Green Paper: the obstacles to transnational mobility

Green Paper: the obstacles to transnational mobility

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Green Paper: the obstacles to transnational mobility


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Education training youth sport > Lifelong learning

Green Paper: the obstacles to transnational mobility

1) Objective

To analyse not only the legal and administrative obstacles but also the socio-economic, linguistic and practical difficulties which, in one way or another, hamper the transnational mobility of persons undergoing training, and to propose lines of action aimed at engendering debate with a view to finding solutions to the problems.

2) Community Measure

Green Paper of 2 October 1996: Education – Training – Research: the obstacles to transnational mobility.

3) Contents

The importance of transnational mobility is enshrined in the EC Treaty, whose Articles 126, 127 and 130g(d) state that it should be encouraged and should form an integral part of Community policy in the fields of education, training and research.

In spite of an unquestioned resolve to promote mobility and the numerous legal provisions adopted in connection with the single market, there are still obstacles to genuine freedom of movement for persons undergoing training and those working in the field.

The Green Paper takes into consideration nationals of a Member State of the European Community or the European Economic Area, as well as non-nationals who are legally resident in the Community on a permanent basis.


Students in vocational training are covered by Directive 93/96/EEC. They must meet the conditions laid down by the Directive, which are: to be enrolled in a recognised educational establishment for the principal purpose of following a vocational training course; to have sickness insurance cover; and to provide the competent authority, by means of a declaration or by some alternative means deemed at least equivalent, with evidence of sufficient resources to avoid becoming a burden on the host Member State.

However, a number of establishments are not “recognised” within the meaning of the Directive.

Because of their lack of specific legal status, trainees on industrial placements in another Member State, i.e. young people who are neither students nor workers/officially unemployed persons, encounter serious difficulties. If the period of training lasts for more than three months, they must apply for a residence permit, for which they must present, as appropriate, a certificate of paid employment or of enrolment in an educational or training establishment, together with evidence of adequate resources and sickness insurance cover, which may be difficult if they have ceased to be students and are on an unpaid placement.

The same problems arise in respect of voluntary workers, who have no specific status.

Each Member State applies its own rules to researchers in respect of social security contributions and direct taxation. This has a direct impact on the amount of funds actually directed into research and on the researcher’s decision about where to move to, which may be overly influenced by financial rather than scientific considerations.

With regard to compulsory contributions, there is a risk of discrimination in circumstances where an individual is subject to the fiscal regime of one country and the social regime of another, since there may not necessarily be consistency between the two.

Furthermore, in view of the fact that bilateral agreements do not always exist and the countries concerned may interpret certain provisions differently, it can happen that persons engaged in training are taxed on their grants by both the country of origin and the host country.

Students are, without exception, exempt from taxation in the host country on sums received from abroad which are intended to cover their costs. However, the exemption does not apply to sums received from within the territory in which the person concerned is resident.

Regulation 1408/71 seeks to coordinate social security schemes without in any way affecting the freedom of Member States to determine their own systems. The underlying principle is that of “lex loci laboris”, i.e. a person employed in the territory of a Member State is subject to the legislation of that State.

As the Regulation stands at present, students are covered only if they are insured under the social security scheme of a Member State as workers or as members of the family of a worker.

If a voluntary worker or a trainee is not insured under the social security scheme of a Member State as an employed or self-employed person or as a member of a worker’s family, he or she does not fall within the scope of the Regulation.

For persons wishing to move to another country, social protection may sometimes prove inadequate.

For instance, unemployed persons taking up a transnational training or industrial placement will, in some Member States, lose the unemployed status which entitles them to social security cover and unemployment benefit.

Similarly, teachers and researchers who are members of a special scheme for civil servants are entitled to benefits in the country of the scheme to which they belong, but not in the host country.

Finally, current Community legislation on social security does not apply to third-country nationals who are legally resident in a Member State.

Outside the ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) programme, which is based entirely on cooperation between universities, academic recognition, which falls within the competence of the Member States, is far from universal.

The situation is even more difficult in the field of vocational training where, even though the Commission has taken various initiatives to promote transparency and transnational recognition of vocational qualifications, recognition of training and placement periods accomplished in another Member State is still problematic.

This lack of recognition may mean that periods of training completed abroad have to be repeated and may be a barrier to finding work in the host country or upon returning home.

Where teachers are concerned, Directive 89/48/EEC introduced a general system for the recognition of diplomas. However, some Member States have not yet incorporated the Directive into their national law, or have done so only partially.

In addition, there is an element of indirect discrimination in that certain countries’ legislation imposes disproportionate language requirements.

The territorially restricted nature of national grants constitutes a serious obstacle to “spontaneous” mobility in so far as it is difficult for students (with the exception of the Socrates programme), in most Member States, to transfer their grant in order to undertake a full course of study abroad.

