Final Vote in the European Parliament on the Modernisation of the Professional Qualifications Directive

The final vote on the proposal for the modernisation of the Professional Qualifications Directive took place on 9 October in a plenary session of the European Parliament. In the preceding debate Commissioner for the Internal Market Michel Barnier referred to a regulatory regime which is fit for purpose in the general interest. He thinks that can be reconciled with easier access to professions. He also announced that the Commission is working on an implementation phase for the European professional card which should be ready at the end of the transposition period for the Directive.

Commissioner Barnier also referred to the publication of the Communication mentioned to in item 1 of this newsletter. He would like to see the better integration of professional services in the EU. The Communication is an opportunity for Member States to discuss this. The Commission may well look at complentary measures (on professional regulation) in the context of the European Semester which allows for the issuing of country-specific recommendations.

The modernisation of the Directive is of course an important issue for CEPI and one in which it has been closely involved. Its constant emphasis on the importance of the issue for the semi-regulated professions and the need to ensure a workable alternative to the common platforms under the old Article 15 in the form of the common training principles and frameworks has resulted in real possibilities for the future. The European professional card is also a reality, although there remain details to be worked out for the individual professions.

In summary the highlights of the revised Directive are:

-The introduction of a European professional card in the form of an electronic certificate linked to the Internal Market Information (IMI) system. It is voluntary and will be made available according to the needs expressed by professions. Professions interested in using the card should express an interest at European level (for example through a European professional association). The Commission has the right of initiative on implementing acts and will consult with professions. It intends to publish a call for manifestation of interest in this regard soon.

-Better access to information and access to e-government services. This means that information will be made available about qualifications under the Points of Single Contact established under the Services Directive and professionals will be able to complete recognition procedures online.

-Common training principles. The modernised Directive introduces the possibility to set up “common training frameworks” (based on a common set of knowledge, skills and competences necessary to pursue a profession) or “common training tests”. Both require that the profession concerned or the education and training leading to the profession is regulated in at least one third of the Member States.

-Mutual evaluation exercise on regulated professions. The work plan for this is set out in the Communication referred to in item 1 of this newsletter.

-Rules on partial access to a profession. This will apply on a case-by-case basis to professionals engaging in an economic activity which does not exist (in its own right) in the Member State to which they want to move.

-Extending the scope to professionals not fully qualified. Professionals with a diploma who still have to complete a traineeship will be able to benefit.

-Improving temporary mobility. The Directive reduces the professional experience required and clarifies the requirements.

-Comparison of qualifications and use of compensation measures under the general system (which includes real estate professionals). It will no longer be possible for national authorities to refuse an application on the basis of the classification of education (five levels) in Article 11 of the Directive unless the difference is very great (between levels “a” and “e”). In all other cases Member States must recognise the qualification but can impose a compensation measure. In the case of a difference between a level “a” and “d” it may impose both an adaptation period and an adaptation test. Although the classification of education levels is maintained it should in future be used only as a reference point to compare qualifications and assess the need for compensation measures. Competent authorities will also be obliged to better justify a decision to impose compensation measures.

-Rules on language skills. Member States can check language skills but only after they have recognised the qualification. There are special rules for professions involving patient safety.  

The Directive is expected to be formally adopted in the next few weeks by the European Council. After that it will enter into force after publication in the Official Journal of the EU. Member States will have two years within which to transpose the Directive into national law.