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Brussels, 12th February 2004

Professional qualifications: European Parliament's approval of proposed Directive brings simpler system nearer

The European Commission has welcomed the European Parliament's approval at first reading of the proposed Directive to clarify and simplify the rules on the free movement of qualified people between the Member States. The proposed Directive would cut red tape by replacing fifteen existing Directives in the field of the recognition of professional qualifications. The proposal constitutes the first comprehensive modernisation of the EU system since it was conceived over forty years ago. A number of changes are proposed compared with the existing rules, including greater liberalisation of the provision of services, more automatic recognition of qualifications, increased flexibility in the procedures for updating the Directive and more cooperation between the Commission and Member States in order to keep citizens better informed about their rights and to give them more help in getting their qualifications recognised. The Commission presented the proposal in March 2002 (see IP/02/393). The text as amended by the Parliament will now, under the EU's "co-decision procedure", be debated by the Council of Ministers, which is expected to adopt a Common Position in May 2004.

Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said: "I thank the European Parliament for endorsing the Commission's approach. I now hope the Council will soon adopt its Common Position so that the proposal can be adopted quickly. This will ensure that job-seekers and employers get the swifter and simpler system they need for people to get their qualifications from one EU Member State recognised in the others. Enhancing the freedom of movement of qualified persons will mean more opportunities for those people themselves, more choice for those who use their services and wider dissemination of good professional practice. The end result will be a more competitive EU."

The text as adopted by the European Parliament introduces certain amendments to the original proposal. In general, these support the main elements of the Commission's initial proposal for consolidation and simplification of the recognition system. This would result in faster processing of requests for recognition of qualifications, making it easier for people to work in another Member State. On this basis, engineers, psychologists, real estate agents and other professionals for whom national education and training conditions differ substantially would benefit from more automatic recognition if they meet certain agreed criteria designed to bridge these differences. The Parliament also supported the Commission's proposal to facilitate cross-border service provision by qualified professionals while ensuring adequate protection for service users.

The proposed Directive establishes the principle of the free provision of services under the original professional title, subject to certain conditions with a view to protecting service users. According to the proposal, any nationals of a Member State legally established in a given Member State may, in principle, provide services on a temporary and occasional basis in another Member State under their original professional title without having to apply for recognition of their qualifications. They would, however, have to comply with certain obligations to provide the recipients of the services and the administration concerned with information. For health professions, where public safety concerns are particularly important, those obligations would include advance declarations to host Member State authorities and, in some cases, pro forma registration.

Under the general system for the recognition of qualifications, the proposal would introduce a more flexible and automatic procedure based on common platforms established by professional associations at European level, stemming from increased cooperation between the public and private sectors. This would result in faster processing of requests for recognition of qualifications, making it easier for people to work in another Member State.

The proposal also involves a simplification of the management and updating of the recognition mechanisms, particularly as regards adapting them to scientific and technological progress.

In addition, the proposal provides for developing cooperation amongst national administrations and between them and the Commission, with a view to informing citizens of their rights and resolving any difficulties they might encounter in obtaining recognition of their professional qualifications. This would mean that people considering the possibility of working in another Member State would be in a better position to know the circumstances in which they can do so.

The text as adopted by the Parliament will be made available on the Europa site:

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