Former European Minister Vidar Helgesen (H) was one of the people tasked with preparing the confidential 2014 report on social security exports. Today, he says, the report reinforced his point: It was too difficult to restrict freedom of travel in the European Economic Area agreement.
– The main picture in the report, as I remember it, is that it was very restrictive. There was little scope for limiting Social Security exports. But it came as no surprise to me, who has always been interested in the freedoms the EEA has given us, Helgesen tells VG.
The report has been shrouded in secrecy since it was written. Parliament requested it, but was not granted access.
But now it has become the subject of a lawsuit over the Navy scandal. Male VG Content of the report on Tuesday of this week.
Vidar Helgesen served as Minister for Europe in the government of Erna Solberg from 2013 to 2015. He now lives in Stockholm and is Director of the Nobel Foundation.
In recent days, VG has discussed content 2014 Workbook Report. The working group decided that a ban on the export of social security benefits would be prohibited under the EEA, “except in the few cases where regulations exceptionally allow such claims”.
However, the working group came to the conclusion that it would be possible to use the room for maneuver in the EEA to create Norway-specific exceptions to the EEA’s right to freedom of movement.
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Together with fellow government Robert Ericsson (Frp), Helgesen had put the Export Welfare Benefits report on his desk in the fall of 2014. Ericsson was constitutionally responsible for Nav, while Helgesen was in charge of the European Economic Area in Solberg’s government.
– What did the government want to achieve by commissioning this report?
– The starting point was that they wanted to consider the possibility of limiting the export of welfare benefits, but within the framework of the EEA agreement, says Helgesen.
He points out that not only the FRP and the Conservative Party, but also people in the Labor Party have advocated limiting Social Security exports.
Not everyone was interested in the restrictions set by the EEA agreement. But that was the absolute starting point for me, and I found the working group to share this fundamental view, as VG states in the report, he says.
But Helgesen flatly rejects that the report might give Nav or the administration a new basis for To go after people who have taken welfare benefits with them abroad.
The report provides no evidence that the government was aware of a practice in which freedom of travel was tightened. exactly the contrary. The starting point as a minister in the European Economic Area was: If you work and pay taxes in Norway, does that give you the right to take the benefits to your family in Poland or in another country? And the answer was that it was practically impossible to prevent, says the former European minister.
– How can this practice be tightened and people sentenced to prison for traveling abroad with social security benefit?
– I don’t know, and I was as shocked as anyone else when this became known. I don’t understand how Nav et al could have read the report as a mandate to stress.
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The former Europe minister says he recognizes the language repeated by VG in discussing the report this week. EEA law can give these countries relatively great freedom to place limits on longer vacation periods abroad.
“However, the group assumes that the tightening here will primarily affect those who have membership in the social security system and are residents of Norway,” the report says.
– We laughed a little at the Foreign Office when this came out: Norwegians on vacation or staying abroad for a long time with a Norwegian old-age benefit don’t really want to be affected. He says it was a move that Norwegian politicians were not interested in.
How did you react when the Social Security scandal broke out in 2019?
– I dealt with the unfairness of this, but I was not entirely surprised by the lack of understanding in the Norwegian administration of what a common labor market in the European Economic Area would entail. I had no idea about the practice, but the area of social security wasn’t my responsibility in government either. It would have been unacceptable for us not to take any action if we had known about it. My impression in retrospect is that this practice began before I became a minister, but was not revealed until long after my departure, says Vidar Helgesen.
Would you like to help the Norwegian public and parliament read the entire 2014 report?
When the attorney general of the government is giving advice to the government, it is good practice not to make the advice public. Therefore, the government and the attorney general must decide this, says Vidar Helgesen.
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