Today, the European Commission decided to close its longstanding infringement procedure against Austria regarding restrictions on access to medical and dental studies for students from other Member States.
Based on the data provided by the Austrian authorities, the Commission has concluded that the quota system in place for medical studies is justified and proportionate in order to protect the Austrian public health system and can be maintained. The Commission, nevertheless, calls on Austria to continue monitoring the situation closely and to report to the Commission every five years on the necessity for maintaining the restrictions.
On the other hand, the Commission concluded that the restrictions in place for dental studies were not justified as no shortage of dentists is likely in Austria. The infringement procedure is, therefore, closed with the proviso that these restrictions be removed in time for the 2019/2020 academic year. If these restrictions are not removed by then, the Commission reserves the right to pursue the infringement procedure.
Since 2006, Austria has had a quota system in place in order to restrict access to its higher education system for medical and dental studies for holders of secondary education diplomas from other EU Member States: 75% of the study places are reserved for applicants with a secondary education diploma acquired in Austria, 20% - for other EU students, and the remaining 5% for students from third-countries.
Based on Article 260 of the Treaty (formerly, Article 228), the Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Austria in January 2007 regarding the discriminatory effects of the provisions regulating access to medical and dental studies on holders of secondary education diplomas awarded in other Member States. In November 2007, the Commission decided to suspend the infringement proceedings until the end of 2012, since it appeared that the high numbers of foreign students coming to Austria could have an adverse effect on the Austrian public health system in the future. The suspension, which was further extended until the end of 2016, was deemed necessary to give Austria enough time to gather the statistical information to prove that its measures were justified and proportionate to protect its healthcare system, in accordance with the principles laid down in the case-law of the Court (judgment in Bressol on 13 April 2010, C-73/08).
Consequently, the Austrian authorities had established a comprehensive data collection programme and agreed to an annual monitoring mechanism with the Commission.
In October 2016, Austria provided its final report, which enabled the Commission to take today's decision.
For More Information
- On the key decisions in the May 2017 infringements package, see full MEMO/17/1280.
- On the May infringements package (on letters of formal notices only), see full MEMO/17/1281.
- On the EU infringements procedure.