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Brussels, 13 December 2006

Free movement of services: infringement proceedings against France

The Commission has taken action to put an end to obstacles to the free movement of services in France. It has decided to refer France to the European Court of Justice over its legislation which requires chief architects of historical monuments to be of French nationality. The Commission has also decided, under Article 228 of the EC Treaty, to send a letter of formal notice asking France for full information on its execution of a 2006 Court judgement concerning restrictions on performing artists' agencies and self-employed performing artists that wish to work in France. In addition, the Commission has decided to send formal requests to France to modify its legislation which restricts the ability of sworn translators to work in France, and to modify its legislation on ownership of biological analysis laboratories. The formal requests take the form of “reasoned opinions”, the second stage of the infringement procedure laid down in Article 226 of the EC Treaty. If there is no satisfactory reply within two months, the Commission may refer the matter to the European Court of Justice.

Nationality requirements for chief architects of historic monuments

The Commission has decided to refer France to the Court of Justice under Article 226 of the EC Treaty on the grounds that its rules on the chief architects of historic monuments are contrary to Articles 43 and 49 of the Treaty. Under French legislation, only French nationals are allowed to work as the chief architects of historic monuments. The Commission considers that the requirement to enter a competition in order to supply architecture services on a temporary basis for the restoration of historic monuments in France is also contrary to Article 49 of the Treaty.

Presumption of salaried status

Following the Court judgment of June 2006 finding that France had not complied with its obligations arising from the EC Treaty by making the granting of a licence to the agents of performing artists established in another Member State subject to the need to engage performers and imposing the presumption of salaried status on performing artists recognised as service providers in their Member State of origin, where they usually provide similar services, France must take the necessary measures to comply with the Court's judgment.

In the view of the Commission, the instruction issued to inspection departments is unsatisfactory. A simple administrative instruction, which by its nature may be changed at the wishes of the administration, cannot be considered a valid implementation of a Court judgment condemning a legislative provision.

Sworn translators

The first reasoned opinion addressed to France relates to its legislation on legal experts and sworn translations, which constitutes an obstacle to the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services, as guaranteed in Articles 43 and 49 of the EC Treaty. French legislation imposes the requirement of a place of business within the jurisdiction of the Appeals Tribunal for registration as a legal expert and forbids the recognition of any sworn translations carried out in other Member States.

Biological analysis laboratories

The second reasoned opinion addressed to France was motivated by the incompatibility with the freedom of establishment guaranteed under Article 43 of the EC Treaty of restrictions on the ownership by non-biologists of a stake in a firm operating biological analysis laboratories (a non-biologist may own up to one quarter of the shares in such a firm) and the prohibition of an individual or a legal entity from owning stakes in more than two firms set up in order to operate jointly one or more medical biological analysis laboratories. In the view of the Commission, these restrictions limit the potential for partnerships, particularly with legal entities from other Member States, and limit the freedom of establishment in France of laboratories established in other Member States that do not meet the criteria laid down in French law.

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