That Dáil Éireann approves the exercise by the State of the option, provided by Article 3 of the fourth Protocol set out in the Treaty of Amsterdam, to notify the President of the Council that it wishes to take part in the adoption and application of the following proposed measure:
proposal for a Council Regulation extending the provisions of Regulation (EC) 883/2004 and its implementing Regulation (Regulation (EC) No [. . .]) to nationals of third countries who are not already covered by these provisions solely on the ground of their nationality, a copy of which proposed measure was laid before Dáil Éireann on 21st August, 2007.
I thank Members of the House and Whips for making time available to discuss the exercise by the State of the option under the fourth Protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam in respect of a proposal for a Council regulation extending the provisions of Regulation 883/2004, which will replace the existing EU social security co-ordination rules in Regulation 1408/71. There is a three-month time limit for notifying the President of the Council of our wish to take part in the adoption and application of any such measures and as this proposal was presented to the Council on 25 July 2007, if Ireland wishes to take part in the adoption and application of this instrument from the beginning, it has until 24 October 2007 to inform Council of its intentions.
At its meeting on Tuesday of this week the Government agreed that Ireland should exercise the option provided by Article 3 of the fourth Protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam to notify the President of the Council of the European Union that it wishes to take part in the negotiation of the proposed Council regulation on the extension of the provisions of Regulation 883/2004 to nationals of third countries who are not already covered by these provisions solely on the ground of their nationality. The exercise by the State of any such option is, under the Constitution, also subject to the approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas.
The social security rights of people living and working in the EU are governed by EU Regulations 1408/71 and 574/72. The regulations co-ordinate social security systems within the EU and are designed to remove obstacles to freedom of movement which would otherwise arise from loss or reduction of social security cover or entitlements when a person moves from one country to another.
Since the adoption of Regulation 859/2003, which was approved by the Government and by the Oireachtas in March 2002 and came into force on 1 June 2003, third country nationals who have worked in two or more member states and their family members and survivors can rely on Regulation (EEC) 1408/71 on the same basis as EU nationals, provided they are legally resident in the territory of an EU member state. A third country national, therefore, who becomes unemployed having worked legally in the UK and Ireland can rely on an aggregation of social insurance paid in both states to qualify for jobseeker's benefit.
The current Commission proposal aims to extend to third country nationals the provisions of Regulation (EC) 883/2004. This regulation will replace the existing Regulation 1408/71. However, the scope of Regulation (EC) 883/2004 is wider than Regulation (EEC) 1408/71 in that the former also covers persons who are not professionally active, not just workers as heretofore but all legally resident third country nationals.
There are a number of reasons it is considered that the State should respond positively to this proposal. First, the conference which adopted the Amsterdam treaty amendments took note of the declaration by Ireland that it intended to exercise its right under Article 3 of the protocol on the position of the UK and Ireland to take part in the adoption of measures under Title IV of the treaty establishing the European Union to the maximum extent compatible with the maintenance of the common travel area with the UK.
The proposal is also in keeping with the spirit of conclusions of the 1999 Tampere European Council, in which Heads of State stressed that member states must ensure fair treatment of non-EU nationals who reside legally on their territory. This includes better integration of third country nationals who are legally resident in the territory of a member state by giving them rights that are as close as possible to those enjoyed by EU citizens. This position was echoed by the Justice and Home Affairs Council in 2005. The extension of the EU regulations on social security to third country nationals is an important means of achieving these EU policy goals. Ireland supported the extension of Regulation (EEC) 1408/71 to third country nationals on the basis that this extension was fully in line with national policy. Therefore, to continue this policy we should support the current proposal from the Commission.
Additionally, as there are no nationality conditions in Irish social security legislation, people who are legally resident here and who take up or are entitled to take up work in Ireland have the same social welfare entitlements as Irish nationals. I want also to emphasise that these extended rules do not give entitlement to third country nationals to enter, stay or reside in a member state or to have access to its labour markets.
Third country nationals who are covered by these provisions must be legally resident on the territory of a member state and therefore must have a temporary or permanent right of residence. Movement to another member state must be in compliance with the second state's national legislation on entry and residence. While I am satisfied that the purpose of the current proposal is to extend social security protection to non-active third country nationals on the same basis as non-active EU nationals, Ireland would be keen to partake in the discussions of this proposal to ensure that Ireland's existing conditions for such payments would apply. It is important that Ireland is in a position to influence the negotiations on the proposal.
Given that certain third country nationals already enjoy protection of social security rights, it is considered that the fact that the scope of Regulation (EC) 883/2004 also covers people who are not professionally active will not have a significant impact on the burden borne by member states as the number of persons who will be covered over and above the current situation will be low. Like Ireland, the UK opted into the extension of Regulations 1408/71 and 574/72 to third country nationals but it is not known at this stage what the UK intends to do in regard to the current proposal. Should the UK not opt in, it is considered that this will have no implications for the common travel area as both the UK and Ireland would continue to operate their existing immigration controls in regard to third country nationals and the proposal does not confer any new entitlement of residence.
For the reasons I have outlined, I recommend the motion to the House.