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Original scientific paper

Eligibility of Mobile Workers for Retirement Pension Based on the Regulations on Social System Co-ordination in the European Union

Tomislav Sokol ; Katedra za pravo Zagrebačke škole ekonomije i managementa

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page 81-104

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European Union has from its inception been developing as a sectoral organisation focused on foundation of a common market among the member states. Since its inception in the form of European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which was followed by European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM), the establishment of free trade zone and the customs union represented the crux of integration process. Against the backdrop of the previously described context, social security and redistribution, including pensions, remained within the area of primary jurisdiction of member states of the communities existing at the time.
Irrespective of this distribution of jurisdiction between the European and the national level, pension systems in member states were affected by the European regulations. The reasons for this state of affairs is due to the fact that free movement of labour is considered one of the fundamental rights (in addition to free movement of goods, free provision of services, free business location, as well as free movement of capital) which have been the foundations for the European single market since the inception of integration. Against the backdrop of the previously described context, eligibility for retirement pension required regulation at the European level, in order to ensure that the workers who had exercised the right of free movement, or the right to work in other member states, are not placed in a more unfavorable position due to their mobility compared with the position they would have occupied had they not exercised the previously mentioned right to freedom of movement. This article is aiming to provide an overview of the European legal framework (currently the EU legal framework) for eligibility for retirement pension (paid by the member state) of workers who had exercised their right to free movement and work in a member state whose nationality they do not possess, with a special emphasis on regulations on social security system co-ordination. Consequently, in addition the entitlement of mobile workers to retirement pension, an overview has been provided also of the limits of regulatory autonomy of member states concerning the right to regulate the eligibility for retirement pension within their own pension systems in compliance with the EU laws. The previously mentioned issue is significant also in case of Croatia as the newest member state which hence needs to harmonise its legislation and legal practices with the EU directives. The article comprises of several parts in order to achieve the previously mentioned objective. In the first section, it analyses the primary law of the European Union (primarily the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) which prescribes the distribution of jurisdiction of the Union and the member states in the area of the pension system and the possibility of regulation of the previously mentioned area by the Union. Subsequently, secondary law of the EU is analysed (focusing on regulations on social security system co-ordination) which comprehensively defines the eligibility for exercising the right to retirement pension of mobile workers in the EU, along with the relevant court reports by the European Court of Justice in this area.
The previously mentioned court reports presented the problems encountered in case law, as well as the solutions provided in concrete individual cases. The analysis showed that jurisdiction of the EU in the area of retirement pensions, as well as its opportunities for harmonization of national pension systems are considerably restricted. The Union is primarily involved in addressing the issues of movement among its member states. Against the backdrop of this framework, regulations on social security system co-ordination are considered as the fundamental instrument for eligibility for retirement pension of mobile workers who spend their working age in more than one member state. Nevertheless, due to restricted opportunities of the co-ordination and the complexity of its rules on defining the applicable national legislation, it is not easy to establish the rights of mobile workers which hinders mobility within the EU. Moreover, case reports by the European Court of Justice in some areas has only enhanced the complexity of European regulations on social security system co-ordination.
Consequently, it is evident that a significant improvement and simplification of legal position of mobile workers, concerning their eligibility for retirement pension, cannot be achieved without substantial harmonization of the regulations among member states. The implementation of the stated harmonization requires the enactment of harmonization of regulations at the European level, which does not appear probable. Furthermore, modification of case reports of the European Court of Justice concerning the Petroni principles could positively impact on clarification of the EU regulatory framework in this area.


EU, jurisdictions, mobile workers, retirement pensions

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