Since 23 July 2020, the digital pensions awards entered into force in Greece including a totally automatic procedure for all stages, from application to pension decision notification. This reform is the implementation of the political commitment of the Ministry of Labour since 1983 to the speeding up the procedure for awarding pensions, and even completion in a period no longer than two months.
A timetable was put in place for the completion of the digital awarding of the pensions as follows:
There is a provision for integrating pending applications in the digital procedure and awarding or transferring pensions submitted from 1 January 2017 until the ATLAS service came into effect. These applications can be processed according to this digital procedure for the issuance and notification of decisions, after invitation of the beneficiaries and submission of a new application, which will also record the date of the initial application to calculate backdated arrears.
The digital procedure includes different stages set out below.
1. Signing in to the service
Applications must be submitted electronically on the ATLAS platform via the Unified Digital Portal of the Public Administration (gov.gr). Applicants can sign in to the electronic service after authentication of the beneficiary by entering the applicant’s taxisnet codes, social security number (AMKA) and email address. Exceptionally, claimants for a survivor’s pension due to the death of a foreign pensioner without family members recorded in the Greek Civil Registry can submit a paper application.
2. Application submission
The beneficiaries fulfil and submit a separate application for each entitlement requested. The necessary documents are not submitted by the applicants but are obtained by the Interoperability Center of the General Secretariat of Information Systems of the Public Administration, with the exception of a pension application submitted by the judicial supporter of an insured person or where the competent regional agency of e-EFKA cannot obtain all the supporting documents ex-officio. Electronic submission of the application is treated as a solemn declaration of the Law 1599/1986.
3. Processing of personal data by e-EFKA
The decision on the application presupposes processing of the applicant’s personal data and that of his or her immediate relatives (such as parents, husband, and children) in cases where the award is associated with these relatives. For this reason, before submitting an application, the applicant must consent to the processing and use of his or her personal data by e-EFKA, according to the GDPR and Greek Law 4624/2019.
The issuance of the decisions on the pension claims takes place automatically via the ATLAS service and is based on the digital data regarding pension payments and the insured period available in the ATLAS information system. The relevant MD defines, inter alia, the legal nature of the decisions issued by the electronic service as public documents (for which the provisions of articles 6 and 16-19 of the Administrative Procedure Code apply), their form as well as the details of both the decisions awarding pensions and the refusing their award.
5. Notification of the decision.
The e-EFKA decision is notified to the email address provided by the applicant and made available on the insured person’s personal account on the e-EFKA website. This decision ‘is considered as notified after ten days from its notification by electronic means’. This is important for the beginning of the period for any possible court action against the notified decision.
It is obvious that the adoption of the digital pension award system brings about the automatisation of all stages of the procedure, transforming the connection between services and the interconnection between services and citizens. It allows applicants not to provide supporting documents, with a few exceptions, and harmonises the issuing of the decision with its notification. Until recently the delay from submission of the application to decision was more than one and a half years; now it will be effective a short after application submission and notified to the applicant immediately.
Moreover, given that supporting documents will be obtained directly from the relevant agencies, bureaucracy will be removed and the transparency of the procedure will be ensured (and any alteration of certificates is prevented since they are obtained electronically). Consequently, it will be possible for the first time to eliminate long-term weaknesses in the system, such as the need for the citizens to visit the relevant agencies, the long waiting period, the pending pensions and errors.
Potential issues with the new system may include the capacity to obtain the necessary documents and the interconnection of the different agencies involved in the procedure, as well as the need to provide for further technical details. The ability to transfer and manage the great number of the already pending applications that were submitted according to the previous system will also be an indicator of a smooth transition to the new system. Finally, the success of the new system will depend both on the training of the e-EFKA agents that will run the system and on the public assistance for beneficiaries of retirement provisions (who are not usually very familiar with the new technologies) in submitting their applications via ATLAS.
Note: legal framework
The legal framework of the digital procedure of awarding of the pension is set out in Chapter B΄ of the Law 4670/2020 entitled ‘digital procedure of awarding of the pension’ that includes articles 16, 17 and 18, by the decision No. 16394/Δ1.5642 of the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of 4 May 2020 (Government Gazette No. 1691, issue B΄). It was adopted according to the delegation of article 17 paragraph 11 of Law 4670/2020 and by the circular No. 29/29-6-2020 of e-EFKA entitled ‘Digital procedure of awarding of the pensions of e-EFKA. Submission of the pension application, issuance, and notification of the decisions’.