Citizens of the European Union have “the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States” (Art. 20.2.a TFEU) and, likewise, freedom of movement for workers shall be secured within the Union (Art. 45 TFEU). Article 48 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union provides the legal basis on which the European Parliament and the Council take the necessary measures to prevent workers who move from losing or having their social security rights undermined. Rules have been established for the coordination of social security systems (Regulations EC 883/2004 and 987/2009) and the export of services, which prevent that “cash benefits payable under the legislation of one or more Member States or under this Regulation shall not be subject to any reduction, amendment, suspension, withdrawal or confiscation on account of the fact that the beneficiary or the members of his family reside in a Member State other than that in which the institution responsible for providing benefits is situated”. (Regulation 883/2004, art. 7). This is true but with some limitations that mainly affect the special non-contributory cash benefits (Regulation 883/2004, Art . 70), linked to the economic and social context of the person concerned and the State which recognizes them.
However, the decision to exercise these rights can later cause indirect effects which should be avoided. In this sense, the associations which represent the interests of the returnees have expressed that these people face problems to exercise certain social rights. When a certain degree of disability has been recognized in another Member State the Spanish administrative authorities tend not to recognize that evaluation issued by another government as sufficient entitlement to access certain disability-related benefits such as housing allowances, tax relief, etc. Instead, they are forced to undergo a further valuation by a disability assessment team whose report does not always match the opinion of the foreign authority. In short, they suffer a difference of treatment with regard to other Spanish workers who have not moved abroad as, for the latter, the recognition of permanent disability for the purposes of social security benefits is sufficient for them to apply for social advantages, without further proceedings.
It should be remembered that the European Parliament Resolution of 25 October 2011 on mobility and the inclusion of people with disabilities and the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 (2010/2272 (INI)) “calls for better, mutual recognition of disability status across the Member States” and “calls on the Member States to exchange good practice in order to close the gaps between national systems for assessing degree(s) of disability across the EU, with the aim of ensuring better mobility for people with disabilities”. This is a petition that still needs addressing, finally undertaking some action in this regard.