Official Journal of the European Union

CE 153/15

Tuesday 15 November 2011
Implementation of Professional Qualifications Directive


European Parliament resolution of 15 November 2011 on the implementation of the Professional Qualifications Directive (2005/36/EC) (2011/2024(INI))

2013/C 153 E/03

The European Parliament,

having regard to Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 7 September 2005 on the recognition of professional qualifications (1),

having regard to its resolution of 19 February 2009 on the creation of a European professional card for service providers (2),

having regard to the judgment of the Court of Justice of 19 January 2006 in Case C-330/03, Colegio de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y Puertos (ECR 2006),

having regard to the EU Citizenship Report 2010 – Dismantling the obstacles to EU citizens’ rights (COM(2010)0603),

having regard to the public consultation on Directive 2005/36/EC, launched by the Commission in March 2011,

having regard to the Commission Communication of 3 March 2010 entitled ‘Europe 2020, A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM(2010)2020),

having regard to Mario Monti’s report to the Commission of 9 May 2010 entitled ‘A new strategy for the Single Market’,

having regard to the hearing it held with national parliaments on 26 October 2010 on the transposition and application of Directive 2005/36/EC,

having regard to the study it commissioned on the recognition of professional qualifications (PE 447.514),

having regard to the Commission Communication of 27 October 2010 entitled ‘Towards a Single Market Act, For a highly competitive social market economy’ (COM(2010)0608),

having regard to SOLVIT’s 2010 annual report on the development and performance of the SOLVIT network in 2010,

having regard to its resolution of 6 April 2011 on a Single Market for Europeans (3),

having regard to the Commission Communication of 13 April 2011 entitled ‘Single Market Act, Twelve levers to boost growth and strengthen confidence’ (COM(2011)0206),

having regard to the Commission Green Paper of 22 June 2011 on Modernising the Professional Qualifications Directive (COM(2011)0367),

having regard to the Commission working document of 5 July 2011 on the summary of the responses to the public consultation on the modernisation of the Professional Qualifications Directive (4),

having regard to the Commission working document of 5 July 2011 on the evaluation of the Professional Qualifications Directive (5),

having regard to Rules 48 and 119(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the report of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and to the opinions of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (A7-0373/2011),


whereas changing demographics will make the mobility of professionals across the European Union increasingly important;


whereas changing labour markets call for greater transparency, simplification and flexibility in the rules on the recognition of professional qualifications;


whereas professional mobility is a key factor for economic development and sustainable economic recovery;


whereas, according to the findings of the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop), demand for highly skilled workers is expected to rise by over 16 million jobs in the European Union between now and 2020;


whereas the right to obtain employment or provide services in another Member State is a fundamental right under the Treaties and constitutes a concrete example of how citizens can benefit from the Single Market;


whereas free movement of persons within the EU and the right to recognition of merit and professional skills will only exist when the invisible barriers that now exist have been reduced to a minimum and certain national rules that currently disproportionately hinder use of the right to skilled jobs have disappeared;


whereas ensuring that the system for recognition of professional qualifications is designed in the best possible way is a prerequisite for enabling everyone to fully enjoy the benefits of freedom of movement;


whereas the Single Market Act highlighted the fact that modernising the system for recognising professional qualifications is key to enhancing economic growth and boosting the confidence of members of the professions and of the public;


whereas one of the main reasons for difficulties in recognising academic titles and professional qualifications is a lack of confidence in the criteria used for accreditation and granting academic qualifications in the country of origin, so that there is an urgent need to establish automatic recognition measures by removing prejudice and formal national obstacles to recognition;


whereas some 100 000 decisions on recognition have been taken under the Directive since 2007, making mobility possible for 85 000 professionals (6);


whereas health professionals are the most mobile of the regulated professions in the EU, with some 57 200 doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, midwives and veterinary surgeons being granted recognition between 2007 and 2010;


whereas there is still a gap between citizens’ expectations and reality, with more than 16 % of SOLVIT cases in 2010 relating to recognition of professional qualifications (7);


whereas it is difficult to identify the authority responsible for recognition of professional qualifications, the procedures relating to which are complex;


whereas the Directive on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border health care requires that Member States of treatment ensure that information on the right to practise of health professionals listed in national or local registers established on their territory is made available to the authorities of other Member States, with an exchange of information taking place via the Internal Market Information system;


whereas SOLVIT cases relating to professional qualifications numbered 220 in 2010, with over two thirds of these cases emerging from just four Member States;


whereas Directive 2005/36/EC consolidated rules set out in 15 previous directives adopted from the 1960s onwards;


whereas Directive 2005/36/EC was not transposed on time by all the Member States, only being fully implemented three years after the original deadline;


whereas the proper application of this Directive would reinforce the human dimension of the Single Market;


whereas the introduction of a European professional card could simplify and speed up the process of recognising professional qualifications;

