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How the Professional Qualifications Directive works in practice

The first ever report on how the Professional Qualifications Directive (Directive 2005/36/EC) works in practice has been published by the European Commission.

The report, undertaken by the Commission's Internal Market department, identifies areas of concern such as Member States' reluctance to allow temporary mobility of professionals.  The Commission is publishing simultaneously more than 170 reports on recognition of professional qualifications from Member State authorities.

One main conclusion of these reports is that automatic recognition of qualifications is overall a positive achievement for professionals and for authorities but a number of issues merit further consideration such as extending the implementation of the proactive alert mechanism on malpractice between Member States and the training requirements in general.

The next steps are: an extensive public consultation on the rules that are in place (to be launched by the end of this year), an evaluation report (in autumn 2011) and a Green Paper (in 2012).

What are the main findings so far?

The report from the Commission's Internal Market department on issues which have arisen so far in the implementation of the Directive highlights delays of up to three years by Member States in implementing the Directive.

In addition, Member States seem to be reluctant to allow professionals to provide services on a temporary basis without a prior verification of qualifications; on this, an exception allowed by the Directive for professions that have public health and safety implications seems to be used extensively.

Another innovation of the 2005 Directive, the concept of common platforms - which is meant to facilitate the recognition procedures if recognition requires compensatory measures – has proved to be unsuccessful as no platform has been adopted so far.

Finally, the benefits of a code of conduct for competent authorities have not been fully reaped. There is a risk that people will continue to encounter difficulties when wanting to have their professional qualifications recognised in another Member State.

The reports from the Member States' authorities offer evidence on how the Directive works on the ground and what needs to be improved. The experience of the Member States’ authorities shows that a number of issues deserve further consideration such as:

- Training requirements: the Directive provides for minimum training requirements for certain health professions (doctors, dentists, nurses, midwives, pharmacists) and veterinary surgeons which sometimes date back more than 30 years. A considerable number of authorities consider that these requirements should be reviewed; nearly all competent authorities for the professions concerned welcome the system of automatic recognition of the qualifications in question.

- Language knowledge for health professionals: persons benefiting from the recognition of their qualifications should have the necessary language knowledge for practising their profession in the host Member State.

- Automatic recognition in the areas of craft, trade and industry: there is a call for examining the rules in question which date back to the 1960s (in particular, for updating the list of activities).

- Electronic applications: the reports reveal that, generally, the recognition procedures cannot be fully completed by electronic means.

- Administrative cooperation which is built on the Internal Market Information System (IMI) is quite promising1. A proactive alert mechanism ensuring prompt information exchange between national authorities on cases of professional malpractice (for all cases not yet covered under the Services Directive, in particular for health professionals) needs to be considered.

What are the next steps?

The Commission intends launch a public consultation towards the 2010 in order to obtain reactions from professionals, employers, consumers and citizens on how the Directive works for them in practice.

A final evaluation report will be published in autumn 2011. This report will be followed by a Green Paper outlining possible options for a review of the Directive (by 2012).

What does the Professional Qualifications Directive do?

The Professional Qualifications Directive is a key for professionals to take full advantage of the potential of the Single Market in finding a job or extending their business in another Member State.

It covers more than 800 professions which Member States regulate and which can be pursued only if certain professional qualifications have been acquired. A number of professionals in the health sector and architects enjoy automatic recognition of their qualifications based on harmonisation of the respective training conditions throughout the EU.

The Directive allows easy access to various activities in the craft, commerce and industry sectors by providing for the recognition of the previous pursuit of the activity in question as sufficient proof of the required knowledge and aptitudes. For the remaining professions, the Directive foresees a system of mutual recognition of qualifications on a case by case basis in order to allow qualified citizens to have their qualifications recognised in the host Member State where they wish to work.

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