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System for the recognition of professional qualifications

This directive establishes a system for the recognition of professional qualifications, in order to help make labour markets more flexible, further liberalise the provision of services, encourage more automatic recognition of qualifications and simplify administrative procedures.

ACT

Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on the recognition of professional qualifications [See amending act(s)].

SUMMARY

This directive applies to all European Union (EU) Member State nationals wishing to practise a regulated profession *, on either a self-employed or employed basis, in a Member State other than that in which they obtained their professional qualifications.

The directive makes a distinction between “freedom to provide services” and “freedom of establishment” on the basis of criteria identified by the Court of Justice: duration, frequency, regularity and continuity of the provision of services.

FREEDOM TO PROVIDE SERVICES

Any EU national who is legally established in a Member State may provide services on a temporary and occasional basis in another Member State under his/her original professional title without having to apply for recognition of his/her qualifications. However, if the profession in question is not regulated in that Member State, the service provider must provide evidence of two years’ professional experience.

The host Member State may require the service provider to make a declaration prior to providing any services on its territory (to be renewed annually), including details of insurance cover or other documents such as proof of nationality, legal establishment and professional qualifications.

If the host Member State requires pro forma registration with the competent professional association, this must be automatic. The competent authority must forward the applicant’s file to the professional organisation or body on receipt of the prior declaration. For professions that have public health or safety implications and do not benefit from automatic recognition, the host Member State may carry out a prior check of the service provider’s professional qualifications within the limits of the principle of proportionality.

In cases where the service is provided under the professional title of the Member State of establishment or under the formal qualifications * of the service provider, the competent authorities of the host Member State may require the latter to furnish recipients of the service with certain information, in particular concerning insurance cover against financial risks arising from professional liability.

With regard to both the temporary provision of services and permanent establishment in another Member State, the authorities concerned are to ensure a proactive exchange of information relating to any serious circumstances arising from an individual’s establishment on their territory that are liable to have consequences for the pursuit of the professional activities concerned. This exchange of information must be carried out in compliance with existing data protection legislation.

FREEDOM OF ESTABLISHEMENT

"Freedom of establishment" applies when a professional enjoys the effective freedom to become established in another Member State in order to conduct a professional activity there on a stable basis.

General system for the recognition of qualifications

The general system applies to professions not covered by specific rules of recognition and to certain situations where the professional does not meet the conditions set out in other recognition schemes. This system is based on the principle of mutual recognition, without prejudice to the application of compensatory measures if there are substantial differences between the training * acquired by the person concerned and the training required in the host Member State. The compensatory measure may take the form of an adaptation period * or an aptitude test *. The choice is left to the person concerned, unless specific derogations exist.

When access to or pursuit of a profession is regulated in the host Member State, i.e. it is subject to possession of specific professional qualifications, the competent authority in said Member State is to allow access to the profession in question and pursuit thereof under the same conditions as for its nationals. However, the applicant must hold a training qualification obtained in another Member State that attests to a level of training at least equivalent to the level immediately below that required in the host Member State.

On the other hand, when access to a profession is not subject to possession of specific professional qualifications in the applicant’s Member State, access to that profession in a host Member State where it is regulated requires proof of two years' full-time professional experience over the preceding ten years in addition to the qualification.

The directive distinguishes five levels of professional qualifications:

  • attestation of competence issued by a competent authority in the home Member State, attesting either that the holder has acquired general knowledge corresponding to primary or secondary education, or has undergone training not forming part of a certificate or diploma, or has taken a specific examination without previous training or has three years' professional experience;
  • certificate corresponding to training at secondary level of a technical or professional nature or general in character, supplemented by a professional course;
  • diploma certifying successful completion of training at post-secondary level of a duration of at least one year or professional training that is comparable in terms of responsibilities and functions;
  • diploma certifying successful completion of training at higher or university level of a duration of at least three years and not exceeding four years;
  • diploma certifying successful completion of training at higher or university level of a duration of at least four years.

The host Member State can make recognition of qualifications subject to the applicant completing a compensation measure (aptitude test or adaptation period of a maximum of three years) in the following three cases:

  • the training was at least one year shorter than that required by the host Member State;
  • the training covered substantially different matters from those covered by the evidence of formal training required in the host Member State;
  • the profession as defined in the host Member State comprises one or more regulated professional activities that do not exist in the corresponding profession in the applicant’s home Member State and requires specific training that covers substantially different matters from those covered by the applicant's training.