Simplification for citizens


Believes that the free movement of a growing number of highly skilled persons and of workers is one of the key benefits of European cooperation and of a competitive internal market, an important factor in the development of economies across the EU and a right enjoyed by every EU citizen; firmly believes that workers’ mobility should be enhanced for citizens of the EU and that indirect barriers should be eliminated, provided that a balance is struck between mobility and the quality of professional qualifications;


Encourages all initiatives that aim to facilitate cross-border mobility as a means to the efficient functioning of labour markets and a way of enhancing economic growth and competitiveness within the EU; recognises the need for modernisation of Directive 2005/36/EC in order to guarantee a clear, robust legal framework;


Calls on the Commission and the Member States to further encourage mobility among professionals; argues that the relatively low numbers of mobile professionals is cause for concern and suggests that strategies be devised to tackle this problem; underlines the result of the recent Eurobarometer survey according to which more than 50 per cent of young people in Europe are willing or keen to work abroad (8);


Calls on Member States to promote the benefits of the directive among their citizens and professionals;


Considers that dialogue between stakeholders with a view to regularly updating the requirements for initial training, recognition of experience and continuous professional development has an essential role to play in harmonising training; considers, moreover, that superimposing a ‘28th regime’ on national systems is not the way to resolve the issue of differences in training in a clear and satisfactory manner;


Points out that the principle of partial access is seen as undesirable by the majority of respondents to the Commission’s public consultation, is difficult to monitor in practice and must be clarified; stresses, however, that partial access could have benefits, but only for those professions where tasks can be clearly demarcated; calls for a thorough evaluation of the principle, and for it to be applied on a case-by-case basis, but excluding regulated professions with health and safety implications;


Welcomes the overall success of the automatic recognition procedure; stresses, however, that the recognition process under the general system based on professional experience is excessively cumbersome and time-consuming for both the competent authorities and those engaged in certain professions;


Notes, while underlining the importance of the prior declaration system, that numerous concerns were raised in the Commission’s public consultation of 2011, and that measures to improve temporary mobility for professionals should therefore form a key aspect of the forthcoming revision of the Professional Qualifications Directive; calls for further clarification of the concept of temporary and occasional provision of services, bearing in mind that one definition covering all professions would be impossible to develop and would undermine subsidiarity;


Argues that the competent authorities face difficulties in applying the prior declaration regime as there is no consistent approach to assessing the temporary and occasional nature of a service, and that it is extremely difficult to monitor the service providers’ activities on the ground; calls on the Commission to evaluate the current provisions set out in Article 7 of the directive and to explain further the question of existing case-law, with regard specifically to professions with public health and safety implications; calls on the Commission to present its conclusions to Parliament;


Stresses that Article 7(4) of the Directive, which allows Member States to carry out prior checks on qualifications for those professions related to health and safety and not already covered under automatic recognition, is considered essential by a vast majority of stakeholders; argues, however, that in order to enhance transparency, Member States should clarify which professions they consider to have health and safety implications;


Agrees with the Commission that the definition of ‘regulated education and training’ is too restrictive and may have an undue impact on temporary mobility for professionals; considers that the definition should encompass any training that allows a profession to be pursued in the Member State of origin;


Calls on the Commission to make it clear that a declaration for the purposes of temporary mobility should in principle be valid throughout the territory of a Member State, and to assess whether a yearly declaration is needed;


Calls for service providers who provide their services exclusively to consumers escorted by them to other Member States, and who therefore have no contact with local consumers in the host Member State (e.g. tour guides, trainers, medical personnel accompanying sportsmen or -women), to be exempted from the prior declaration requirement pursuant to Article 7; advocates this in the case of all services that do not concern public health and safety;


Calls on the Commission to coordinate and consolidate the various sources of information currently available on issues relating to the recognition of professional qualifications – including National Contact Points (NCPs) and professional bodies – with the Your Europe portal, which signposts the single points of contact currently available under the Services Directive; argues that this will provide professionals, in their own language, with a public interface where they can upload documents, access and print their professional card, and obtain up-to-date information on the recognition process, and administrative information on competent authorities, professional bodies and the documents to be submitted;


