EU seeks to break barriers for qualified professionals

One firm alone has seen 117 of its solicitors register in Ireland.

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.

"Despite our best efforts, mobility of professionals across the European Union is still low. Conditions for accessing certain professions can be complex, burdensome and very often vary greatly from one Member State to another. This discourages workers from seeking and finding employment in other Member States. I am convinced that Member States mapping out which professions are regulated, and then carrying out a screening and evaluation of the barriers to accessing professions will be a useful exercise,” said Internal Markets Commissioner Michel Barnier.

"This Communication is part of an overall work on the recognition of professional qualifications in Europe which will facilitate workers’ mobility, whereas Europeans express their wish to work abroad and thus benefit from simplified procedures. 53% of European youngsters declare that they are ready or keen to go and work in another European country,” said French MEP Constance Le Grip, the spokeswoman of the European People’s Party on the modernisation of the Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications.

"Member States should clearly show their rules and regulations in order to get access to a profession and they should commit to greater transparency. It was one of the European Parliament's recurrent requests to increase the mobility of professionals in the European Union. The EPP Group is convinced that this assessment and transparency work on regulated professions, through the increased cooperation between Member States, can help in the fight against unemployment and in particular against unemployment of our youth, who are the most mobile. The EPP Group would like to integrate this project into the Internal Market area of the European Semester," Le Grip concluded.

Hundreds of categories of regulated professions exist across the 28 Member States. A regulated profession implies that access to that profession is subject to a person holding a specific qualification, such as a diploma from a university.

  • 2013-2016: Mutual evaluation process on regulated professions to take place between member states

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