Germans could pay for EU unemployed

Germans could foot the bill for unemployment benefits in other European countries under an EU plan to tax the union's richest states.

Germans could pay for EU unemployed
László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. Photo: DPA

László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, set out his proposal in June in Berlin to share the burden of unemployment benefits among EU countries.

The plan is now "not far from the table" CDU politician and MEP Herbert Reul told Welt newspaper on Monday.

Andor claims that in a time of economic downturn this concept could stabilize and revive struggling economies.

He told the Welt on Monday that his plan would not replace countries' unemployment systems but would take over some core tasks.

EU member states would only share the costs for short-term unemployment benefits. The fund would pay 40 percent of the claimants' final wage for the first six months of unemployment, but after that point the national system would pay.

"Citizens would directly benefit from EU solidarity in times of hardship and member states would be required to upgrade their employment services and labour market institutions to the best EU standards," said Andor in June.

At a Lecture at the Hertie School of Governance he said: "There is no way around it," pointing out that EU countries used to help each other by devaluing their own currencies before the euro was introduced.

The Welt reported calculations from the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) which showed that had a similar benefit system existed between 2006 and 2011 it would have cost Germany €20 billion. The country would have funded nearly a third of European unemployment benefits. Spain would have been the main beneficiary.

Politician and economist Herbert Reul told the paper: "This is an attempt to shift certain responsibilities to the EU that shouldn't be shifted. EU unemployment insurance would cause a massive redistribution in Europe that Germany would largely co-finance."

But Andor denied claims that Germany would be the main provider for the insurance and it would only benefit southern EU countries.

He stated in June that everybody could benefit since "those countries which today enjoy higher levels of employment may consider themselves to be safe from the impact of financial crises".

The scheme would also provide a safety net. "The point is to maintain enough spending during a downturn before failed companies are turned around or replaced by new ones and before workers who lost their jobs can find new employment," Andor said.

SEE ALSO: Sharp rise in EU jobless in Germany

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REVEALED: EU plans digital-only Schengen visa application process

Soon those non-EU nationals requested to have a Schengen visa to travel to European countries will no longer need to go to a consulate to submit the application and get a passport sticker, but will be able to apply online. 

REVEALED: EU plans digital-only Schengen visa application process

The European Commission has proposed to make the Schengen visa process completely digital.

The special visa, which allows to stay for tourism or business (but not work) in 26 European countries for up to 90 days in any 6-month period. 

Nationals of third countries such as South Africa, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka need the Schengen Visa to visit Europe, but they are not needed for other non-EU nationals such as Britons or Americans. You can see the full list of countries who need a Schengen visa here.

The proposal will have to be approved by the European Parliament and Council, but is in line with an agreed strategy that EU governments are keen to accelerate in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

Once agreed, the system will be used by the countries that are part of the border-free Schengen area. These include EU countries, excluding Ireland (which opted out), and Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Cyprus (which do not issue Schengen visas). Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Switzerland, which are not EU members but have signed the Schengen Convention, will be part of the new system too.

Paper-based processes required applicants to travel to consulates to submit the application and collect their passports with the visa, a procedure that “proved problematic during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Commission said.

Some EU countries have already started to switch to digital systems but not all accept online payments for the visa fees. 

When the new system will be in place, the Commission says, applicants will be able to check on the EU Visa Application platform whether they need a visa. If so, they will create an account, fill out the application form, upload the documents and pay. 

The platform will automatically determine which Schengen country will be responsible for the application and applicants will be able to check their status and receive notifications. Travellers will then be able to access the visa online, and if needed extend it too.

“Half of those coming to the EU with a Schengen visa consider the visa application burdensome, one-third have to travel long distance to ask for a visa. It is high time that the EU provides a quick, safe and web-based EU visa application platform for the citizens of the 102 third countries that require short term visa to travel to the EU,” said Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

“With some member states already switching to digital, it is vital the Schengen area now moves forward as one,” said Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas.

However, first-time applicants, people with biometric data that are no longer valid or with a new travel document, will still have to go to a consulate to apply.

Family members of citizens from the EU and the European Economic Area, as well as people who need assistance, will also be able to continue to apply on paper. 

The EU Visa Application platform will be used from third countries whose nationals must be in possession of a visa to enter the EU and is different from the ETIAS (European Travel Information Authorisation), which is currently under development.

The ETIAS will be used by non-EU nationals who are exempt from visas but who will need to apply for a travel authorisation prior to their trip. This will cost 7 euros and will be free for people below the age of 18 and above 70. 

Based on the discussion between the European Parliament and Council, the Commission could start developing the platform in 2024 and make it operational in 2026. EU countries will then have five years to phase out national portals and switch to the common online system.