Brussels, 20 November 2009
Free movement of services: Commission takes action against United Kingdom (recognition of medical prescriptions) and Portugal (construction services)
The European Commission has taken action to put an end to certain obstacles to the free movement of services in the United Kingdom and Portugal. The Commission will send the United Kingdom a supplementary reasoned opinion concerning its legislation on the recognition of medical prescriptions. The Commission will also send Portugal a reasoned opinion concerning its legislation on construction services. Reasoned opinions are 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.
United Kingdom – Restrictions on the recognition of medical prescriptions issued by Community health professionals
The European Commission has decided to send the United Kingdom a supplementary reasoned opinion concerning its legislation, as amended, on the recognition of medical prescriptions in the United Kingdom. The Commission took due note of the amendments made to UK legislation as a result of the infringement procedure, but considered that the UK legislation still failed to guarantee the recognition of medical prescriptions issued by health professionals established in other Member States in accordance with Article 49 of the EC Treaty, since the UK provisions prevent the recognition of medical prescriptions issued by Community health professionals for the UK’s 'controlled drugs' category of medicines. The Commission takes the view that this non-recognition is only justified, on public health grounds, for 'controlled drugs' for which a special medical prescription is required. On the other hand, it considers that non-recognition is disproportionate for the other 'controlled drugs' categories.
In addition, the UK legislation requires the address and age of the patient to be indicated on medical prescriptions if they are to be recognised in the United Kingdom. This requirement has the effect of preventing the recognition in the United Kingdom of medical prescriptions even though they have been properly issued by health professionals established in other Member States where there is no such requirement. The Commission takes the view that refusing to recognise prescriptions if the address and age of the patient are not indicated on them is disproportionate in relation to the objective of protecting public health.
The Commission therefore considers that the amendments made to UK legislation fail to bring it into line with Article 49 of the EC Treaty.
Portugal – Construction services
The European Commission has decided to send Portugal a reasoned opinion concerning its legislation on construction services. The Commission considers that the provisions in question infringe Article 43 of the EC Treaty, which guarantees freedom of establishment within the EU, by failing to take account of authorisations already obtained in other Member States in connection with authorisations to exercise an activity in Portugal, by laying down imprecise criteria for obtaining authorisations, by requiring the maintenance of minimum conditions for exercising activities in Portugal, and by prohibiting the subcontracting of activities. The obligation to comply with these requirements seems disproportionate in relation to the objectives of general interest invoked by the Portuguese authorities.
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