Spain ordered by EU to accept European Health Card for pensioner tourists


SPAIN – Spain has two months to start accepting the European Health Card, even if it alone does not prove a person is receiving a state pension at home.

Spain has been given an ultimatum by the European Commission to correct a fault in health procedures for foreigners within two months or face being taken before the EU Justice Tribunal.

It relates to Spain’s refusal to supply free medicines to retired people from other EU countries who are on holiday in Spain. Brussels says that is discrimination and breaks EU norms on social security rights for EU citizens who travel in the continent. Foreign residents are not affected.

The Spanish Ministry for Health contends that the European health documents do not confirm whether the person is a pensioner or not.

The European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, Vladimir Spidla, has said they were acting to guarantee the tourists of other EU countries would enjoy the same rights as residents. He continued that Spain was one of the main tourist destinations in Europe, but the Spanish regulations currently impose extra administrative formalities to EU pensioners who could need medicines during a temporary stay.

The Spanish authorities currently demand an extra document, from the home Social Security, which certifies the person is collecting a state pension. Spain contends that residents also have to produce such a document to prove they are receiving a pension and so there is no discrimination against tourists.

They add that foreigners often present a document which is ‘illegible or in an unintelligible language’ and that is not taken as being valid proof that they are pensioners.

EU legislation calls on all EU citizens who are visiting another member state to have the same access to health as residents of that country. They claim demanding extra documentation goes against the principles of the EU Health Card.