Argues that dialogue and exchanges of information within each individual profession must be enhanced, and that cooperation between the competent authorities and NCPs must be improved, at both national and intra-Member State level; calls on the Commission to facilitate networks of competent authorities and professional bodies for the most mobile professions, to exchange general information about national processes and education requirements, and to share best practice and investigate possibilities for deeper cooperation, such as common platforms; considers that public authorities and the social partners must engage in a structured dialogue on how to enhance the professional integration of young people;


Calls on the Member States to improve the efficiency of public authorities in providing information both about workers’ rights and about procedures for the recognition of professional qualifications, thereby reducing the deterrent effect of bureaucracy, as part of measures to boost mobility;


Calls on the Member States, therefore, to use modern communication technologies, including databases and online registration procedures, to ensure that the deadlines set under the general recognition system are met and that significant improvements are made in terms of access to information and knowledge of procedures;


Calls for a mandatory obligation for competent authorities to provide up-to-date contact information to all other competent authorities in their given profession;


Calls on the Commission to set guidelines regarding the time period within which an individual who has submitted a complete dossier should expect a decision from the competent authority; reducing this time period through greater use of IMI and optimising procedures would also facilitate mobility; calls on the Member States to provide sufficient resources to ensure professional recognition within a reasonable time period;


Calls on the Member States, the competent authorities and the Commission to provide for greater transparency, so that applicants or persons affected can be given a full explanation as to the reasons for the non-recognition of their diploma or professional qualification;


Argues that the current procedure for notification of new diplomas is too complex; calls on the Commission to facilitate notification of new diplomas and to update Annex V of the Directive in a more timely manner;


Urges the Member States, the competent authorities and the Commission to ensure that recognition of diplomas and certificates is on a par with recognition of professional qualifications, so as to create a genuine single market at European and international level and thereby avoid regulating what has already been regulated;


Stresses that compensation measures, which allow competent authorities to impose an aptitude test or an adaptation period of up to three years and which play an invaluable role in ensuring consumer and patient safety, must be reviewed in order to assess their suitability for resolving existing problems; calls for better explanations and for an evaluation of the Code of Conduct in order to assist competent authorities;


Calls for non-binding EU guidelines on the application of compensation measures to be devised in consultation with competent authorities, professional bodies, Member States and the European Parliament;


Stresses that it is particularly complicated and costly for the authorities to examine qualification levels pursuant to Article 11, and very difficult for citizens to understand; suggests that the five levels of qualification pursuant to Article 11 often lead to confusion with the eight levels of the European Qualifications Framework; agrees with the Commission that deleting Article 11 and Annexes II and III would mean that the competent authorities would no longer be required to determine the eligibility of an applicant according to pre-defined levels of qualifications but could focus on identifying whether there are substantial differences in training in order to decide whether compensation measures are necessary; notes, therefore, that deleting levels of qualification, including Annexes II and III, would considerably simplify the recognition process;


Points out that education and training systems still differ substantially from one Member State to another; takes the view, therefore, that periods usually spent at vocational schools as part of sandwich training should count towards the minimum periods of schooling required for certain professions;


Calls on the Member States and the competent authorities, with the support of the Commission, to institute studies with a view to establishing a European Competences, Qualifications and Occupations taxonomy in order to ascertain whether formal qualifications and occupations correspond to the same skills and qualifications in the various Member States and in order to develop a European analytical tool;


Takes the view that the Code of Conduct should be circulated more widely in order to ensure that the directive is implemented more effectively since this will promote uniformity in the way its provisions are interpreted;

Updating existing provisions


Calls on the Commission to reintroduce the mechanisms for dialogue among Member States, competent authorities and professional bodies with a view to updating, as regularly as possible and in line with scientific and technical developments, the minimum training requirements for the sectoral professions in order to reflect current professional practice, to update the current classification of economic activities based on professional experience, and to establish a simple mechanism for continually updating minimum training requirements; taking into account the future developments of the Bologna and Copenhagen Processes, urges the Commission to evaluate the introduction of a competence-based approach by defining minimum training requirements in terms not only of duration of training, but also of learning outcomes;


