Some members of the European Parliament are calling for legal action against Sweden, after the parliament’s petitions committee heard complaints by EU citizens denied a Swedish personal identification number (personnummer).
The problem goes a long way back and lies in the Swedish law on the population register, which requires foreigners, including EU citizens, to demonstrate that they will reside in Sweden for a year or more before being able to obtain a personal identification number.
Foreign citizens who have a short-term employment contract or do not have a job, students, pensioners and other inactive persons are especially exposed to the problem, but they are not the only ones.
Life in Sweden can be difficult without a personal number, as this is used for everything from opening a bank account to signing up for a telephone contract or participating in supermarket loyalty schemes and even getting a job.
Over the years the European Parliament has received 13 petitions against Sweden on issues related to the personal number.
Five were submitted by German citizens, one by a Spaniard, one by a Dane, another by a Dutch citizen and a further one by an Italian citizen. Two petitions, dating back to 2012 and 2018, were filed by British citizens when the UK was still part of the EU.
A further complaint was introduced in 2017 by the EU Rights Clinic, a legal service offered by European Citizens Action Service (ECAS) and the University of Kent in Brussels to support EU citizens moving across Europe. The EU Rights Clinic said it had identified almost 300 cases of EU nationals who had been refused the personal number by Swedish authorities.
The petitioners argued that the refusal to issue the number discriminates against EU citizens and is contrary to EU free movement rules. Under EU law, EU citizens can move to live, study or work to another EU country and be treated at the same conditions as their own nationals.
EU citizens should be considered resident after having lived in Sweden for over three months, said Anthony Valcke, the Founder and Supervising Solicitor of the EU Rights Clinic.
The European Commission has previously investigated the problems and issued a letter of formal notice to the Swedish government, the first step in an EU legal procedure that can lead to the EU Court of Justice. But later the case was closed because the Swedish authorities promised to take action.
However, the Parliament petitions committee last week heard from three petitioners that things have not changed.
Ronald Huth, from Germany, said that even the alternative “coordination number”, suggested as a solution, does not give access to the needed services.
Italian petitioner Kevin Ribeiro Torquetti shared the “frustrations” of obtaining the personnummer only after one year and a half in Sweden. That meant difficulties to register for the Swedish for immigrants course, struggling to see a doctor, more expensive medications and “almost impossible” Covid-19 vaccines appointments or Covid-19 cards for travel.
Anthony Valcke argued at the meeting that “the simple solution” would be for every EU citizen with a right of residence to get a personal number. He called on the petitions committee to write to the Swedish government about the issue.
A representative of the Commission at the meeting said the EU executive is assessing whether a new Swedish law entered into force on September 1st 2023 will help resolve the problems. Under the new law, the “coordination number” would be accessible with anyone with a connection with the country (including second-home owners) and would have the same format and similar functions of the personal number.
Romanian MEP Loránt Vincze and Luxembourg’s Marc Angel asked the Commission to consider the opening of an infringement procedure against Sweden if the problems persist.
The committee decided to keep the petitions open, so MEPs can return to the cases at a later date.
EU citizens and residents can petition the European Parliament on issues related to the EU law. The parliament then decides if and how to take them forward, for instance with a report asking other EU institutions or authorities to take action.
In Sweden, EU citizens who feel they have been given wrong decisions on matters like obtaining personal numbers can contact the Solvit centre at Sweden’s National Board of Trade, which helps people with issues related to EU freedom of movement.
Source : The Local