Croatia: Freedom of Movement of Workers after Croatia's Accession to the EU

Free movement of workers is one of four economic freedoms of EU citizens. Although in principle as of 1 July 2013 Croatian workers are entitled to move freely and stay in other member states for work, limitations imposed by certain member states exist.

Advantages for workers due to Croatia’s accession to the EU

Free move­ment of work­ers is one of four eco­nom­ic free­doms rep­re­sent­ing the basis of the EU com­mon mar­ket, reflect­ed in free stay, work, and move­ment of EU cit­i­zens on the ter­ri­to­ry of the EU, irre­spec­tive of their nation­al­i­ty. In prac­tice, such free move­ment refers to a work­er, but also sec­on­dar­i­ly to mem­bers of his/her fam­i­ly and per­sons study­ing in mem­ber states oth­er than the coun­try of their ori­gin.

As of 1 July 2013 this free­dom means Croa­t­ian cit­i­zens may (i) accept employ­ment offers in oth­er mem­ber states, (ii) move freely with­in the ter­ri­to­ry of mem­ber states for this pur­pose, (iii) stay in a mem­ber state for the pur­pose of employ­ment in accor­dance with the pro­vi­sions gov­ern­ing the employ­ment of nation­als of the respec­tive mem­ber state, and (iv) remain in the ter­ri­to­ry of the mem­ber state after hav­ing been employed there. As of Croa­t­i­a’s acces­sion to the EU, Croa­t­ian cit­i­zens may use the ser­vices of EURES, which offers infor­ma­tion, advice, and job search assis­tance at the Euro­pean lev­el, and whose advi­sors are locat­ed in region­al offices of the Croa­t­ian Employ­ment Office (Hrvats­ki zavod za zapošl­ja­van­je) in Zagreb, Rije­ka, Split and Osi­jek.

Excep­tions to the free move­ment rule

No legal lim­i­ta­tions exist for most work­ers and work places; how­ev­er, free move­ment of work­ers is not absolute. It is lim­it­ed by (i) pub­lic pol­i­cy, pub­lic secu­ri­ty, or pub­lic health rules, (ii) rules on employ­ment of nation­als of par­tic­u­lar mem­ber state in state bod­ies (this lim­i­ta­tion does not how­ev­er apply for pure­ly tech­ni­cal work posi­tions), and (iii) so-called con­di­tion­al rules in rela­tion to cer­tain reg­u­lat­ed pro­fes­sions (eg, lawyers).

Irre­spec­tive of the above rule on free move­ment, a tran­si­tion­al peri­od has devel­oped that rep­re­sents a gen­er­al excep­tion to it. Each mem­ber state, in accor­dance with its employ­ment poli­cies, choos­es its own regime on employ­ing Croa­t­ian cit­i­zens, and restric­tions may last up to sev­en years based on the “2+3+2” for­mu­la. Great Britain, Ger­many, Aus­tria, Italy, Benelux coun­tries, France, Cyprus, Greece, Mal­ta, Slove­nia and Spain have imple­ment­ed these lim­i­ta­tions on employ­ing Croa­t­ian cit­i­zens dur­ing the two years as of Croa­t­i­a’s acces­sion to the EU. Under the reci­procity prin­ci­ple, Croa­t­ia has done the same to their cit­i­zens. So Croa­t­ian work­ers will be employed in these mem­ber states based on bilat­er­al agree­ments and work per­mit quo­tas, while the cit­i­zens of the respec­tive mem­ber states will have their employ­ment rela­tion­ship reg­u­lat­ed in line with the Croa­t­ian Aliens Act (Zakon o stranci­ma).

Applic­a­bil­i­ty of EU direc­tives

By acces­sion to the EU, applic­a­ble bilat­er­al agree­ments on social secu­ri­ty, entered into by Croa­t­ia and EU mem­ber states, EEA states and Switzer­land, cease to exist. Croa­t­ia start­ed to direct­ly apply Coun­cil direc­tives on har­mon­i­sa­tion of social secu­ri­ty sys­tems, which changes influ­ence the Croa­t­ian sys­tem, for exam­ple, as fol­lows:

  1. Croa­t­ian cit­i­zens are enti­tled to use health pro­tec­tion in oth­er mem­ber states based on the Euro­pean Health Insur­ance Card, at the expense of the Croa­t­ian Health Insur­ance Insti­tute;
  2. Croa­t­ian work­ers have a right, after hav­ing worked in a mem­ber state, to receive unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits in line with the laws of the mem­ber state of their last employ­ment;
  3. Croa­t­ian cit­i­zens have right to receive a retire­ment pen­sion in any mem­ber state in which they have been insured at least 12 months if they ful­fil oth­er con­di­tions under the nation­al laws of the mem­ber states.

Novelties in Croatian law

Fron­tier work­ers

After Croa­t­i­a’s acces­sion to the EU, a new cat­e­go­ry of insured per­sons who use cross-bor­der health pro­tec­tion has become known: fron­tier work­ers or per­sons per­form­ing their work as employed or self-employed per­sons with­in one mem­ber state while hav­ing their res­i­dence in anoth­er mem­ber state and return­ing to the state of their res­i­dence dai­ly or at least once a week. Such fron­tier work­ers are enti­tled to be insured in the mem­ber state of their employ­ment.

Sec­ond­ed work­ers

Spe­cif­ic rules apply for per­sons sec­ond­ed to anoth­er state for per­for­mance of work with­in a peri­od of time. For work in anoth­er mem­ber state, the sec­ond­ed work­er does not need to obtain a work per­mit, but must reg­u­late his/her stay in line with applic­a­ble reg­u­la­tions. The law of the home mem­ber state is applic­a­ble to the sec­ond­ed work­er; thus, for the Croa­t­ian work­er, the Croa­t­ian law.

As of 1 July 2013, a Croa­t­ian employ­er need not pay addi­tion­al health insur­ance con­tri­bu­tions abroad for Croa­t­ian work­ers sec­ond­ed to anoth­er mem­ber state. This refers also to employ­ees who have been sec­ond­ed abroad under bilat­er­al agree­ments before Croa­t­i­a’s acces­sion to the EU but the dura­tion of which extends past 1 July 2013.

Also, as of 1 July 2013, Croa­t­ian insured per­sons need not pay addi­tion­al health insur­ance con­tri­bu­tions abroad in case of busi­ness trips, edu­ca­tion­al stays, work, or pri­vate busi­ness stays in oth­er mem­ber states.

With Croatia's accession to the EU on 1 July 2013, the advantages of an open market unfolded, enabling Croatian citizens to freely move and search for employment in other member states. Although restrictions on Croatian workers have been implemented, they have still been granted an opportunity to achieve their professional goals.

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schoenherr attorneys at law / www.schoenherr.eu