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Brussels, 27 February 2001

Professional qualifications: Commission welcomes adoption of simplification Directive

The European Commission has welcomed the adoption on 26 February 2001 of the European Parliament and Council Directive simplifying existing rules on recognition of professional qualifications. The Directive amends 14 existing Directives in the field of recognition of diplomas and professional qualifications concerning inter alia general care nurses, dentists, veterinary surgeons, midwives, pharmacists, doctors and architects. Its effect will be to oblige Member States to take rapid decisions on requests for recognition of qualifications and to take account of professional experience gained in other Member States. It will also considerably facilitate and speed up the updating of lists of diplomas, certificates and titles eligible for automatic recognition within professions covered by the Directives. The Directive was proposed in the framework of the SLIM initiative, the purpose of which is to simplify legislation in the Internal Market. Member States are due to implement the Directive into national law by 1 January 2003 at the latest.

Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said: "There is an urgent need for Community action to promote recognition of professional qualifications across borders. Adoption of this Directive will make it easier for people wishing to work in regulated professions in another Member State. At the same time, the Directive will contribute to labour market flexibility and the creation of a truly European labour market to enable citizens to move around the EU to take up work."

This simplification Directive will promote free movement of workers by facilitating access to regulated professions in other Member States. The rights and obligations involved will be much clearer and Member States will be obliged to speed up decisions on applications for access. Furthermore, the Directive will create a more transparent and flexible framework which will be much quicker to reflect developments in professional qualifications.

Under the new Directive, Member States will be able to notify the Commission directly of any changes, introduced under national law, to the official title ("designations") of a qualification or profession acquired following a certain training programme. After having checked the material elements supporting each notification, the Commission will update and publish the corresponding lists of diplomas, certificates and titles in the Official Journal of the European Communities. This new procedure will reduce the time involved in notifying and publishing changes to these lists by several years. This modification is particularly useful in the field of medical specialities, which is continually evolving.

The new Directive will also greatly simplify the existing sectoral Directives by gathering together in the annexes various provisions which have previously been scattered throughout the text. These Directives now include lists, presented in the form of tables and separated according to Member State, of the title of the diploma, also the organisation which issues the diploma and the certificate which accompanies it.

For example, in the field of medical specialities, the minimum duration of training is clearly indicated for each speciality. Other pertinent information could be added in the future. Furthermore, when adopting this Directive, the lists of diplomas, certificates and titles were also updated and some other modifications introduced.

The new Directive also fills a gap as regards recognition of training obtained by Community nationals outside the European Union. For the professions covered by sectoral Directives (listed above), the new Directive imposes on Member States the obligation, when considering an application for recognition, to take into consideration recognition by any other Member State of a qualification acquired outside of the EU ("Community elements"). This does not require a Member State to automatically recognise the training obtained in a non-EU country, but does require that the Member State examine the Community elements and, in the event of rejection of the request, justify its decision.

In addition, Member States will now be obliged to recognise professional experience obtained in another Member State. The new Directive also requires decisions on applications for professional recognition to be taken within four months and that such decisions must be open to review under national law.

The operation of the general system for the recognition of professional qualifications (as laid down by Directives 89/48/EEC and 92/51/EEC) has also been improved, in particular by the introduction of an obligation to take into consideration, during the examination of the request for recognition, the experience which the individual has gained after obtaining a diploma.

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