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 ability to help businesses, people and public authorities enjoy the benefits of the single market.
In 2022 SOLVIT reached its 20th anniversary. A celebratory SOLVIT Workshop reuniting the SOLVIT members and stakeholders took place in Lisbon, the place where also the very first SOLVIT Workshop was held in 2002. The Commission also published a report ‘SOLVIT’s helping hand in the single market’, highlighting key developments and SOLVIT’s evolution over these first 20 years.
SOLVIT further strengthened its expertise in addressing mutual recognition of goods-related problems with 11 new cases opened.
It also concluded an agreement with the European Labour Authority (“ELA”). that allows national SOLVIT Centres to refer unresolved SOLVIT cases concerning the EU labour mobility rules to ELA for further intervention through mediation.
Staffing remains crucial for the network to operate to its full potential. As there are always two centres involved in the case handling, 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 2022, the centres' staffing situation was as follows: urgent action is required in 5 countries, improvement is required in 8 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 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||Is there a continuity of case handlers?|
(At least one member of staff is working in SOLVIT for more than 2 years)
|Does the large part of case handling relies on permanent staff?||Is the staff adequate for current caseload?||If there are other tasks in parallel to SOLVIT, do SOLVIT tasks get priority?||Is the centre always operational?||Does staff has time to engage in awareness raising activities?||Does staff has time for SOLVIT policy development/trainings etc.?||TOTAL|
|AUSTRIA||YES: +1||YES: +1||NO:-3||NO:-1||NO: -1||YES: +1||NO :-1||-3|
Difficulties in the single market (as reported in the SOLVIT database)
Issues for EU citizens trying to get their professional qualifications recognised in another country included:
- difficulties for nurses to get registered in Ireland due to language requirements
- denial of recognition of professional qualifications of dental hygienists in Belgium without offering compensatory measures such as adaptation period or aptitude test
- delays in the organisation of aptitude tests for physiotherapists in the Netherlands
- delays in processing applications for recognition of professional qualifications in Spain.
Cross-border services and goods providers encountered the following obstacles:
- difficulties for non-Belgian companies to obtain a digital key necessary to operate in Belgium
- discriminatory insurance requirements for Polish ski instructors in Italy
- difficulties for lawyers providing temporary services in Italy but paying social insurance contributions in another country
- no travel subsidies in Portugal for residents from Madeira and Azores buying their tickets from travel agencies based in another EU country
- a national technical rule in Italy imposes specific labelling requirements for packaging materials which are not compulsory under EU law.
Obstacles for cross-border workers:
- discriminatory procedures in public competitions for holders of non-Portuguese medical qualifications
- loss of worker status for frontier workers on maternity leave leading to loss of residence rights in Austria
- refusal by France to grant carers’ leave and carer’s benefit to frontier workers working in Belgium to take care of disabled family member
- discriminatory conditions to complete professional registration as a bus driver in Cyprus.
Obstacles in the exchange of driving licences:
- delays in the exchange of foreign driving licences in France and in Portugal.
Cross border payments:
- Refusal of foreign bank accounts for the payment of taxes in France.
EU citizens encountered the following social security issues when moving to other EEA countries:
- denial of family benefits in Italy based on new legislative decree which requires children to be resident in Italy
- denial or reduction of family benefits for children not resident in Germany
- denial of family benefits linked to assessment of residence for frontier workers in Austria
- delays in exchanging information for social security benefits (including healthcare) under EU coordination of social security rules affecting most EEA countries, in particular Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Romania.
- delays in handling applications for EU cross-border pensions in Greece
Problems with entry and residence rights:
- people from other EEA countries have difficulties in Sweden registering in the population register and obtaining a personal identification number which is necessary to gain access to certain essential public and private services
- unjustified conditions and refusals for short term visas for non-EU family members of EU citizens in the Netherlands, Norway and Lithuania.
- difficulties in getting appointments to complete residence registration procedures for EU nationals and their family members in Spain and Portugal
- requirement to register foreign marriage certificate as a pre-condition to issue an entry visa for a family member of an EU national in Hungary not in line with the free movement of persons directive
- delays in issuing residence documents for EU nationals and their family members in Austria, Norway and Sweden.
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
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
- continue to build the capacity of their SOLVIT Centres
- 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 (as described above).
SOLVIT centres should:
- focus on the quality of case handling
- ensure national administrations understand SOLVIT’s role and co-operate with them
- intensify efforts to attract more business-related cases
- ensure to have access to legal expertise
- liaise with counterparts in the Europe Enterprise Network and other national business stakeholders
The Commission should:
- promote the use of SOLVIT
- report on obstacles in the single market identified by SOLVIT
- improve the SOLVIT IT application to facilitate the handling and reporting of cases
- assist SOLVIT centres in building up legal expertise by organising online and in-person training
- continue to 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
Informal legal advice provided
In 62 cases, SOLVIT centres requested legal support from Commission experts, who provided their advice within an average of 37 days. Commission experts are invited to provide their informal legal advice within 14 working days. This deadline was met in only 25 % 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. 11 new cases were opened in 2022. One of these case was closed, clarifying that the authorities had no intention to issue a decision to block the marketing of the temperature records.
75% of the business cases were solved.
The main problem areas for business were:
- taxation (29%)
- professional qualifications (29%)
- free movement of goods (14%)
- social security (10%)
- free movement of services (7%)
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 recognition of professional qualifications and its link with free movement of services, 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: meeting with network coordinators in Lisbon (EEN, SME Envoy, business organisations and other networks)
- 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
SOLVIT helped to remove the following barriers to the free movement of people, goods and services in the EU in 2021 and 2022:
- no access to Italian port facilities for a certified inspector hired by an Italian oil company
- difficulties with the recognition of a a valid electronic certificate for the establishment of a Portuguese company in Luxembourg
- unjustified delays in refunds of VAT for EU companies in Spain, Hungary and Romania
- unjustified refusal to remove French 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
- 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