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IP/03/501

Brussels, 7th April 2003

Professional qualifications: Commission takes action to ensure compliance with EU law in France and Greece

The European Commission has decided to remind France of its obligation to comply with a ruling of the European Court of Justice which requires it to implement European law on the establishment of lawyers. Failure to do so could result in the Court's imposing a fine on France. The Commission has also decided to formally request that France implement into national law European rules on the recognition of the professional qualifications of tourist guides. This request is in the form of a reasoned opinion, the second stage of infringement proceedings under Article 226 of the EC Treaty. In the absence of a satisfactory response from the French authorities within two months of their receiving the reasoned opinion, the Commission may refer France to the Court. In addition, the Commission has decided to refer Greece to the Court for its refusal to recognise certain diplomas, in particular opticians' diplomas obtained by its own nationals on its territory but delivered by institutions which provide other Member States' courses on a franchise basis, under licence.

France - lawyers

The Commission has decided to send France a letter of formal notice under Article 228 of the EC Treaty over its failure to comply with the Court's ruling of 26th September 2002 (Case C-351/01) regarding failure to notify the Commission of measures to implement Directive 98/5/EC on the establishment of lawyers.

This Directive aims to allow lawyers to begin practising in another Member State under their home-country professional title and eventually acquire the professional title of the host-country. More specifically, it allows lawyers to establish themselves in a Member State and to practice the law of the host country immediately upon proving previous registration as a lawyer in another Member State, without having to take a test or complete a period of adaptation. A lawyer who has effectively and regularly practised the law of the host Member State, including Community law, for a period of at least three years is entitled to gain admission to the profession of lawyer in the host Member State and so acquire the professional title of that Member State. For example, under the Directive, a Danish "advokat" can establish himself in Germany, immediately start practising German law as an "advokat" and, after three years, obtain the German title "Rechtsanwalt".

The French authorities have yet to notify the Commission of the appropriate measures taken to comply with the Court's ruling. Should it fail to adopt these measures, France could be subject to a fine imposed by the Court.

The deadline for implementing Directive 98/5/EC was 14 March 2000. France's failure to implement the Directive represents an obstacle to the establishment of lawyers who wish to exercise this profession in France. Furthermore, this failure on the part of the national authorities limits their own citizens' right to freely choose qualified lawyers from other Member States.

France tourist guides

The Commission has decided to send France a reasoned opinion regarding its failure to adopt measures implementing Directives 89/48/EEC and 92/51/EEC on a general system for the recognition of professional education and training and particularly with regard to the profession of tourist guide. As a result of France's failure to correctly apply these Directives, tourist guides with professional qualifications obtained in another Member State are very likely to encounter difficulties when working in France.

The Directives in question aim to ensure free movement within the Union for a large number of regulated professions. France has decided to implement these two Directives through separate pieces of legislation for each regulated profession or group of professions and has notified several specific regulations to the Commission.

To date, France has not communicated any such regulation governing the profession of tourist guide. However, for visits to certain museums and historical sites, French legislation requires a professional licence. This licence is issued to holders of a French interpreter-guide or lecturer-guide diploma (reflecting at least three years' post-secondary education for the purposes of Directive 89/48) or a French regional interpreter-guide diploma (reflecting two years' post-secondary education for the purposes of Directive 92/51).

French legislation does, admittedly, provide for the professional licence to be issued to Community nationals from other Member States but it fails to provide detailed rules either for obtaining the licence, or professional recognition of Community nationals who obtained their diploma in another Member State. As a result, the Commission considers that French legislation does not correctly implement the Directives in question. France did not reply to the Commission's letter of formal notice (first stage of the infringement procedure).

Greece - opticians

The Commission has decided to take Greece to the European Court of Justice for its refusal to recognise certain diplomas under Directive 92/51 on the recognition of professional qualifications.

Following earlier Commission requests, Greece adopted the measures which were missing from Presidential Decree No 231/98 to implement the Directive in question. In addition, the body responsible for dealing with requests for professional recognition has been set up and is now fully operational.

However, decisions on applications for recognition have not always been in accordance with Community law. In particular, Greece still refuses to recognise opticians' diplomas obtained by its own nationals on its territory but from institutions which provide other Member States' courses on a licence basis. This refusal unjustifiably penalises not only qualified Greek opticians trained by such institutions, but also the institutions themselves and the foreign establishments which validate the diplomas they issue.

Recent information on all infringement proceedings against Member States can be found at the following address:

http://ec.europa.eu/secretariat_general/sgb/droit_com/index_en.htm


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