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Brussels, 16 December 1997

Lawyers: Mr Monti welcomes Council adoption of Directive

The adoption of the Directive concerning the establishment of lawyers by the European Union (EU) Council of Ministers on 15 December has been welcomed by Single Market Commissioner Mario Monti. The Directive will enable lawyers to practise permanently and without restriction, under their original professional title, in another Member State on the same basis as the host country's own lawyers. Lawyers who are fully qualified in one Member State will simply have to register with the bar or other competent authority in the host Member State on the basis of their registration in the home Member State. The Directive will also make it easier to acquire the professional title of the host Member State, which will have to take account of the professional experience gained within its territory. The Directive is due to be implemented by 15 December 1999. Adoption by the Council follows adoption of the Directive by the European Parliament at its November plenary session.

"Adoption of this Directive marks an important step forward", Mr Monti stated, "both for lawyers themselves, who will find it much easier to practice in other Member States, and for their clients, especially the many businesses and citizens who need a lawyer in another Member State. The Directive is proof that we can make progress in the field of recognition of qualifications on the basis of mutual trust between Member States, in line with the recommendations of the High-Level Panel on the Free Movement of Persons, chaired by Mrs Simone Veil."

The Directive will allow a lawyer to become established in a Member State and to practise the host country's law immediately after simply proving that they are already registered as a lawyer in another Member State, without the need for either a test or an adaptation period. Moreover, after effectively and regularly pursuing for a period of three years an activity involving the law of the Member State in question, including Community law, a lawyer will be entitled to gain admission to the profession in the host Member State and so acquire the professional title of that Member State. For example, under the Directive, a Danish "advokat" could become established in Germany, practise immediately German law as an "advokat" and, after three years, obtain the German title of "Rechtsanwalt".

Currently, Directive 89/48/EEC on a general system for the recognition of higher-education diplomas requires lawyers to either sit an aptitude test or complete an adaptation period before they can establish themselves in another Member State on the basis of recognition of his or her diploma.

The lawyers Directive represents a new phase in the recognition of professional qualifications aimed at facilitating establishment in other Member States, because it specifically recognises that a person's authorisation in their home Member State must be taken into account, as well as their diplomas. This approach is therefore particularly useful for experienced professionals, for whom an aptitude test can constitute an obstacle on account of the time elapsed since they obtained their qualifications.

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