Urges the Commission not to fragment the process of modernising automatic recognition, as is suggested in the Green Paper, and to ensure that Parliament is given proper oversight when substantial changes are made to the directive;


Welcomes recent reforms undertaken as part of the Bologna process and the benefits this process provides for European students in terms of mobility and employability; encourages the European Commission to assist Member States in making the European Credit Transfer Scheme (ECTS) more transparent and comparable in order for ECTS to become an essential tool for facilitating the mutual recognition of qualifications and, ultimately, mobility;


Calls on the Commission to consider the importance of standardised learning outcomes and clinical competencies when setting out minimum training requirements;


Calls on the Commission to look into the possibility of further extending the scope for automatic recognition in future;


Asks for further clarification of the proposed lengthening of the duration of general education as an admission requirement for nurse and midwife training;


Asks for further clarification of the proposed deletion of Article 21(4) of the Professional Qualifications Directive;


Calls on the Member States to carry out a comparison of minimum training requirements and to organise more regular exchanges among themselves, and also among the competent authorities, with a view to bringing minimum training requirements more closely into line;


Points out that the assessment of the implementation of Directive 2005/36/EC requires a list to be drawn up of certificates or any other evidence of formal qualification recognised in one or more Member States but not recognised in other Member States; the list should also include cases where citizens who have obtained a degree in a Member State other than their state of origin are refused recognition in their own Member State when they return;


Highlights the high number of regulated professions in the European Union and calls on the Member States to reconsider the justification for the classification of certain professions, in order to ascertain whether formal qualifications and occupations correspond to the same skills and qualifications in all the Member States; considers that reducing the total number of regulated professions in the EU would enhance mobility; notes, however, that classification may be justified by consumer protection considerations, particularly in the case of the medical, legal and technical professions;


Argues that the most effective way of making free movement of professionals possible would be to reduce the number of regulated professions in the EU; calls on the Commission to include in a revised directive a mechanism whereby Member States can check their regulatory provisions, with the exception of those related to healthcare professions, and remove them if they are not proportionate;

Upgrading public health and safety


Argues that protection of consumer and patient safety is a vital objective in the context of the revision of the directive and that the success of this directive depends greatly on ensuring mobility while guaranteeing safety; draws attention to the special status of healthcare professionals;


Stresses that there have been serious problems associated with professionals continuing to practise in the EU despite being suspended or struck off;


Calls for the establishment, within the framework of the Internal Market Information System (IMI), for those professions not already covered under the Services Directive, of a proactive alert mechanism which would make it compulsory to issue an alert to all Member States when a regulatory action is taken against a professional’s registration or their right to provide services, on condition that the alert system contains no other information, respects the presumption of innocence and complies with existing data protection rules;


Points out that the public and patients need better assurances that healthcare professionals benefiting from recognition have kept their skills and knowledge up to date;


Highlights the call from stakeholders to place greater emphasis on continuous professional development (CPD), including (life-long) formal, non-formal and informal learning, and on the need to assess it; points out that global competition and the orientation towards a knowledge-based economy are creating new challenges for skills development and education; calls on the Commission, therefore, to explore methods of documenting all education, perhaps via European Skill Passports and the European Qualifications Framework, as well as IMI, and to devise a comparability table of the various CPD systems existing in the Member States; calls further on the Commission to evaluate whether an appropriate solution to the varying levels of CPD for healthcare workers might be compensation measures; encourages the competent authorities to provide information on CPD during the recognition process, to exchange best practices in this area and to exchange information on CPD, especially in respect of those sectors and Member States in which it is mandatory;


Stresses the importance of ongoing training being specifically tailored to the needs of the employment market in each of the Member States so as to ensure better use of training resources for those in employment;


Stresses that an extension of the recognition procedure to cover third-country qualifications may give rise to abuses of the system in the form of forum shopping, and would be extremely dangerous for the competent authorities in the host Member State;


Insists that, for healthcare professionals, the ability to communicate with colleagues and patients is fundamental in terms of avoiding dangerous or potentially life-threatening situations;


Takes the view that Article 53 of Directive 2005/36/EC, on language requirements, must be clarified, as there is ongoing controversy over the interpretation of this provision among the Commission, the ECJ and the Member States; calls, therefore, on the Commission and the Member States to revise the language requirement regime for the healthcare professions by providing the competent authorities with the necessary flexibility to ascertain and, only if necessary, test the technical and conversational language skills of professionals as part of the recognition process; considers that, without prejudicing the ability of employers to satisfy themselves regarding the language competence of professionals when recruiting to a particular post, the principle of proportionality should be scrupulously applied in this regard, so that such tests do not become an additional barrier;


