The area of social security coordination was among the first to be regulated by the EU law. It focused on assuring that the social security rights of workers who move to different European countries for work (so-called migrant workers) are not violated. If migrant workers were not ensured equal treatment and implementation of rights arising from social insurance and other social security systems, the principle of the free movement of workers between EU member states would be to a great extent mere rhetoric.
Moreover, the introduction of uniform standards regarding access to legal protection in cross-border disputes enables easier and more effective access to free legal assistance. An EU national who cannot afford legal assistance can submit an application for free legal assistance in their home country for representation before a court of another member state. The home state provides assistance in drafting the request and translating it.
The payment-integration initiative Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), which seeks to establish a single market for all euro payments, also has many benefits for EU citizens and companies. Eventually, there will be no difference between cross-border and domestic payments, as they will all be considered domestic, which will also lead to standardised prices for such services.
All EU citizens can already open bank accounts anywhere in the EU, purchase financial instruments, and invest in investment funds or alternative investments funds. The introduction of the euro has made such business easier, and, in particular, has eliminated the costs of currency exchange and related risks.
The possible elimination of roaming costs by Christmas 2015 has recently been approved by the European Parliament (and awaits confirmation by member states) within the so-called Connected Continent directive.
The European health insurance card enables EU citizens access to urgent medical assistance at physicians and medical centres that are included in the public healthcare network under the same conditions and same costs (free in some member states) that apply to persons insured in the particular country.
Naturally, EU citizens can also exercise the right to medical treatment in any member state in cases of non-urgent medical care, which is regulated by social security coordination. Although people prefer to be treated in their home environment, the movement of persons within the EU is increasing, so the new European legislation on cross-border healthcare is significant. On the basis of a referral or prescription issued in Slovenia, a patient can seek medical services in any EU member state as long as the service is covered by insurance in the home country.
In conclusion, we should also outline the figures, as the funds acquired by Slovenia from the EU budget in the last ten years have supported many projects. In the period after joining the EU, Slovenia acquired over 4 billion euros from EU funds. According to the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy, every municipality in Slovenia has received funding for at least one project. In the current financial perspective, a total of over 5,000 projects have been supported.
Funds have been provided particularly for strengthening regional development potential (e.g. promoting entrepreneurship and competitiveness, higher education and IT infrastructure, etc.), and for developing environment and transport infrastructure (investment in railway infrastructure, motorways, environment infrastructure and sustainable energy projects), while funds allocated to agriculture and culture are also extremely significant.
Although the latter two areas have little in common, they do have one thing in common with regard to European funds: to support youth employment. In the 2014-2020 period, young farmers will receive an additional supplement to direct payments, while the focus in the area of culture is on improving the employment situation of vulnerable social groups, which includes the young. So far, 104 new jobs have been created within 120 co-funded projects.
With the first signs of recovery at European and national levels, the several years of economic crisis may be finally coming to an end. It is a fact that neither the EU nor Slovenia will remain the same. Yet despite a pan-European increase in the prevalence of Euro-scepticism and nationalism during this European Parliament election campaigns, the fact remains that when seeking to respond to global challenges, European countries can make their voice heard only if they stand united. Therefore, further integration and the strengthening of European identity are the only options – including for Slovenia.