Today the European Commission published the 2010 annual reports on Your Europe Advice and SOLVIT, two services that help European citizens and businesses understand and defend their rights in the EU. In 2010, Your Europe Advice received 12 000 questions from citizens asking about their rights, for example their health insurance or unemployment benefit entitlements when going to live and work abroad. This represents a 15% increase from the previous year. SOLVIT provided over 1 300 practical and timely solutions to citizens and businesses who encountered administrative obstacles, such as getting professional qualifications recognised in another Member State so they could work there. Both of these services have enabled thousands of European citizens and businesses to benefit from the opportunities afforded by the Single Market.
Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier said: "Your Europe Advice and SOLVIT help citizens and companies take advantage of the Single Market by sorting out the practical problems they face, in particular when they want to live and work abroad. These services have a positive impact on the lives of thousands of individuals and businesses who can now fully exercise their rights. By assisting them on a case-by-case basis, these services help to identify and relieve bottlenecks in the Single Market and create opportunities for growth."
Your Europe Advice
The total number of enquiries received by Your Europe Advice (formerly known as the 'Citizen Signpost Service') reached an all-time high of 12 000 questions in 2010, a 15% increase from the previous year. Thanks to the explanations and advice from around 50 experts across the Member States, these individuals are now able to take full advantage of their rights in the Single Market.
About a quarter of the questions Your Europe Advice received in 2010 related to social security issues, including health insurance, pensions, and unemployment benefits. Other frequently asked questions related to residence rights (21%) and working rights (15%). Replies to 91% of queries were provided within three working days.
Your Europe Advice plays an important role in identifying those areas of the Single Market where progress is needed. Not only does it inform citizens about their rights in the EU, but it also provides the European Commission with important information about areas where the Single Market is not operating as well as it should. The data collected by the service provides important evidence which will contribute to better policy-making.
In 2010, SOLVIT helped 1 363 citizens and businesses who ran into difficulties getting their Single Market rights recognised by national public administrations.
Of the cases filed in 2010, 34% related to social security issues, 23% were about residence rights and 16% concerned recognition of professional qualifications. 90% of cases were successfully resolved, and the average time for treating a case was 66 days. Such a high success rate achieved under tight deadlines would not be possible under either infringement proceedings or formal judicial procedures, which can take up to several years.
The individual cases addressed by SOLVIT, while helping individual citizens, often shed light on larger structural problems within the Single Market. And the solutions they provide often extend well beyond the individual cases: they can lead to structural changes in the behaviour of public authorities or to a change in national legislation. SOLVIT is a successful example of a close partnership between Member States and the European Commission, which will be reinforced in the coming months. As SOLVIT prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2012, the network is undergoing a comprehensive evaluation of its organisation and performance. Following this evaluation, the Commission will formulate specific proposals to ensure SOLVIT continues to deliver high-quality services to an increasing number of citizens and businesses.