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Brussels, 6 April 2011

Professional qualifications: Commission asks Sweden to change its laws on the recognition of general practitioners' qualifications

The European Commission has today asked Sweden to comply with EU rules on the automatic recognition of general practitioners. The Commission considers that Sweden has breached these rules by maintaining two different qualifications for general practitioners: 'specialist in general medicine' (higher level) and 'Europa doctor' (lower level) and by not applying automatic recognition to all general practitioners of other EU Member States. This puts general practitioners from other Member States who want to work in Sweden at a disadvantage, as they are automatically recognised, at the lower level, as 'Europa doctor' only. The Commission has sent Sweden a reasoned opinion, the second step in the infringement procedure. If the Swedish authorities fail to take satisfactory measures to remedy the infringement of EU law within two months, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.

What do the rules in question say?

Freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services are fundamental principles of the EU's Internal Market. They grant companies and persons the right to set up and do business anywhere they want in the EU. The mutual recognition of professional qualifications in the EU is a key principle in order to facilitate these freedoms, but also to help make labour markets flexible. EU rules allow qualified professionals to move across borders and to carry out their activities in another Member State. Furthermore, the minimum training requirements of a number of professions, such as doctors, nurses, dentists, midwives, veterinary surgeons, pharmacists and architects, are harmonised at EU level and so their diplomas must be automatically recognised in every Member State. This means that professionals who obtained their qualifications in an EU Member State are entitled to work in another EU Member State without being obliged to pass an aptitude test or undergo an adaptation period.

How is Sweden not respecting these rules?

The Commission considers that the Swedish legislation on professional qualifications in general medical practice is not in line with the EU Directive on recognition of professional qualifications (2005/36/EC). In particular, the Swedish authorities are not respecting the automatic recognition of general practitioner qualifications obtained in other Member States. By having in place two different qualifications for general medical practice: 'specialist in general medicine' (higher level, and held by the vast majority of doctors exercising general medical practice in Sweden) and 'Europa doctor' (lower level), Sweden only applies automatic recognition if a general practitioner from another Member State wants to work as a 'Europa doctor'. If the professional wants to exercise the general medical practice activities as a 'specialist in general medicine', he/she may have to pass an aptitude test or adaptation period.

However, according to the EU Directive, general practitioners of all Member States have the right to be automatically recognised in any other Member State without having to pass an aptitude test or adaptation period.

How are citizens suffering as a result?

As long as Sweden does not comply with EU rules, general practitioners from other EU Member States will have no guarantee that the Swedish authorities will automatically recognise their qualifications, e.g. without having to pass an aptitude test or adaptation period. Furthermore, this might discourage general practitioners from other Member States from taking up employment in Sweden, as they are entitled to do.

More information:

Recognition of professional qualifications:

Latest information on infringement proceedings concerning all Member States:

For more information on EU infringement procedures, see MEMO/11/220

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