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    Reporting period: 01/2015 - 12/2015

    SOLVIT

    About

    SOLVIT is a service provided by the national administration. There is a SOLVIT centre in each EU country and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. These centres 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. by indicator

    [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.

    Indicator [1]: Home centre – first response time

    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. However, additional efforts are still required from Finland, Hungary, France and Cyprus.  

    Indicator [2]: Home centre – preparation time

    The indicator measures the time taken to prepare cases for transfer to the Lead centre. The target deadline is 30 days maximum.

    Comments

    Preparation time in most countries is satisfactory.

    Indicator [3]: Lead centre - resolution time

    The indicator measures the time taken by the Lead centre to handle a case. The target deadline is 10 weeks maximum.

    Comments

    Average number of days taken: 69 (70 previously). The Czech Republic and Denmark should take steps to deal with cases more quickly.

    Over 10 weeks:  33% of cases (35% previously).

    Over 20 weeks (twice the target time!): 11% of cases (12% previously).

    Although 71% of the cases which took longer than 20 weeks were ultimately solved, this figure is not acceptable - SOLVIT's key aims include providing help promptly.

    Factors affecting resolution speed:

    • cooperation with national administrations
    • caseload
    • case complexity
    • staff numbers (many centres are understaffed or have other tasks in addition to SOLVIT-related work).

    Indicator [4]: Resolution rate by country

    The indicator measures the percentage of cases solved. The aim is to solve all cases submitted. 

    Comments:

    In 2015, the resolution rate increased from 85% to 88%.

    Countries below 70%: Greece, Sweden, Norway, Ireland and the Czech Republic.

    In Greece most unresolved cases were on the recurrent problem of delays in the administrative treatment of pensions of EU citizens who worked in this country.

    In Sweden the problem of mandatory personal identification numbers persisted in 2015. This, together with the problem of long handling times for obtaining residence cards, accounted for most of Sweden's unresolved SOLVIT cases.

    In Ireland the authorities were unable to issue fast-track visas for non-EU family members due to the increasing number of refugee applications. More than 30 cases were affected by this.

    In Norway, the unresolved cases (10 cases) related to residence and social security rights.  In three cases, the non-EU family members of Norwegian nationals living in Sweden had problems in obtaining residence rights when coming back to Norway.

    There is no meaningful pattern in the Czech Republic as the 4 unresolved cases are unrelated.

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    Achievements

    • In 2015 SOLVIT helped more than 4 700 people by resolving their problem, clarifying the issue(s) or signposting them towards another service.
    • SOLVIT intensified its efforts to disseminate information on the problems reported.  
    • Cooperation with other information services has been further strengthened. Complaints and questions can now be directly transferred from SOLVIT to Your Europe Advice and the Europe Direct Contact Centre and vice versa. 
    • SOLVIT has also re-established cooperation with the new Enterprise Europe Network.

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    Facts and figures

    Overall caseload

    The caseload in 2015 was stable in comparison to the high increase in 2014 (2 228 cases).

    • In 2014, the increase was largely due to two specific recurrent issues:
      • delays in processing family benefits claims in Germany
      • pension applications in Greece
      These issues persisted in 2015, but fewer cases were submitted, especially over pensions in Greece.
    • 51% of cases were submitted online, 12% were transferred by YEA and 1% were transferred by EDCC. The rest were submitted via other means (e-mail, phone, post, in person).

     

    In 2015 SOLVIT also received an additional 2 500 complaints that were not within its remit (the figure for 2014 was 2 400). For those cases, SOLVIT helped complainants by explaining their EU rights in more detail or by finding another means of redress.

    Distribution of cases: Home centres and Lead centres

    Net recipients of cases: Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Ireland, Greece, Belgium, Croatia, Sweden, Cyprus, Norway and Malta

    Net submitters of cases: UK, Spain, Austria, Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Slovenia, Finland, Slovakia, Lithuania and Estonia

    Cases submitted by country over the last 3 years

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

     

    Comments

    The huge increase in cases submitted by Hungary and Bulgaria in 2014 due to the recurrent issues in Germany and Greece, did not reoccur to the same extent in 2015.

    Cases received by country over the last 3 years

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

    Comments

    The sharp increase in cases received by Germany and Greece in 2014 was due to two recurrent issues (family benefits - mostly child benefits - in Germany and pensions in Greece). In 2015 the number stabilised for Germany and reduced significantly for Greece.

    Problem areas

    The percentage of social security-related cases remained high in 2015 at 58% (2013 40% and 61% in 2014).

