Countries establish social rights framework.
By Biljana Pekusic and Svetla Dimitrova for Southeast European Times in Belgrade and Sofia -- 28/01/13
Serbian and Bulgarian citizens who travel from one country to the other for work will collect benefits under the agreement. [AFP]
Citizens of Serbia and Bulgaria who travel between the two countries for work will be able to collect pensions, health insurance, disability and unemployment payments from the country where their jobs are located starting February 1st.
The agreement, finalised by Belgrade and Sofia in December, is seen as a positive step in regional relations and business development.
The pact also makes it possible for pensions earned in Bulgaria and Serbia to be recognised by other nations that have social security agreements with the two countries.
"It is important [for Bulgaria] to settle such bilateral issues with non-EU countries, where other mechanisms are in place. So, this is a very positive and sensible move," Assia Goneva, executive secretary at the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria, told SETimes.
"This document ... will be of great help to the citizens of Bulgaria and Serbia, but hopefully it will provide encouragement to business people from both countries to invest capital and develop business in the neighboring country," Bulgarian Minister of Labour and Social Policy Totyu Mladenov said during the signing of the agreement in Belgrade.
There are no precise figures on how many Serbian and Bulgarian citizens travel between the countries for work, but the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in Belgrade said it is a significant number.
"In our border areas people, often for personal, family or marital reasons, [have] occasional or temporary work in Serbia or Bulgaria. The number is always changing," Radoje Savicevic, the group manager for international agreements on social security in the ministry, told SETimes.
Serbia has 26 similar agreements including with the US, New Zealand, Australia and several EU member countries. Agreements will soon be signed with Austria, Canada and Slovakia, and negotiations are ongoing with Romania, Greece and Russia.
Belgrade resident Violeta Kostic, who said she spends four months each summer working at a hotel on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, welcomed the news. "It's very important to me that [my work] will be counted in the pension service," Kostic told SETimes.
The Bulgarian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy said in an e-mail to SETimes that the National Insurance Institute in Sofia expected about 250 Bulgarian pensioners to benefit from the treaty in 2013-2014.
"The number of beneficiaries as such doesn't matter at all," Goneva told SETimes. "Even if there are as few as just five people affected, they need to feel that their rights are protected."