The European Commission yesterday (2 October) kicked off an evaluation of national regulations on access to qualified professions in an attempt to smooth out divisions between member states over the controversial issue.
Regulated professions are jobs which require specific qualifications, such as pharmacists, architects and lawyers.
The EU executive claims restrictive conditions discourage young people from entering the qualified professions, and different regulatory regimes prevent them from applying to jobs in other member states.
It also believes that loosening unreasonable national controls over the professions could increase employment and enhance economic growth, since professional services amount to around 9% of EU GDP.
Programme countries already deregulating professions
Officials are also concerned that whilst countries such as Portugal and Greece are bound by their Troika creditors to deliver on tough professional reforms, some of the larger EU member states continue to resist attempts to cede local controls over their professions.
The proposal is designed to avoid confrontation, since some member states vigorously resist any top-down attempt to unpick their professions regulation.
Each member country will have to draw up a list of professions it regulates, which the EU executive will publish as a European map displaying which professions are regulated in which countries.
As a second stage, member states will carry out a “mutual evaluation” process over the next two years to examine the barriers preventing access to certain professions.
Stakeholders representing professionals will be involved in the process, which will be conducted on a profession-by-profession basis.
Not about sanctioning member states
The Commission will also organise regular workshops during the mutual evaluation process to discuss developments.
The mutual evaluation exercise is foreseen in the revised Professional Qualifications Directive, due to be formally adopted before the end of the year.
The EU executive hopes that reasonable deregulation of the professions will follow on from the mutual evaluation, but this will be done on a voluntary basis.
“This is not about deregulating professions or sanctioning member states but rather about ensuring better access to professional services through reviewing what entry structures best promote a simplified, proportionate, safe and transparent system," said Internal Markets and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier.