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European Commission - Press release

Commission takes action to ensure professionals and service providers can fully benefit from the EU Single Market for services

Brussels, 24 January 2019

Today, the European Commission took infringement decisions concerning 27 Member States to ensure the proper implementation of EU rules on services and professional qualifications.

As highlighted in the Single Market Communication in November 2018, citizens and businesses can only enjoy the many benefits of the Single Market if the rules that have been jointly agreed actually work on the ground. Today, the Commission takes action to ensure respect of EU rules in the field of services. While services represent two thirds of the EU economy, a number of barriers still prevent the services sector from reaching its full potential to the benefit of consumers, jobseekers and businesses, and generate economic growth across Europe.

Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs said: "Today we are launching a package of infringement measures to ensure the effective and consistent enforcement of EU rules that allow professionals and businesses to provide their services around Europe. Eliminating current obstacles will boost the Single Market for services and allow it to approach its full economic potential. But more is still needed. Member States must step up their efforts to adopt the legislative proposals tabled by the Commission as part of its January 2017 Services Package."

In total, the Commission is sending 31 letters of formal notice and one complementary letter of formal notice, in addition to two reasoned opinions, addressing several restrictions in the services sectors:

  • letters of formal notice to 27 Member States (all but Denmark) for the non-compliance of their legislation and legal practice with EU rules on the recognition of professional qualifications and the corresponding access to activities (breach of the Professional Qualifications Directive);

  • a reasoned opinion to Cyprus and a letter of formal notice to Portugal regarding their specific rules concerning the access to activities of engineers and architects (breach of the Professional Qualifications Directive);

  • a supplementary letter of formal notice to Croatia regarding restrictions for lawyers to provide multidisciplinary services, advertising restrictions and limitations on the right to practice (breach of the EU Services Directive and the Directive 98/5/EC on the establishment of lawyers and law firms);

  • two letters of formal notice to France and Poland and a reasoned opinion to Ireland regarding their restrictions on advertising in the services sector (breach of Article 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU and the Services Directive).

  • a letter of formal notice to Belgium regarding the authorisation procedure and general requirements that the Brussels region applies to tourist accommodation service providers (breach of Services Directive).

All Member States have now two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission; otherwise, the Commission may decide to proceed with the following steps of the infringements procedure.


While services represent two thirds of the EU economy and account for some 90% of job creation, the services sector is underperforming. Productivity growth in the sector is particularly low in comparison with the rest of the world. To reverse this trend and create additional jobs and growth, Member States need to stimulate the development of the services economy and make better use of the potential of the Single Market for services.

The Services Directive (Directive 2006/123/EC), the Professional Qualifications Directive (Directive 2013/55/EU) and the two Lawyers Directives (Council Directive 77/249/EEC and Directive 98/5/EC) offer significant opportunities for companies and professionals providing services in the EU Single Market. They set the legal framework for the free movement of services, one of the four fundamental freedoms of the Single Market.

The objective of the Services Directive (Directive 2006/123/EC) is to realise the full potential of services markets in Europe by removing excessive legal and administrative barriers to trade. Member States can only impose restrictions on service providers if they are non-discriminatory, justified and proportionate and no other less restrictive safeguards are possible.

The Commission provided guidance in June 2016 on how existing EU law applies to the collaborative economy.

With regard to the recognition of professional qualifications, the EU has put in a place a modern system, which helps to make labour markets more flexible and further facilitates establishment for professional service providers and the provision of services between Member States (Directive 2005/36/EC as amended by Directive 2013/55).

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