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Europe

EU To Expand Foreigners' Safety Net

As part of an effort to increase the social safety net for foreigners living in Europe, the European Commission wants to make pensions for legal workers transferrable to other EU countries.

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Europe's 13 million legal immigrants are stranded by pension policies they can't take with them.

European Union finance ministers meeting in Luxembourg moved on Tuesday to approve a policy that would make pensions for non-European citizens who are legally living and working in the EU portable.

Under the new rule, for example, a Turkish worker in Germany who is required to move to the Netherlands for work-related reasons could transfer his pension funds and entitlements to that country.

A unified European pension "passport" would be issued to workers that would make it easier for both people and private pension providers to take those policies from one country to another inside the EU's borders.

More than 13 million non-European foreigners legally reside within the EU. Currently, they do not have the right to transfer pensions from one EU land to another.

"We're aiming for the largest possible integration of foreign nationals living in the EU," EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs Anna Diamantopoulou said as she introduced the proposal in February. "We want to give them the rights and duties that will make them equal to EU citizens."

Belgium has expressed reservations about the new policy, which has been hashed out over the past two years, but the ministers said those would be resolved before a planned EU summit meeting in Seville on June 21. Thereafter, it will be taken up as legislation by the European Parliament.

The policy is part of a larger EU reform plan to create a greater social net for foreign workers living inside Europe.

Though it approved the proposal, the European Commission said that the new regulation would not make it legal for relatives of foreigners residing legally within the EU to enter its borders to live and work. The policy only affects legal residents who move to another country inside the union.

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