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PR(04)29: Reasoned opinion sent to Norway regarding discriminatory practice concerning a regional supplement to family allowances

19.7.2004

On 14 July 2004, the EFTA Surveillance Authority delivered a reasoned opinion to Norway concerning a regional supplement to family allowances for children of families residing in the county of Finnmark or in parts of the county of Troms (“finnmarkstillegget”).

In 1999, the EFTA Surveillance Authority received a complaint from a frontier worker employed in Finnmark, but residing with her child across the border in Finland. She had been granted Norwegian family allowances in accordance with the Social Security Regulation (1408/71/EEC), but her application for the regional supplement had been rejected because her child did not reside in Finnmark. Infringement proceedings were initiated in 2000.

The Social Security Regulation applies to all family allowances granted without any individual or discretionary assessment of the personal needs and on the basis of a legally defined position. Furthermore, the Regulation applies to regional social security benefits unless they are expressly exempted. The benefit in question is not exempted.

According to the Social Security Regulation, a migrant worker shall be entitled to family allowances as if his family members were residing in the State of employment. As the Regulation waives all residence requirements in national social security legislation in relation to migrant workers, the Authority concludes in its reasoned opinion that not only the requirement of residence in Norway, but also residence requirements in these specific regions should be waived for migrant workers. The complainant should be entitled to all Norwegian family allowances, including the regional supplement, as if she was living with her child at her place of work.

In its reasoned opinion, the Authority also argues that the regional residence requirement for entitlement to the regional supplement to family allowances constitutes indirect discrimination against migrant workers contrary to the Freedom of Movement of Workers Regulation (1612/68/EEC), as a national or regional residence requirement is likely to affect migrant workers more than national workers.

In light of these circumstances, the Authority has concluded that Norway is in breach of Article 73 of the Social Security Regulation (1408/71) and Article 7(2) of the Freedom of Movement of Workers Regulation (1612/68/EEC).

The purpose of a reasoned opinion is to give Norway a last chance to take corrective measures before the Authority decides whether to bring the matter before the EFTA Court. Norway has been given three months to take the measures necessary to comply with the reasoned opinion.

 

For further information, please contact Mr. Niels Fenger, Director of Legal & Executive Affairs, tel. (+32)(0)2 286 18 30 or GSM(+32)(0)473668033

 

 




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