The directive allows representative professional associations at both national and European level to propose common platforms to compensate for the substantial differences identified between Member States' training requirements. The platform is a way of ensuring that additional measures are not imposed on those concerned, while guaranteeing an appropriate qualification level. The platform is a kind of predefined compensatory measure. The Commission will report to the European Parliament and the Council on the common platforms at the end of 2010.

System of automatic recognition of qualifications attested by professional experience in certain industrial, craft and commercial activities

The industrial, craft and commercial activities listed in the directive (Chapter II) are subject, under the conditions stated, to the automatic recognition of qualifications attested by professional experience.

The elements taken into consideration for the recognition of professional experience are its duration and form (in a self-employed or employed capacity). Previous training is also taken into consideration and may reduce the amount of professional experience required. However, evidence of all previous training must be provided by means of a certificate recognised by the Member State or judged as fully valid by a competent professional body.

The pursuit of all these professional activities is subject to the conditions shown in:

  • list I of Annex IV, referring to various sectors such as the textile, chemical and oil industries, printing, manufacturing, construction, etc.;
  • list II of Annex IV, referring to sectors such as the manufacture of transport equipment, activities related to transport, postal services, telecommunications, photographic studios, etc.;
  • list III of Annex IV, referring to sectors such as restaurants and hotels, personal, community and recreation services, etc.

System of automatic recognition of qualifications for the professions of doctor, nurse, dentist, veterinary surgeon, midwife, pharmacist and architect

The automatic recognition of training qualifications based on the coordination of minimum training conditions covers the following professions: doctors, nurses responsible for general care, dental practitioners, veterinary surgeons, midwives, pharmacists and architects (Chapter III of the directive).

For recognition purposes, the directive lays down minimum training conditions for each of these professions, including the minimum duration of studies. The formal qualifications conforming to the directive issued by Member States are listed in Annex V. These qualifications enable holders to practise their profession in any Member State.

The directive allows Member States to authorise part-time training for all of these professions, provided that the overall duration, level and quality of such training is not lower than that of continuous full-time training.

Without prejudice to the specific acquired rights of the professions concerned, and particularly of architects (Annex VI), even if the formal qualifications for these professional activities held by nationals of Member States do not satisfy all the training requirements described, each Member State has to recognise them as sufficient proof. However, these qualifications must attest to the successful completion of training that began before the reference dates laid down in Annex V and be accompanied by evidence of the holder having devoted at least three consecutive years to the activities in question over the preceding five-year period.

Procedure for the mutual recognition of professional qualifications

An individual application must be submitted to the competent authority in the host Member State, accompanied by certain documents and certificates. The competent authority has one month to acknowledge receipt of an application and to draw attention to any missing documents. In principle, a decision has to be taken within three months of the date on which the application was received in full. However, this deadline may be extended by one month in cases falling under the general system for the recognition of qualifications. Reasons have to be given for any rejection. A rejection or a failure to take a decision by the deadline can be contested in national courts.

Member State nationals must be able to use the title conferred on them, and possibly an abbreviated form thereof, as well as the corresponding professional title of the host Member State. If a profession is regulated in the host Member State by an association or organisation (see Annex I), Member State nationals have to become members of that organisation or association in order to be able to use the title.

Member States may require applicants to have the language knowledge necessary for practising the profession. This provision must be applied proportionately, which rules out the systematic imposition of language tests before a professional activity can be practised.

In order to facilitate the application of the above provisions, the directive calls for close collaboration between the competent authorities in the host and the home Member States. In addition, it calls for the introduction of the following provisions:

  • each Member State has to designate a coordinator to facilitate the uniform application of the directive;
  • Member States have to designate contact points tasked with providing citizens with any relevant information about the recognition of professional qualifications and helping them in asserting their rights, particularly through contact with the authorities ruling on requests for recognition;
  • Member States have to appoint representatives to the committee on the recognition of professional qualifications;
  • the Commission is required to consult experts from the professional groups concerned as appropriate.

Member States are required to report to the Commission on the application of the system every two years. If applying one of the provisions of the directive presents major difficulties in a particular area, the Commission has to examine those difficulties in collaboration with the Member State concerned.

