By Matt Ritchie
The European Commission has announced it has decided to take Spain and Belgium to the European Court of Justice.
The Commission is to take Spain to court for refusing EU pensioners access to free medication while temporarily residing in Spain.
Further to receiving Spain’s reply to the commission's reasoned opinion, the Commission has taken the view that Spanish rules are not in line with EU law as they discriminate against pensioners from other EU member states.
Under EU social security legislation, pensioners temporarily residing in another member state can make use of their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to receive necessary healthcare under the same conditions as pensioners insured under the sickness insurance scheme of the visiting member state.
However, the Commission said the Spanish authorities refuse free medication to EU pensioners because the EHIC does not indicate that they are pensioners. Spain requires EU pensioners to present a supplementary document issued by their national social security services certifying in the Spanish language that he or she is in receipt of a state pension.
The Commission considers the refusal of the Spanish authorities is contrary to the above mentioned provisions, and discriminates EU pensioners temporarily residing in Spain.
Further, the Commission said the requirement to present such a supplementary document is contrary to the purpose of the EHIC, which aims to simplify procedures and reduce red tape for insured persons when they need health care during a temporary stay in another member state.
On Belgium, the Commission said some 200 non-Belgian European citizens who worked in the Belgian Congo or Ruanda-Urundi and contributed to the Belgian social security system do not enjoy the same social rights as their Belgian colleagues.
On the basis of their complaints, the Commission has acted to enforce compliance with the principle of non-discrimination between European citizens in line with the Treaty (Articles 18 and 45 TFEU) and Regulation 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems. Following a supplementary reasoned opinion sent to the Belgian authorities in 2010, the Commission has decided to take Belgium to the Court of Justice.
According to the complaints received in the early 2000s, their Belgian pensions payable by the Office de Sécurité sociale d'Outre-mer (OSSOM) were not index-linked, unlike those of their Belgian colleagues also living outside the European Union, the Commission said.
Under Belgian legislation, the benefits payable to recipients living outside the territory of the Union were adjusted to the cost of living only in the case of Belgian nationals and nationals of countries which had signed a reciprocity agreement with Belgium.
Following the Commission’s reasoned opinion in 2004, Belgium removed the residence condition which prevented the indexing of pensions, but only from 1 August 2004. The change therefore did not remove the discrimination the complainants had suffered throughout the period prior to 1 August 2004, during which they were deprived of part of their pension.
The Commission considers that these European citizens are still the victims of discrimination and is asking the Court of Justice to rule that Belgium has failed to comply with European law.