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Internal Market for services: Commission refers Belgium to the Court of Justice of the European Union for not transposing EU rules on the proportionality of new regulation of professions

The Commission yesterday decided to refer Belgium to the Court of Justice of the European Union, with a proposal to impose financial sanctions, over the failure to transpose the Directive on a proportionality test for assessing new regulations of professions before their adoption (Directive 2018/958/EU) (INFR(2020)0385). The legislation requires Member States, and their regions and communities with a competence in this area, to make sure that any new requirements for professions are necessary and balanced, and therefore avoid creating disproportionate barriers in the Single Market. 

The Directive on the proportionality test is a powerful tool for facilitating access to and exercise of regulated activities by professionals across the EU. Regulated professions represent about 22% of the European labour force, with about 50 million people employed in such professions. However, access to such professions can be restricted to those holding specific qualifications or hold a specific protected title, like lawyers or pharmacists. In addition, there are often requirements on how such professions can be practiced, such as who can hold company shares or how these services can be advertised.  

Member States had to transpose this Directive and communicate the national transposition measures to the Commission by 30 July 2020. In the absence of adoption of the relevant national rules, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Belgium in October 2020, followed by a reasoned opinion on 12 November 2021. To date, Belgium has failed to fully transpose and communicate the measures implementing the Directive.    

With yesterday's referral to the Court of Justice, the Commission aims to ensure the proper implementation of the Directive to help prevent and dismantle disproportionate barriers in the Single Market, in line with the objectives of the Single Market Enforcement Action Plan. Making sure that national rules on professions are justified and proportionate is essential to facilitate professionals from across the EU to access these professions, while also creating benefits for consumers and citizens who use their services. In particular, it can help to prevent excessive prices, support the development of innovative services and expand access to important services for consumers.

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