European Law Monitor

Make your voice heard!

new f2Commissioner Michel Barnier welcomes the trilogue agreement on the modernisation of the Professional Qualifications Directive

I congratulate the European Parliament and the Council on having reached agreement on one of the priorities of the Single Market Act I. The modernisation of the Directive on professional qualifications is an important measure in our strategy to relaunch the European economy. In creating a more efficient system for recognition of professional qualifications, it will contribute to dealing with the labour shortage in Europe and will come to the aid of highly qualified job seekers, in particular the young.

Two main changes are included in the revised Directive which will encourage and simplify the mobility of professionals. First, the European Professional Card – an electronic certificate – will significantly improve the procedures for recognition of qualifications. For temporary mobility, the card will replace the existing declaration procedures and allow professionals to provide their services without other formalities regarding their qualifications. In the case of becoming established in another country with the European Professional Card, the reduction of the deadlines and the principle of tacit recognition will offer to professionals the assurance that their qualifications will be recognised within a reasonable time. The card will be introduced for the professions who wish to use it. The second main innovation concerns the introduction of new possibilities for automatic recognition through common training frameworks and tests.

At the same time, the Directive includes an update of training conditions, including more transparency on continuous professional development, for the professions for which a system of automatic recognition exists (doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, veterinary surgeons and architects).

In addition to mobility becoming easier and faster, the Directive will strengthen the guarantees concerning the health and safety of consumers and patients. The text foresees the creation of an alert mechanism and clarifies the rules concerning the language skills of professionals.

The negotiations in Parliament and in Council have led to a very good result. I am confident that the European Parliament and the Council will confirm this very soon. I would like to warmly thank all the people who have contributed to this success and in particular, the rapporteur, Ms Vergnaud, as well as the Cypriot, Danish and Irish Presidencies for their willingness to reach a first reading agreement, and for their spirit of compromise. I also wish to thank all the stakeholders for their involvement in consultations and pilot groups; they have helped us come up with innovative and efficient solutions.

Finally, I welcome the fact that, already before the final agreement between the institutions, two very mobile professions – nurses and engineers – have already shown a clear interest in being the first professions to use the European professional card.


The Professional Qualifications Directive is essential to enabling professionals to start a new business or to find a job in another Member State requiring a specific qualification for a specific professional activity. The modernisation was one of the twelve levers for growth set out in the Single Market Act (IP/11/469), and in December 2011, the Commission proposed a revision of the existing legislation on professional qualifications (see IP/11/1562 and MEMO/11/923).

Main elements of the modernised Directive:

(1) The introduction of a European professional card will offer to interested professionals the possibility to benefit from easier and quicker recognition of their qualifications. It should also facilitate temporary mobility. The card will be made available according to the needs expressed by the professions. The card is associated to an optimised recognition procedure carried out within the existing Internal Market Information System (IMI) and will take the form of an electronic certificate, allowing the professional to provide services or become established in another Member State. See also question 7.

(2) Better access to information and access to e-government services: Member States will make available all information about recognition of qualifications (in particular, a list of competent authorities and of documents required) through the Points of Single Contact which were created under the Services Directive and are already in operation. Professionals will also have the possibility to complete recognition procedures online. In addition, the existing national contact points will become assistance centres, responsible for providing advice and assistance on individual cases.

(3) Modernisation of harmonised minimum training requirements: the revised Directive introduces some changes in the definition of the minimum training requirements for the professions benefiting from automatic recognition (doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists, pharmacists, veterinary surgeons and architects). The modifications are related to the entry level (for nurses and midwives), the minimum duration of training (for doctors, dentists, midwives, architects) and/or the list of knowledge and skills (for nurses, midwives, veterinary surgeons, architects) or the list of activities (for pharmacists).

(4) An alert mechanism will be set up: the revised Directive introduces an obligation for competent authorities of a Member State to inform the competent authorities of all other Member States about a professional who has been prohibited, even temporarily, from exercising his professional activity or who made use of falsified documents. This exchange of information will be based on the use of the Internal Market Information system (IMI). This obligation applies to professionals exercising activities related to patient safety or to the education of minors (where the profession is regulated).

(5) Common training principles: the modernised directive introduces the possibility to set up "common training frameworks" and "common training tests", aimed at offering a new avenue for automatic recognition. A common training framework should be based on a common set of knowledge, skills and competences necessary to pursue a profession. Qualifications obtained under such common training frameworks should automatically be recognised in the other participating Member States. Member States may be exempted from the application of common training frameworks or tests under specific conditions.

(6) Mutual evaluation exercise on regulated professions: a new mechanism is introduced in the Directive to ensure greater transparency and justification of the regulated professions. Member States will have to provide a list of their regulated professions and the activities reserved for them, and justify the need for regulation. This should be followed up by a mutual evaluation exercise facilitated by the European Commission.

(7) Rules on partial access to a regulated profession: the principle of partial access – access to some activities of a certain profession - is included in the new directive. It can benefit professionals who engage in a genuine economic activity in their home Member State which does not exist, in its own right, in the Member State to which they wish to move. Instead, the economic activity can only be carried out as part of a profession regrouping a whole range of activities. For example, a hydraulic engineer who travels to a Member State where the professional activities he pursues are performed by engineers also qualified to work on roads, channels and ports, might be able to gain partial access to the profession there. He/she would, then, only be authorised to perform activities relating to hydraulics. However, Member States could refuse such partial access if it is justified by an overriding reason of general interest. The principle of partial access derives from a judgement of the EU Court of Justice (Case C-330/03)

(8) Extending the scope of the Directive to professionals who are not fully qualified: professionals who hold a diploma but have yet to complete a professional traineeship (required under the law of some Member States, for example for lawyers, architects and teachers) before getting full access to the profession will be able to benefit from the Directive if they want to carry out their traineeship abroad. The home Member State of such trainees should offer a clearer framework for the recognition of the traineeships. In this regard, it may limit the duration of the part of the professional traineeship which can be carried out abroad. Member States will have to publish guidelines on the organisation and the recognition of professional traineeships carried out abroad.

(9) Clarifying the scope of the Directive for notaries: the text clarifies that the Directive should not apply to notaries appointed by an official act of government.

(10) Rules on language skills: the revised Directive clarifies that the checking of the language knowledge of a professional should take place only after the host Member State has recognised the qualification. In the case of professions with implications for patient safety, competent authorities can carry out proportionate language controls after the recognition of a qualification. In other cases, language control can intervene only if the competent authority has a serious and concrete doubt regarding the language knowledge of the professional. In any case, language control should be limited to the knowledge of one language of the host Member State.