CEPI seminar on the recognition of professional qualifications: presentation by Bernadette Vergnaud

CEPI recently organised a work seminar in Barcelona on the subject of the recognition of professional qualifications in the context of increasing deregulation. Bernadette Vergnaud, MEP and Committee rapporteur on "Internal market and consumer protection" for the European Parliament, gave a presentation at the seminar with a message of support that the professionals in the audience gratefully acknowledged.

Please find the speech given by Mrs Vergnaud below.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank you for inviting me to give my views on the issue of recognition of professional qualifications on the occasion of your work seminar.

As real estate professionals, I know that you are particularly concerned about three points that represent major innovations of this Directive - the professional card, common training frameworks and the transparency exercise.

With regard to the professional card, as a fervent defender of the project for many years, I was very pleased to see this idea taking shape which led to the winning over of my colleagues in the Parliament, the European Commission and now, the Council. I am convinced that this new tool will not only be an asset in terms of simplifying the steps that professionals have to take, mutual trust between the national authorities, security for clients and patients but that it also constitutes a component of European citizenship. By the use of this type of tool, we can also show that Europe works to serve its citizens, which is the whole aim of the Single Market Act whose text is one of its cornerstones.

However, this professional identity card, whilst it is now accepted by the various institutions and we are still working out the final practical procedures, will only be for and to be used by professionals! I would therefore like to launch an appeal to all professions which may be interested in implementing this tool, notably for the most mobile professions.

Another significant advance of this text which I have welcomed since it was introduced is the common training frameworks. More than 30 years after the first legislation on mutual recognition, it is regrettable that only seven professions benefit from the automatic recognition procedure which has considerable advantages for professionals, clients and patients. But of course, automatic recognition requires acceptance of the harmonisation of the form and contents of training courses, which the member states often consider as an intolerable infringement of subsidiarity, not to mention the reticence of the states that do not regulate the profession.

The main shortcoming of the existing tool of common platforms has been the participation threshold of two-thirds of the member states, which is absolutely unrealistic in the light of what I have just noted. Accordingly, the new provisions of the common training frameworks which require that only one-third of the states regulate the profession or the training giving access to it should clearly make things easier. We are currently negotiating with the Council but I can already stress that I am very pleasantly surprised by the approach of the member states who have retained the essential spirit of the text, even though we still have to reach agreement on the roles, responsibilities and rights of everyone between the three institutions and of course on taking account of the stakeholders, first and foremost the representative professional associations.

And yet, I am quite optimistic about the results and I have high expectations of this tool which I regard truly as a bridge between the general system and automatic recognition, even though it is much more flexible. It is a wonderful opportunity for many professions which have been waiting for improvements to the existing system for much too long.

Lastly, concerning the much quoted "transparency exercise" asked of the member states. I know that the own-initiative report of the Parliament came out in favour of reducing the number of professions regulated, treating regulation as a barrier to mobility. Personally, I do not necessarily share this point of view.

There are certainly professions for which making a comparison between member states makes sense because they are regulated only in one or two countries even though they exist in all the others as well.
However, I do not think that the purpose of this comparison exercise should necessarily be radically reducing the number of regulated professions and to impose on all the member states a liberalised model simply because it exists in a number of countries. This applies in particular to a profession such as yours! I understand the traditional differences and the fact that in many countries the profession is not regulated. Nevertheless, I believe that a minimum of control of professionals gives a guarantee, confidence and security to clients while at the same time safeguarding competent professionals against unfair competition from incompetent charlatans, or indeed crooks! But this is one of the issues still under discussion and is not a matter that is binding on the member states either way.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I thank you for your attention and wish you many successful meetings and discussions.