Brussels, 27 January 2011
Freedom to provide services: Commission requests Greece to comply with EU rules in private education sector
The European Commission today requested Greece to ensure that its rules on the establishment and operation of private post-secondary education centres comply with EU rules on the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide and receive services. The Commission considers that Greece's current rules may lead to distortions in the Internal Market for private education services. The Commission's request to Greece takes the form of a reasoned opinion. If Greece does not reply satisfactorily within two months, the Commission may refer the matter to the EU Court of Justice.
What is the aim of the EU rules in question?
Rules in the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU on the freedom of establishment (Article 49) and the freedom to provide and receive services (Article 56) require Greece, like all other Member States, not to have any provision in its laws which could stop or hinder a service provider legally established in another Member State who intends to operate in its territory. These rules are at the heart of the EU's Single Market and ensure that customers can enjoy access to a wide range of competitive goods and services and that businesses can enjoy access to the pan-European market. These rules also apply to providers of private education services that intend to provide their services in the Greek market.
How is Greece not respecting these rules?
Greek laws1 require private post-secondary education centres to undergo an authorisation procedure in order to set up and operate in the country. Certain obligations within this authorisation procedure are incompatible with EU law, such as the obligation for each applicant to provide a letter of guarantee for a fixed amount (€500 000) irrespective of the number of students the institution expects will be enrolled or of the number of staff it intends to employ. The fixed amount would be used for the repayment of tuition fees and the payment of staff remuneration in the event that the post-secondary education centre lost its right to operate.
Furthermore, the Commission finds that a number of provisions restrict post-secondary education centres in Greece and their partner educational institutions established in other Member States in their right to offer education services in the framework of educational franchising (i.e. where programmes of foreign educational institutions ending with the award of a foreign diploma are run in Greece by the Greek post-secondary education centres on the basis of a franchising agreement). Among such provisions are those setting out minimum academic requirements for teachers running franchised courses, and others requiring that such teachers are registered in the Greek Register of Post-Secondary Education Centres Teaching Staff. By imposing these obligations Greece intervenes in the sphere reserved for the regulation of the Member State in which the institution awarding the diploma is located.
How are EU citizens and/or businesses suffering as a result?
These rules hinder both private education services providers already established in Greece, and those of other EU Member States looking to establish themselves in Greece. The rules also hinder educational institutions established in other Member States who intend to offer their services in Greece in the framework of educational franchising with Greek post-secondary education centres. This in turn has a negative impact on competition in the Greek market in the area of education services and limits the choices available to Greek students.
Freedom to provide services:
Latest information on infringement proceedings concerning all Member States:
For more information on infringement procedures, see MEMO/11/45.
Law no. 3696/2008 on establishment and operation of post-secondary education centres and other provisions (as amended) and Decision no. 63893/IA specifying provisions set out in this Law