Member States’ approaches to bilateral social security agreements

Date01 June 2018
Published date01 June 2018
Member States’ approaches
to bilateral social security
Grega Strban
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Bilateral social security agreements are the oldest instruments which provide social security
entitlements to persons moving between the countries. EU Member States’ approaches to dis-
tinctive bilateral agreements with Non-EU States are analysed herein. Bilateral social security
agreements are not only the oldest coordination instruments, but remain the most important ones
linking social security systems of MS and Non-EU States. They are tailored to the social security
systems of the two contracting states. Nevertheless, bilateral social security agreements might be
neither comprehensive in their scope of application nor complete in covering all coordination
principles. Moreover, they do not create a uniform coordination system. Under the modified
migration patterns - i.e. movements for shorter period of time and between many countries - a
more comprehensive social security coordination mechanism might be required.
Social security coordination , bilateral social security agree ments, international social se curity,
social security, bilateral agreements
Bilateral social security agreements are simultaneously both parts of and the starting points of
international social security law.
They present an intersection of international law and social
security law and are, as a rule, agreed upon between the States as primary and the most important
subjects of international law.
Corresponding author:
Grega Strban, Professor of Social Security Law at the Department of Labour Law and Social Security Law in the Faculty of
Law at the University of Ljubljana.
1. For more on international social security law, see the course developed under the Efese project (,
accessible at, February 2018.
European Journal of Social Security
2018, Vol. 20(2) 129–147
ªThe Author(s) 2018
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/1388262718771789
As their name indicates (nomen est omen), bilateral agreements are concluded between two
states. They may be of a substantive or an administrative nature, and included in one or more
instruments. According to their substance, bilateral social security agreements do not harmo-
nise, but link together (coordinate) the social security systems of the two contracting p arties in
order for internationally mobile persons not to lose their social security entitlements. Yet,
bilateral social security agreements are not the only instruments linkingnationalsocialsecu-
rity systems. The European Union (EU) social security coordination Regulations are the most
important social security coordination instruments in Europe.
They present an advanced form
of coordination, as they establish unified rules, which become relevant for movements
between two or more States. Such multilateral and supranational coordination regime estab-
lishes common social security coordination rules for the EU Member States, which is also
applicable for the EEA States (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland, based on
separate agreements. Therefore, at least by European authors, other social security coordina-
tion instruments are usually presented as comparisons with Regulation (EC) 883/2004 on the
coordination of social security systems.
Although, the coordination Regulations have a con-
siderable impact on persons, including third-country nationals, who move within the EU,
other coordination instruments may be more important when people move to or from (or
between) countries outside the EU.
In addition to bilateral agreements, multilateral agreements (e.g. covenants, conventions, char-
ters, and protocols) must also be mentioned. They may be concluded directly by the countries
involved, like the Nordic States
or the Ibero-American States,
or passed by international orga-
nisations, like the United Nations (UN), International Labour Organisation (ILO) or the Council of
Moreover, unilateral measures of a single State may influence the social security position
of moving persons, including the construction of the right to private property.
Such national
legislative efforts are being encouraged also by certain international instruments.
This article focuses on EU Member States (MS) approaches to distinctive bilateral agreements
with Non-EU States. They are not only the oldest coordination instruments, but remain the most
2. They are being constantly developed by the legislator and especially by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), making
them one of the most complex and dynamic mechanisms of ensuring the right to social security to persons moving
between the Member States. Cornelissen (2009: 14).
3. Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the coordination of
social security systems (OJ 2004 L 166:1, and corrigendum OJ 2004 L 200:1, as later amended) and Regulation (EC)
987/2009 of the European Parliament and the Council of 16 September 2009 (OJ 2009 L 284:1, as later amended),
Regulation (EU) No 1231/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 November 2010 (OJ 2010 L 344:1).
4. On the relation between bilateral agreements and EU law see Ro
¨nfeldt, Case C-227/89, EU: C:1991:52 and The
Case C-475-93, EU: C:1995:371.
5. C.f. Nordic Convention on Social Security (1955, latest revision in 2014), which has replaced 12 bilateral and multi-
lateral agreements at that time and in certain aspects provides broader personal and material coverage than Regulation
(EC) 883/2004. Trier (1982:259). See also Nordic Convention on Social Assistance and Social Services (1994, the
Nordic Convention on Social Security, since 1992 covers only social insurance benefits,, February
6. Ibero-American Multilateral Convention on Social Security (2007,, February 2018).
7. Strban (2009: 85).
8. One of the more interesting cases of the European Court of Human Rights on the topic is ECHR, Case 10441/06, of
7.11.2013, Pichkur v. Ukraine. The right to private property argument is used to guarantee export of pensions.
9. Paragraph 4 of Article 12 of the (initial and revised) European Social Charter encourages the Parties to take steps, also by
other means (hence also unilateral measures) to ensure coordination of social security systems.
130 European Journal of Social Security 20(2)

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