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'Foreigners don't need to show banks Swedish ID'

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The bridge that connects Sweden to the European continent. File: L.E. Daniel Larsson/Flickr
10:17 CEST+02:00
The Swedish agency that helps Europeans fight impediments to the EU principle of free movement has revealed an increase in complaints, including one from a foreign citizen unable to open a bank account in Sweden.

The agency Solvit, part of Sweden's National Trade Board (Kommerskollegium), helps Swedish citizens and companies that run into troubles in other parts of the union. It also helps EU nationals who live in Sweden. 

In a new report, Solvit has shared a selection of cases to highlight some of the obstacles that remain to the free movement of labour, goods, and services. 

For example, the agency helped the Swedish and German social security agencies to communicate and settle a mix-up rather than leave the woman at the centre of a kerfuffle to deal with both agencies on her own.

The woman had received child support in Sweden but her children lived in Germany with their father at the time in question. Faced with a repayment demand from Sweden, she was told to apply for German child benefit retroactively.

The process ground to a Catch 22 halt, however, when the German social security agency said they could not pay out the child benefit, as the family had already received money from Sweden. When Solvit stepped in, administrators in both countries ended up transferring the money between them, rather than heap more paperwork on the mother. 

READ ALSO: Parental leave mix-up leaves expat family struggling 

Solvit reported that the number of cases reported in 2013 had gone up by a third since 2012, shooting up from 150 to 200. 

From speaking with Maltese authorities that "too strictly applied" EU rules on issuing replacement driving licences to other EU nationals, to an unsuccessful slog to get Romania to ease its rules on the information required to be included on Swedish textiles, Solvit's case work runs the gamut of free-trade obstacles. 

While trade issues take up part of the Solvit staff's time, issues that concern Europeans moving across borders account for 75 percent of the workload. 

"It could be EU citizens who encounter problems with personal ID numbers, social security, or having foreign professional qualifications recognized," case worker Sofia Råsmar said in a statement earlier this year. 

In some cases, ignorance of domestic law is the problem, rather than a fuzzy view of EU rules. Solvit helped an EU national last year who could not open a bank account in Sweden. He was told that his passport was not good enough and that he needed a Swedish ID card to proceed. 

"There are no common EU rules on what is needed to open an account," Solvit noted. "But Swedish law states that a bank cannot stop a person from opening an account just because the person doesn't have a specific ID." 

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"As long as a foreign person can prove their identity they should be allowed to open an account." 

READ ALSO:  British man stuck in Swedish ID nightmare

The agency also came to the aid of a Greek pensioner living in Sweden, who was having problems paying bills and buying food because his Greek pension was wired late and irregularly to his Swedish bank account. Solvit intervened, speaking with Greek authorities who promised that the man's pension would be in Sweden at the latest fifteen days after pensions were paid out in Greece. 

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