Thousands of Bulgarians have applied to receive retirement benefits in Greece, paying local residents to acquire address registration and bribing Greek officials to artificially inflate their work experience, Greek daily Imerisia reported on October 23 in a story widely picked up by Bulgarian media.
Imerisia reports the case of a Bulgarian woman, identified only by her first name, Marina – the 66-year-old came to Greece last year, but her name was already on pensioner rolls, which claimed that she had worked in the country for 25 years.
Marina paid 4000 euro to have her name included on the rolls, which was significantly higher than the fees normally asked for – ranging between 500 euro and 800 euro, according to Imerisia.
The number of Bulgarians working in Greece who applied for pensions has tripled over the past year and was estimated in the thousands, the report said. Bulgarians accounted for 70 per cent of all EU member state applicants for Greek pensions – the remainder were Poles, Romanians and Greeks who worked abroad.
Under EU regulations, citizens of other EU member states who have worked at least one year in Greece and are permanent residents of the country are entitled to a local pension – the minimum monthly pension paid by Greek state pension fund IKA is 486 euro, significantly higher than what most Bulgarian pensioners get. Not all pensioners continued living in Greece, choosing instead to return to their home countries, but still drawing the Greek pension, the report said.
Many foreign pensioners also received 230 euro from another state programme that supports low-income pensioners, Imerisia said. Some have gotten disability benefits as well.
Officials from IKA, the state pension fund, quoted by the Greek daily, said that the problem would become even worse down the line, with an estimated 130 000 Bulgarians and Romanians living and working in Greece, who could apply for Greek pensions in the future.
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