In 2022, the single market remains the EU's engine room. It allows businesses to grow, trade and compete globally and provides possibilities for people to live, work, do business, study, travel and make purchases across 30 countries.
SOLVIT is a problem-solving network that helps people or businesses when their cross-border rights in the single market are breached by public authorities – be it at a local, regional or national level.
SOLVIT is based on co-operation between Member States and the European Commission. It offers a faster, informal alternative to starting a court case, submitting a formal complaint to the Commission or launching a petition.
More information on SOLVIT
How does SOLVIT work?
SOLVIT’s problem-solving service is provided by national administrations. There is a SOLVIT centre in each EU country and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The centres work together via an online database.
People and businesses who encounter a problem exercising their rights can seek help from their home centre (usually in their home country) via an online application procedure.
The home centre prepares the case and sends it to the SOLVIT centre in the country where the problem occurred (the lead centre). The lead centre then contacts the authority that is the source of the problem.
Here is an example of how SOLVIT works in practice:
For yet another year, the SOLVIT network has shown its resilience and ability to help businesses, people and public authorities enjoy the benefits of the single market.
In 2021, SOLVIT strengthened its expertise and authority in the mutual recognition of goods and two Commission opinions were published under the SOLVIT problem-solving procedure set out in the Regulation on Mutual Recognition for goods. These opinions assessed the compatibility with EU rules of administrative decisions denying market access to goods lawfully marketed in other Member States.
SOLVIT also concluded an agreement with the European Labour Authority. The agreement provides a procedure for mediation in disputes between two or more Member states in individual cases of misapplication of EU law concerning EU labour mobility rules that cannot be resolved in SOLVIT.
More businesses made use of the services SOLVIT offers (12% increase). Efforts to promote SOLVIT should continue to raise its profile in the business community.
Staffing remains crucial for the network to operate to its full potential. As there are always two centres involved in the casehandling, lack of resources in one centre also affects other centres with adequate staffing. This is particular the case for the larger SOLVIT centres, which are involved in a large proportion of all SOLVIT cases. In 2021, the centres' staffing situation was as follows: urgent action is required in 4 countries, improvement is required in 9 countries, and 17 are adequately resourced for the current caseload.
Overall staffing indicator - staffing level in SOLVIT centres
The total score is calculated on the basis of the following indicators:
- continuity of case handlers (at least one member of staff has been working in SOLVIT for more than 2 years),
- large part of case handling relies on long-term staff,
- staff adequate for current caseload,
- no other tasks in parallel (or overriding SOLVIT tasks),
- centre always operational,
- staff tries to address structural/recurrent problems,
- staff engages in awareness-raising activities,
- staff available for policy development/trainings etc.
- Below 0 is red: “urgent action needed”.
- Between 0-2 is yellow: “needs improvement”.
- Above (excluding 2) is green: “sufficient”.
|SOLVIT centre||Continuity of case handlers (At least one member of staff has been working in SOLVIT for more than 2 years)||Large part of case handling relies on long-term staff||Staff adequate for SOLVIT tasks||No other tasks in parallel (or overriding SOLVIT tasks)||Centre always operational||Staff address structural/recurrent problems||Staff engages in awareness raising activities||Staff engages in SOLVIT development||Total score of indicators|
|Austria||YES: +1||YES: +1||NO:-3||YES:+1||YES:+1||YES: +1||YES:+1||NO:-1||2|
Difficulties in the single market (as reported in the SOLVIT database)
Problems linked to COVID-19 restrictions:
- EU COVID digital certificate not granted in absence of a Swedish personal identification number - not in line with Regulation 2021/953
- complete ban of entry in Norway due to COVID-19 causing problems to employers of workers from other EEA countries
- difficulties in receiving unemployment benefits in Cyprus, Spain and Sweden (reported since 2020).
Issues for EU citizens trying to get their professional qualifications recognised in another country included:
- problems getting professional qualifications recognised for clinical psychologists in Belgium (reported since 2020)
- difficulties for nurses to receive automatic recognition in Ireland due to language requirements
- delays in processing applications for recognition of professional qualifications incompatible with the EU’s Professional Qualifications Directive in Spain (reported since 2020)
- refusal of partial access to the profession of speech therapist in France and sectoral health professions in Austria.
Cross-border and services providers encountered the following obstacle:
- Provision of temporary employment services by employment agencies are considered as having a permanent character in France.
EU citizens encountered the following social security issues when moving to other EEA countries:
- delays in exchanging information under EU coordination of social security rules affecting most EEA countries (reported since 2020)
- delays in handling applications and reduction of family benefits of cross border worker due to indexation on the basis that the family is residing in another Member State in Austria and Germany
- delays in exchange of forms for international disability pensions due to requirement for translation of medical reports in Portugal
- delays in handling applications for EU cross-border pension in Greece (reported since 2019)
- refusal by the relevant authority in Germany to investigate and retrieve documents in order to establish rights to family benefits (reported since 2019).
Problems with entry and residence rights:
- delays in issuing residence cards to non-EU family members of EU citizens in Sweden (reported since 2018), Norway and Austria
- People from other EEA countries have difficulties registering in the population register and obtaining a personal identification number which is necessary to gain access to certain essential public and private services in Sweden (reported since 2018)
- unjustified conditions and refusals for short-term visas for non-EU family members of EU citizens in Norway, Spain, Sweden and Slovenia.
