"Unemployed people seeking work may be able to export their social welfare entitlements to another EU country for up to six months with the adoption of a new EU wide regulation which will greatly improve job opportunities", said Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Coughlan today.
Being able to export social welfare entitlements is just one of the many benefits to ordinary citizens brought about by the adoption of this new regulation which will reform, co-ordinate and simplify social security systems for workers and other throughout the European Union.
"This is one of the most important pieces of social legislation to emerge from the EU in recent years and it will have a very real impact on the daily lives of ordinary EU citizens, "said Minister Mary Coughlan.
"The adoption of this regulation by the Parliament and Council of the EU is a significant achievement of the Irish Presidency and one which I made a priority at the beginning of this year, "added Minister Coughlan.
The new regulation will coordinate the social security rules for workers and members of their families moving within the European Union.
At present an unemployed person can only go abroad for three months to seek work while continuing to have their Unemployment Benefit paid to them. Under the new Regulation, each member state has the option of allowing these unemployed persons export their Unemployment Benefit for up to six months.
The new Regulation 1408 also impacts on the area of health care. It ensures that all insured persons will receive the same treatment during a temporary stay in another Member State when such treatment becomes medically necessary. The new regulation ensures that all insured people will receive treatment during a temporary stay in another Member State where such treatment is medically necessary, and not just in emergencies as under the current legislation.
When the new regulations are implemented national authorities throughout the EU will apply simplified rules when determining entitlements for workers who move within the EU.
In addition there are other changes to the Regulation, which will not be immediately obvious to citizens, but nevertheless, will help them achieve mobility within the Union. For example, the institutions of the Member States are obliged to cooperate more fully with each other to resolve any difficulties experienced by citizens while the principle of equal treatment has also been strengthened,
"This fundamental reform and modernisation of the co-ordination of rules of the social security system the EU will result in ensuring our citizens have improved social protection, "said Minister Coughlan.
The adoption of the Regulation, which is essential to removing barriers to free movement of persons, is a striking demonstration of the fact that co-decision can work smoothly and efficiently in a constructive spirit between the Council and the Parliament.
" The existing regulation had become out dated. It had been in existence for over 30 years and needed to be reformed and simplified, especially with the enlargement of the European Union. Work began on this reform and simplification measure five years ago and I would acknowledge the substantial contributions of successive presidencies in reaching this successful conclusion," concluded Minister Mary Coughlan.
April 29th 2004