In this edition of U-talk, Julia of Lyon asked: “I’d like to know if it’s possible to establish a social security system throughout the European Union?”
“The idea of a European social security system is nothing new. The concept was mooted around 50 years ago when the European Community was first created”, explains Yves Jorens, Professor of European Social Security Law, Ghent University, Belgium.
“It was decided not to do it because of huge differences in wage costs and productivity levels. At that time it was thought that there was no need to have a standardised European system and member states continue to make their own welfare arrangements.
“But European law and greater coordination efforts between states have given everyone has the right to seek healthcare treatment abroad, as social security systems have opened up to all EU citizens.
“Many people have been asking: ‘What is the legal basis for a European social security system and does the EU have the skills to make it happen?”
“Experts believe one of the obstacles to making it work are the current differences in welfare needs between EU states.
“Then there are those who ask whether we need a common system? How will it work? And how do you ensure they all offer similar benefits?
“Some experts are worried that the best social security systems have the most to lose from a common European arrangement. They claim it won’t be worth doing, if it results in a loss of benefits.”
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