Issues of discrimination:
- severe delays in the exchange of foreign driving licences in France, with no issuing of a temporary driving licence (reported since 2019)
- requirement to register a foreign driving licence in the local municipality in Belgium
- non conformity with European Court of Justice ruling C-388/19 on discriminatory taxation of capital gains based on nationality in Portugal
- requirement to register children with double nationality with two family names in Spain.
Cross border payments
Refusal of foreign bank accounts for the payment of taxes in Spain and France.
Individual performance indicators
Calculation of the individual performance indicators does not include cases related to more general difficulties that SOLVIT detects in the single market (see above). This is because such difficulties are more complex and entail longer handling times.
Indicator : Home centre – preparation time
Indicator : Home centre – time to accept a solution
Indicator : Home centre – time to not accept a complaint
Indicator : Lead centre – time to accept a case
Indicator : Lead centre – resolution time
Average number of days taken: 111 (133 in 2020).
Over 10 weeks: 39% of cases (46% in 2020 and 40% in 2019).
Over 20 weeks (twice the target time): 23% of cases (31% in 2020 and 22% in 2019).
Factors affecting resolution speed:
- cooperation with national administrations
- case complexity
- number and continuity of staff (many centres are understaffed, have other tasks in addition to SOLVIT-related work, or staff members rotate frequently).
Indicator : Resolution rate by country
Actions to prioritise the work of SOLVIT
- ensure SOLVIT centres are adequately staffed
- enable staff to spend sufficient time on SOLVIT work
- ensure the continuity and expertise of staff
- ensure that national authorities (including regional and local bodies) cooperate with SOLVIT
- follow-up on more general difficulties in the single market detected through SOLVIT.
SOLVIT centres should:
- focus on the quality of case handling
- ensure national administrations support and recognise SOLVIT’s role
- intensify efforts to attract more business-related cases
- take action to diversify the caseload
- ensure SOLVIT centres have access to legal expertise on problem areas for business
- liaise with counterparts in the Europe Enterprise Network and other national business stakeholders
- establish co-operation schemes and synergies at national level to ensure the resolution of concrete issues linked to breaches of EU law detected by SOLVIT (e.g. with members of relevant expert groups, infringement co-ordinators, Single Market Enforcement Task Force, cooperation with government services).
The Commission should:
- promote the use of SOLVIT
- make use of the available data and evidence from SOLVIT for policy making and identifying barriers in the single market
- ensure SOLVIT is the default tool for handling complaints in the EU Commission and single market dispute resolution
- assist the SOLVIT centres in building up legal expertise by making use of online options
- cooperate with the Enterprise Europe Network and the European Labour Authority.
Facts and figures
- Social security remains the biggest problem area dealt with by SOLVIT
- No big rise or fall in numbers in the other legal areas
- In 48 cases, SOLVIT centres requested legal support from Commission experts, who provided their advice within an average of 19 days.
Informal legal advice provided
Commission experts are invited to provide their informal legal advice within 14 working days. This deadline was met in 44% of the cases
Legal areas informal legal advice
The legal areas where informal legal advice was provided are similar to those of the SOLVIT caseload
Cases submitted under the problem-solving procedure – Article 8 Regulation 2019/515/EU
Regulation 2019/515/EU provides for business-friendly problem solving procedure, based on SOLVIT, that includes the possibility of an assessment from the Commission whether a decision restricting or denying market access is compatible with EU law.
One case, related to the addition of food nutrients to a chocolate protein bar, was closed in 2021. SOLVIT managed to convince the authority involved to change the administrative decision refusing market access.
75% of the business cases were solved.
The main problem areas for business were:
- taxation (39%)
- professional qualifications (15%)
- social security (11%)
- free movement of goods (10%)
- free movement of services (9%
SOLVIT has stepped up its efforts to attract business cases:
- The SOLVIT promotional material was revised with the aim of becoming more business oriented
- SOLVIT centres exchanged best practices on how to develop a national business strategy
- Cooperation with the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) intensified
- Legal training was organised for SOLVIT centres and EEN advisors on the posting and free movement of workers, two areas of specific relevance for business-related problems. the training was provided in co-operation with the Vrije Universiteit Brussel
- SOLVIT workshops reinforced the focus on business: a legal training on VAT took place in the SOLVIT workshop (April 2021)
- Lessons learned from the implementation of the problem solving procedure based on SOLVIT under Regulation 2019/515 on Mutual Recognition were also discussed.
Success stories – examples of problems solved in 2021
SOLVIT helped to remove the following barriers to the free movement of people, goods and services in the EU:
- unjustified refusal to remove climbing equipment from the Spanish market
- delays in the recognition of qualifications of a biomedical laboratory technician in Italy and of a psychologist in Spain
- VAT double taxation of a second hand trailer in Italy
- unjustified delays for VAT refunds of EU companies in Romania
- problems and delays in exchange of information for social security benefits in many countries
- €18 593 of social security contributions unduly requested for a self-employed surgeon working part time in France;
- delays and problems in administrative procedures in many countries for the payment of unemployment benefits for cross border workers due to COVID-19 crisis.