    Comments

    • Social security remains the biggest problem area dealt with by SOLVIT (1.298 cases);
    • Residence rights-related cases increased by 22% in comparison to 2014 (344 cases);
    • Cases on free movement of services increased by 68% - 32 cases received
    • There were less cases on recognition of professional qualifications (8% less – 277 cases) and taxation (17% less – 75 cases)

    Business cases v. citizens cases

     

    Over the years, businesses have submitted only a fraction of the number of cases compared with those submitted by individuals. In 2015, SOLVIT received 10 cases less than in 2014. The highest reduction was in Germany. The number of cases on free movement of services increased by two thirds.

    Business cases - by country

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

    Comments:

    • Centres actively promoting SOLVIT to businesses (Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands and Portugal) maintained or increased numbers of business-related cases
    • Germany, France and Italy experienced the highest reduction in business cases.
    • SOLVIT  will continue its efforts to attract business cases, including:
      • strengthening cooperation with national business organisations & networks (such as Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) and contact points established under different directives (especially points of single contact and product contact points).
      • enhancing presence and findability on the web, in particular through Your Europe Business.  
      • improving centres' access to expertise on business issues.
      • achieving an 83% resolution rate for business cases
      • The three main problem areas are:
        • taxation (30 cases),
        • free movement of services (24 cases),
        • free movement of goods (21 cases).

    Structural cases* - by area of legislation

     * 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.

    • Cases handled: 97 cases (70 in 2014)
    • Main areas: free movement of people and residence rights (50), recognition of professional qualifications (14), free movement of workers (10) and social security (10)

    Handling times:

    Cases closed within 10 weeks: 39%

    • Longest handling time: 428 days
    • Most cases (lead centre): Sweden (20), Spain (19) and Ireland (15)

    Examples of structural issues in SOLVIT (as reported in the SOLVIT database):

    EU individuals and businesses had difficulties over:

    getting their professional qualifications recognised in another country, e.g.:

    • refusal to recognise of Romanian qualifications obtained by translators and interpreters while residing in another Member Sate;
    • no possibility to re-assess of qualifications and experience for kindergarten teachers after new criteria were established;
    • refusal and delays by authorities over issuing certificates of conformity for Croatian nurses seeking work in another Member State;
    • the obligation to provide only originals or certified copies for the recognition of health profession qualifications.

    selling goods or providing services abroad (in the EU):

    • financial security and business establishment requirements for the supply of lubricants;
    • additional authorisation procedure for supply of air safety devices;
    • guarantee requirement for the payment of social security contributions for construction services;
    • requirement to formally establish the company and for its personnel to sit specific tests to be authorised to provide services for fire protection systems;
    • establishment requirement for issuing renewable energy certifications.

     taxation:

    • definition of ' agricultural tractors' in national legislation causes problems with VAT payments;
    • no recognition of VATexemption for international organizations;
    • foreign bank accounts notallowed for fulfilling tax obligations.

    social security issues:

    • delays in decisions for familybenefits for cases handled by a particular Member State associated with a significant and unexpected increase in claims by families in a cross-border situation
    • occasional refusals to accept the European health insurance (EHIC) card in some Member States
    • delays in administrative treatment of pensions of EU citizens having worked in one specific Member State and residing in another;
    • residence conditions for access to healthcare for cross-border workers in a few Member States;
    • having a personal identification number as a condition for social security benefits;

     residence and visa rights:

    • extra conditions for the recognition of family certificates in visa procedures for non EU family members of EU nationals;
    • erroneous residence cards issued to non-EU family members of EU nationals;
    • minimum salary condition over the issuing of residence cards to EU workers and their family members;
    • delays in issuing residence cards to non-EU family members of EU nationals.

    issues of discrimination:

    • obligation to give preference to nationals when selling land;
    • discriminatory recognition procedure for post-doctoral titles obtained in other EU countries;
    • standard requirement to undergo a roadworthiness test to register a vehicle from another EU country.

    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 prioritise SOLVIT work
    • Ensure a degree of staffing continuity
    • 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
    • Meet the recommended target times and keep applicants informed on progress
    • Continue cooperation efforts with intermediaries, e.g.  embassies, consulates, business organisations.
    • Ensure SOLVIT centres have (access to) expertise on issues of interest to business.

    Commission:

    • will consider giving appropriate follow-up to recurrent or structural cases that could not be resolved through SOLVIT
    • Continue efforts inside the Commission to increase awareness and use of SOLVIT
    • 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.
    • Improve the functionalities of the SOLVIT application.

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    Success stories

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

    • extra conditions on providing temporary tourist guide services in Cyprus, Spain and Croatia
    • no specific legislation in Croatia for traumatologists
    • access to maritime navigation chart data denied to foreign companies in Portugal and in Poland
    • non-issuance of the EHIC to family members of EU nationals in Norway
    • obligation to pay health contributions in Romania because of rental income acquired there
    • requirement to have Belgian nationality for employment as a medical advisor (doctor) in the area of social security
    • higher fees for non-Belgian nationals in an academic institution
    • free transport accessible only to residents over 70 years old in Bratislava