Declaration on the Rights of Foreign Service Families

Pismo EUFASE ministrstvom za zunanje zadeve (Lizbona, 30. 06. 2021):

Adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Foreign Service Families

The EUFASA Declaration on the Rights of Foreign Service Families draws on the recommendations formulated to Ministries of Foreign Affairs over the past thirty-seven years and aims to provide a basic set of rights for the families of foreign service officers. Although some EUFASA member States have acknowledged the “legal existence” of the diplomatic spouse/partner explicitly, such as Switzerland, which has adopted a comprehensive “policy for accompanying partners” and France which applies the regime of the “collaborateur occasionel du service public” (“occasional representative of the state public service”) when the spouse/partner is on “official” duty, most countries do not have a set of rights and obligations for spouses/partners who are accompanying MFA officers on postings. In practice this means that many partners, spouses, and children of foreign service officers have less access to health insurance, employment, schooling, or social security than they would have had, had they not accompanied an MFA officer abroad.

EUFASA requests that your Ministry of Foreign Affairs review the attached document and consider adopting the articles therein which are not already part of your MFA policy. Research in expatriate management indicates that this will result not only in better support from the spouses and partners in your system, but also in greater satisfaction and mobility of your transferable workforce.

Pension Rights for Spouses

The issue of pensions is a key topic for foreign service spouses and partners. Regular international transfers not only make it difficult for spouses to work; in many countries, they are also prevented from receiving or making social security and/or pension contributions. Accompanying an MFA officer abroad therefore often puts spouses at a significant professional and personal economic disadvantage, compared to if they were to stay in the sending country.

A study carried out in 2019 showed that the loss of pension entitlements represented a significant stress factor for half of the responding spouses and partners. A follow-up study by EUFASA in 2020 found a wide range of pension models among European MFAs, including a full pension guaranteed by law (Finland) to a minimal pension guaranteed by law for spouses without their own income (Czech Republic), some contributions to a pension fund based on policy (United Kingdom, Austria). A minority of countries and institutions represented in EUFASA has no pension provision at all (Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, and EEAS).

EUFASA urges governments to find solutions to compensate spouses and partners of foreign service officers for the loss of social security benefits they experience due to accompanying MFA officers on international postings, including pension rights. Your national partners’ and families’ association is available to work with your Ministry to propose multiple solutions and to help identify possible reforms.

EUFASA strives to provide efficient, feasible and affordable solutions to adapt the conditions for partners, spouses, and families to the demands of the 21st century, and we hope for your support in this endeavor. We kindly request feedback from your Ministry on the issues raised here, and look forward to collaborating with you in our mutual support of partners, spouses and families.