Do you live in a border region? Maybe you live in one country but work in another? Perhaps you regularly drive to another country in order to go shopping or fill up on petrol? Or you cross the border to study at your university or college?
There are 60 internal borders within the EU, and about a third of Europeans live along them. Today’s debate will be looking at some of the challenges facing “cross-border workers”, i.e. people who live in one EU Member State but commute across the border to work in another. We’ve put together some statistics on cross-border workers in an infographic below (you can see it full screen here).
Taxation, social security and healthcare in the EU are almost entirely the competencies of Member States. When it comes to taxation, for example, most of the rules for cross-border workers are set by bilateral treaties between individual countries, which can lead to a lot of red tape for the workers involved. We had a comment sent in by European arguing that he (or she) faces a bureaucratic nightmare as a cross-border worker:
We all talk about a ‘Europe without internal borders’, but the EU doesn’t seem to exist for people who live in one member state but work in another. Cross-border workers face a bureaucratic nightmare when it comes to social security and taxation.
We put this comment to Walter Deffaa, Director-General of Regional and Urban Policy at the European Commission, to see if he would agree:
We also had a comment from Paul, arguing that the number of people regularly crossing borders in the EU are a “minority compared to those millions of people” who quite happily work in their own country. Paul questioned the need for the EU to be involved at all.
How would Walter Deffaa respond?
We also spoke to Martin Guillermo Ramirez, the Secretary General of the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR), and asked him to respond to Paul’s criticism:
One third of the European population are living in border areas, so when they look for a job it includes the neighbouring border area. So, in this case, we are talking about nearly 200 million people who could be affected.
In terms of daily commuters, we don’t have an exact figure. Last year, we did a study for the Committee of the Regions and spoke to several experts, and there is no agreement on the number. In many cases, we are talking about freelancers and independent workers who are registered in their country of residence but work across the border.
We can definitely say that more than one million European citizens, as a rough figure, cross the border every day for work, as well as roughly 200’000 students who cross the border to study. But this is definitely underestimating the true numbers.
Finally, we spoke to Jan Olbrycht, a centre-right Polish MEP. Did he agree with European that there was too much red tape for cross-border workers?
Last but not least, we had a comment sent in via our Suggest a Debate form by Christina, who argued that the situation for cross-border workers was unlikely to change anytime soon. Christina believes that national governments are unlikely to want to give up powers over taxation and social security, particularly as euroscepticism is increasing in many EU Member States:
Should the EU have more powers over taxation, healthcare and social security in order to cut red tape for cross-border workers? Or is the number of people commuting across borders too small? Would more people take advantage of jobs and other opportunities on the other side of the border if there was less red tape, or are there other barriers (including language)? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions!