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Procedure : 2000/2010(INI)
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Document selected : A5-0338/2000

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Wednesday, 17 January 2001 - Strasbourg
Frontier workers

European Parliament resolution on the situation of frontier workers (2000/2010(INI))

The European Parliament,

-  having regard to the EC Treaty, and in particular Articles 2, 10, 39, 40, 41, 42, 136, 137, 158 and 159 thereof,

-  having regard to the many petitions that it has received on the problems of frontier workers, former frontier workers and those of their dependent partners and families,

-  having regard to the recommendations of 18 March 1997 by the High-Level Panel on free movement of workers and the subsequent action plan (COM(1997) 586 ),

-  having regard to its resolutions of 16 December 1988 on the problems of frontier workers in the Community(1) , 9 February 1993 on living and working conditions in frontier regions(2) and 28 May 1998 on the situation of frontier workers in the European Union(3) , and the recommendations contained therein,

-  having regard to the proposal for a Council regulation on coordination of social security systems(4) , and a fundamental simplification and review of Regulation (EEC) No 1408/71),

-  having regard to the proposals for a European Parliament and Council regulation amending Regulation (EEC) No 1612/68 on freedom of movement for workers within the Community(5) , a European Parliament and Council directive amending Directive 68/360/EEC on the abolition of restrictions on movement and residence within the Community for workers of Member States and their families(6) , a European Parliament and Council decision establishing an Advisory Committee on freedom of movement and social security for Community workers and amending Council Regulations (EEC) No 1612/68 and (EEC) No 1408/71(7) , and a Council regulation amending Regulation (EEC) 1408/71 as regards its extension to nationals of third-countries(8) ;

-  having regard to Rule 163 of its Rules of Procedure,

-  having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (A5-0338/2000 ),

A.  whereas there must be a social counterpart to monetary Union; whereas this has been acknowledged at the European Councils in Lisbon and Feira,

B.  whereas a coordinated European approach towards protecting persons making use of freedom of movement is of key importance for the proper functioning of the internal labour market,

C.  whereas the single market cannot be said to be complete unless free movement of goods, services and capital is accompanied by free movement of persons,

D.  whereas, in frontier regions in particular, the labour market benefits from the removal of obstacles to frontier work, thereby effectively promoting acceptance of a job in another Member State,

E.  having regard to the fundamental principles based on the outlawing of discrimination on grounds of nationality and on equal treatment with national citizens,

F.  whereas adequate rules on frontier work are of essential importance for healthy labour conditions and for preventing unfair competition,

G.  whereas with the accession of new States to the European Union the number of frontier workers will increase,

H.  whereas the existing European coordinating regulation, 1408/71, is no longer adequate because:

it coordinates social security in accordance with the principle of the country of employment. Fiscal aspects are not subject to European coordination and are regulated on a bilateral basis. More and more elements of national social security systems are becoming sourced from public funding, which results in greater uncertainty at the workplace and the creation of parafiscal charges whose status is not clear,
it always coordinates changes in national social security systems retrospectively. At the time when national legislation changes, the impact on the group is usually unknown; the legal implications and possible infringements of fundamental European principles are tested afterwards and solutions/compensation for the victims come when the damage has already been done;
there is no longer a clear distinction in Member States between social assistance and social security,

I.  whereas the existing European coordination rules for health care and medical costs are inadequate:

because of differences between public and private systems,
because after an active working life, benefits and options are restricted in accordance with the principle of the country of residence,
because dependent partners and/or family members are excluded from provisions and benefits in the country of employment,

J.  whereas the coordination rules are also inadequate with regard to social security and whereas they cause difficulties, for example:

in the area of child benefit, care allowances and study grants for dependent family members;
with regard to the problems in relation to incapacity for work and unemployment, and in particular suitability for a labour market other than that in the country of residence;
with regard to day care for the elderly because of differences in the way systems are designed and contributions and differences in pensionable age;
because of the problems arising from inadequate coordination under Regulation 1408/71 of social security, social assistance and supplementary schemes;

K.  whereas the European Parliament has repeatedly stressed the need for a solution to these problems at Community level,

L.  whereas the Commission has made proposals for amending Regulations 1408/71 and 1612/68 and Directive 68/360/EEC , with the aim of simplification, modernisation, streamlining and adequate provision to cater for the needs of workers from third countries,