A number of socio-economic obstacles are also pinpointed:

  • a worker who wishes to undertake a period of training/further training in another Member State does not always have a legal guarantee of finding a job;
  • the limited amounts of grants allocated for the Erasmus programme have resulted in some students selected to take part in an exchange being unable to benefit from mobility;
  • teachers all too often receive inadequate financial support;
  • the situation is particularly precarious for the unemployed, who may lose their right to unemployment benefit in their Member State.

Differences in the organisation of Member States’ schools and universities (structure of the academic year and examination periods not necessarily coinciding) cause problems for the mobility of pupils/students.

The fact that teachers/instructors are not replaced during their absence means that they must “catch up” with the subject matter on their return.

Lack of knowledge of a foreign language and of certain cultural aspects remain two of the main obstacles to mobility.

Practical obstacles, whether they arise before, during or after the stay, tend to discourage participants:

  • lack of information prior to going abroad;
  • lack of host companies for prospective trainees and researchers;
  • lack of suitable or affordable accommodation;
  • frequent requirement to take out additional insurance (e.g. repatriation);
  • practical problems arising from family commitments (crèches, schooling of children, employment for spouses, etc.);
  • bank and exchange charges eating into grants.


According specific status to trainees and voluntary workers:

  • specific legal recognition;
  • measures in respect of right of residence, social security and taxation;
  • information and awareness-raising about rights and obligations;
  • European apprentice/trainee status;
  • European mobility programme for apprentices.

Equal treatment for Community grant-aided research trainees:

  • exemption of grants;
  • coordination of the systems applied to employed researchers.

Ensuring social protection for everyone benefiting from mobility as part of their training:

  • ensuring benefit entitlement for unemployed persons undergoing training in another Member State, by adopting the Commission’s proposal for maintenance of benefits after an initial period of three months;
  • guaranteeing social protection in the host country, by bringing schemes for trainees and students into line with those for employed and self-employed persons and members of their families.

Creating a European area of qualifications:

  • generalisation of the ECTS programme;
  • application of equivalent arrangements to vocational training;
  • system of mutual recognition of placements;
  • encouraging, at European level, the acquisition, recognition and validation of skills on a lifelong basis;
  • increased transparency of skills and qualifications;
  • facilitating the recognition of qualifications between Member States;
  • incorporating into Directive 89/48/EEC the obligation for the host Member State to take into consideration experience acquired after obtaining a diploma;
  • facilitating the search for amicable solutions to disputes concerning the recognition of qualifications, in response to individual requests;
  • applying a “European researcher” label to researchers who have participated to a significant extent in Community programmes.

Removing territorial restrictions on grants and national financing (as in the Community programmes).

Improving the situation of third-country nationals legally resident in the European Union with regard to training: adoption of common roles concerning their admission, grouped within a binding legal instrument.

Reducing the socio-economic obstacles:

  • development of various measures offering financial support (allowances, grants, subsidies, loans, etc.);
  • proper national policy for the distribution of Socrates/Erasmus grants;
  • co-financing from educational establishments, host companies, etc., vis-à-vis young people receiving assistance under Community programmes for vocational training;
  • tax incentives to encourage companies to welcome trainees or others receiving training;
  • setting up of structures for reception, monitoring and evaluation covering persons involved in mobility.

Reducing linguistic and cultural obstacles:

  • learning of at least two Community languages;
  • linguistic preparation for every mobility-oriented activity;
  • cultural preparation and initiation into living and working practices in the host country;
  • pilot activities to make people more aware of European citizenship and to increase respect for cultural and social differences;
  • additional help for people wishing to undertake training in a Member State whose language is “less widely used and taught”.

Improving the information available and administrative practices:

  • better coordination of the national structures responsible for providing information in the fields of education, training and research;
  • wider dissemination of information on the possibilities and conditions for achieving transnational mobility;
  • availability on the Internet of all useful information for people whose training involves mobility (as well as through European databases such as EURES);
  • action to encourage greater use of all the tools arising from the information society;
  • wide distribution of national guides and information leaflets explaining citizens’ rights and obligations under the “Citizens First” initiative;
  • training in Community law and its implementation for decision -makers and administrators in the Member States;
  • educational establishments should publicise their facilities more effectively at European level;
  • students who move to another Member State should have the opportunity to take some exams by correspondence;
  • encouragement for university-industry partnerships.

Following the six-month consultation period during which the views of the individuals and bodies concerned will be sought (public authorities, social partners, various associations, education, training and research organisations, etc.), the Commission will draw up a summary report along with recommendations.

4) Deadline For Implementation Of The Legislation In The Member States

Not applicable

5) Date Of Entry Into Force (If Different From The Above)

6) References

Commission Green Paper COM(96) 462 final
Not published in the Official Journal

7) Follow-Up Work

8) Commission Implementing Measures


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