As of 20 October 2007, the Commission will draw up a report on the implementation of the directive every five years.

Background

This directive is a response to the 2001 Stockholm European Council's recommendations calling on the Commission to design a more uniform, transparent and flexible system with the aim of achieving the Lisbon strategy objectives.

The directive brings together in a single text the three directives on the general system for the recognition of professional qualifications (recognition of diplomas, certificates and other evidence of higher education of long duration; recognition of other diplomas, certificates and other evidence of other professional education and training; and the mechanism for the recognition of qualifications for crafts, trades and certain services).

It also consolidates twelve sectoral directives covering the professions of doctor, nurse (Directive 77/452/EEC), dental practitioner (Directive 78/686/EEC), veterinary surgeon (Directive 78/1026/EEC), midwife (Directive 80/154/EEC), architect and pharmacist (mutual recognition of diplomas in pharmacy and qualifications in pharmacy).

The specific directives on the provision of services by lawyers (Directive 77/249/EEC) and the establishment of lawyers are not covered by this exercise, since they concern the recognition not of professional qualifications but of the authorisation to practice.

Key terms used in the act
  • Regulated profession: a professional activity or group of professional activities, access to which, the pursuit of which, or one of the modes of pursuit of which is subject, directly or indirectly, by virtue of legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions, to the possession of specific professional qualifications; in particular, the use of a professional title limited by legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions to holders of a given professional qualification constitutes a mode of pursuit.
  • Formal qualification: diplomas, certificates and other evidence issued by an authority in a Member State designated pursuant to legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions of that Member State and certifying successful completion of professional training obtained mainly in the Community.
  • Regulated training: any training that is specifically geared to the pursuit of a given profession and that comprises a course or courses complemented, where appropriate, by professional training, or probationary or professional practice. The structure and level of the professional training, probationary or professional practice is laid down in the legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions of the Member State in question or subject to supervision or approval by the authority designated for that purpose.
  • Adaptation period: the pursuit of a regulated profession in the host Member State under the responsibility of a qualified member of that profession, such period of supervised practice possibly being accompanied by further training. This period of supervised practice is the subject of an assessment.
  • Aptitude test: a test limited to the professional knowledge of the applicant, carried out by the competent authorities of the host Member State with the aim of assessing the ability of the applicant to pursue a regulated profession in that Member State. For such tests to be allowed, the competent authorities have to draw up a list of subjects not covered by the evidence of formal qualifications possessed by the applicant.

REFERENCES

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 2005/36/EC

20.10.2005

20.10.2007

OJ L 255 of 30.9.2005

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 2006/100/EC

1.1.2007

1.1.2007

OJ L 363 of 20.12.2006

Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008

11.12.2008

-

OJ L 311 of 21.11.2008

Successive amendments and corrections to Directive 2005/36/EC have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purposes only.

AMENDMENT OF ANNEXES

Annex II – List of courses having a special structure referred to in Article 11 point (c) subparagraph (ii):
Directive 2006/100/EC [Official Journal L 363 of 20.12.2006];
Regulation (EC) No 1430/2007 [Official Journal L 320 of 6.12.2007];
Regulation (EC) No 755/2008 [Official Journal L 205 of 1.8.2008];
Regulation (EC) No 279/2009 [Official Journal L 93 of 7.4.2009].

Annex III – List of regulated education and training referred to in the third subparagraph of Article 13(2):
Regulation (EC) No 1430/2007 [Official Journal L 320 of 6.12.2007].

Annex V – Recognition on the basis of coordination of the minimum training conditions:
Council Directive 2006/100/EC [Official Journal L 363 of 20.12.2006].

Annex VI – Acquired rights applicable to the professions subject to recognition on the basis of coordination of the minimum training conditions:
Council Directive 2006/100/EC [Official Journal L 363 of 20.12.2006].

RELATED ACTS

Commission Decision 2007/172/EC of 19 March 2007 setting up the group of coordinators for the recognition of professional qualifications [Official Journal L 79 of 20.3.2007].
The role of this expert group is to facilitate the implementation of the directive and develop an internal market for regulated professions as regards qualifications. The Commission consults this group, which is made up of national coordinators, alternate members and of a Commission representative.

 
Last updated: 19.01.2010
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