M.  whereas there has been no progress in the Council with regard to these proposals, which is very regrettable given the extent of the labour market problems occurring in frontier regions,

N.  whereas the consultants in the Member States operating within the Eures system have made an excellent contribution towards elucidating, and reporting on, the problems of cross-border working, and whereas thanks to their unremitting efforts they have contributed towards both general and individual solutions,

O.  whereas the European Parliament has delivered a clear opinion on a number of proposals and expects an adequate response from the Council;

P.  whereas the European Court of Justice has all too often had to reprimand Member States in respect of inconsistencies between national legislation and the European principle of free movement,

1.  Regrets that the Commission, Council and Member States did not accept the recommendations made by the European Parliament in its abovementioned resolution of 28 May 1998;

2.  Calls on the Commission to draft a directive providing for the introduction of “frontier-effect” reports. Such reports would oblige Member States, when changing their legislation on social security, taxation, employment, systems of provisions and benefits for health care, unemployment and incapacity to work, child allowances, study grants, pension systems and other social schemes, to study the impact on frontier workers, while taking care that this does not lead to legal uncertainty; considers that this directive should also create a framework for a compensation scheme based on the principle that if, after carrying out such a frontier-effect report, a Member State amends social or fiscal legislation which is unfairly detrimental to frontier workers, it must compensate them for the loss of income incurred;

3.  Calls on the Council to take positive action with all possible expedition to adopt a position on the modernisation and simplification of Regulation 1408/71. Adequate coordination will be possible with the proposed extension of the scope and application of the target group, which received a positive response from Parliament at first reading. Solutions to many problems can be found through: (i) proposals to extend access by dependent family members of frontier workers, retired frontier workers and dependent members of their families to health care provisions and benefits in the country of residence and country of employment; (ii) proposals for compensating and streamlining of agreements on early retirement and pension schemes; (iii) proposals to improve the cross-border provision of labour and facilities for job applications for the unemployed;

4.  Calls on the Commission, before the end of 2001, to organise an international conference for the Member States and applicant countries concerning the position of frontier workers and the consequences of the relevant present and future European legislation for them;

5.  Calls for a study and an assessment with a view to inserting in Regulation 1408/71 the payment by a single State of pensions covered by agreements, with direct reimbursement of the appropriate percentages between the States concerned;

6.  Calls on the Commission to recommend to Member States that in their bilateral practices they have regard to the complications generated by the mismatches between taxation and social security systems in the case of frontier workers, and ensure that tax arrangements comply with Regulation (EEC) No 1408/71 (country of employment principle);

7.  Calls on the Commission to recommend to Member States that in their bilateral practices they have regard to the complications generated by the mismatches between taxation and social security systems in the case of posted workers;

8.  Calls on the Council and the Commission, pursuant to the Luxembourg process, to give thought to the extent and nature of frontier work;

9.  Welcomes the new initiatives by social security agencies, which in the health sector, for example, have established cross-frontier services for frontier workers; calls on the Commission to support such initiatives and promote exchanges of experience and best practices;

10.  Calls on the Council and the Commission to propose measures to remove obstacles to the mobility of stagiaires, students, volunteers and researchers;

11.  Calls on the Commission to set up a system to monitor the implementation of measures to protect frontier workers, with special reference to areas where bilateral agreements with EFTA countries are in force;

12.  Calls on the Commission to adopt a position as soon as possible on the consequences of the decisions of the European Court of Justice in the Kohll and Decker cases(9) and related cases, now that it appears that residents of the Member States, including frontier workers, can under certain circumstances benefit from health provisions in other Member States;

13.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and Commission.

(1) OJ C 12, 16.1.1989, p. 378.
(2) OJ C 72, 15.3.1993, p. 43.
(3) OJ C 195, 22.6.1998, p. 49.
(4) OJ C 38, 12.2.1999, p. 10.
(5) OJ C 344, 12.11.1998, p. 9.
(6) OJ C 344, 12.11.1998, p. 12.
(7) OJ C 344, 12.11.1998, p. 16.
(8) OJ C 6, 10.1.1998, p. 15.
(9) Cases C-158/96 and C-120/95 respectively.

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