanent residence cards in Sweden, France, Malta, UK and Ireland that were initially delayed.