Argues that language competence is crucial in facilitating a professional’s integration in another country, ensuring the quality of the services provided and protecting consumer and patient safety;


Stresses that, in order to protect patients, practitioners providing e-health services should offer the same quality and safety standards as in the provision of non-electronic healthcare services; it should therefore be clarified that the requirements of this directive and, if necessary, additional ones should apply to e-health service providers;


Points out that the development of e-health and of a remote healthcare system requires that, after their training, nurses and doctors are able to take care of patients of different nationalities, and that it will therefore be necessary to promote collaboration among training centres, hospitals and universities in different countries in the case of the professionals and graduates who have to take care of patients using these tools;

Integrating professionals and injecting confidence into the system


Welcomes the results of the professional card pilot projects announced at the Single Market Forum in Krakow; insists that any professional card must be voluntary, should certify the academic and professional experience acquired and must be linked to the IMI system; believes that a professional card could be a useful tool to aid mobility for some professions, simplify administrative procedures and enhance safety; calls on the Commission, prior to the introduction of any card, to provide evidence of the possible added value for the recognition process; stresses that the introduction of any card must meet specific safety and data protection conditions, and insists that the necessary safeguards against abuse and fraud must be established;


Reiterates that if the EU is to reduce the uneven implementation and enforcement of Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications throughout the EU-27, all Member States need to have more confidence and faith in each other’s systems;


Supports the extension of the IMI to professions not yet covered by this information system, as set out in the proposal for a Regulation on administrative cooperation through the Internal Market Information System (9) (the ‘IMI Regulation’), and to the professions which are not covered by Directive 2005/36/EC;


Calls for mandatory introduction of the IMI for competent authorities in order to facilitate proactive administrative cooperation and simplify recognition procedures; considers that the IMI could be further enhanced, for instance by expanding the features available in order to facilitate the work of national authorities; asks the Commission to put in place accompanying training and technical support measures in order to ensure that full use is made of the potential efficiency gains the system offers;


Calls for enhanced mobility of graduates and for compliance with the judgment in the Morgenbesser case (10); argues that Member States should encourage remunerated supervised practice for graduates from other Member States if they offer such a possibility to their own nationals; stresses, moreover, that the professional experience acquired during the supervised practice should be recognised in the home Member State;


Highlights the fact that the concept of common platforms, as outlined in Article 15 of the directive, has not been successful in that no such platforms currently exist; argues that they have the potential to be useful tools in facilitating mobility and that they should be defined and controlled by the professionals themselves; welcomes the Commission’s wish to improve this concept in a revised article; calls on the Commission to allow Member States the necessary flexibility to chose whether or not to take part in any common platform and to lower the threshold for Member State participation;


Argues that the introduction of any common platform should be made contingent on an internal market test and subject to parliamentary oversight;


Highlights the fact that this Directive should integrate data protection, in line with Directive 95/46/EC, and that revisions of this directive should also include developments in data protection provisions; notes that there should be up-to-date contact information for the part of the competent authority responsible for data management, and clear policies regarding the storage and use of a professional’s data, as well as guidelines for the correction of erroneous information


Notes that the negotiations between the EU and Switzerland have led to an agreement regarding the amending of Annex III of the Agreement between the European Community and its Member States, of the one part, and the Swiss Confederation, of the other, on the free movement of persons so as to include Directive 2005/36/EC; notes that the agreement foresees a provisional application of most of the Directive, with the exception of Title II, which requires adaptations in Switzerland, and that the Council Decision regarding the abovementioned agreement will lapse if the Swiss fail to notify the completion of their internal procedures for the implementation of the Decision within 24 months of the adoption of the decision; is committed to following developments on this issue closely;


Calls on the Commission to ensure that any revised directive is properly transposed by the deadline set; urges the Member States to give the directive due priority;


* *


Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1)  OJ L 255, 30.9.2005, p. 22.

(2)  OJ C 76 E, 25.3.2010, p. 42.

(3)  Texts adopted, P7_TA(2011)0145.

(4)  http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/qualifications/docs/news/20110706-summary-replies-public-consultation-pdq_en.pdf.

(5)  http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/qualifications/docs/news/20110706-evaluation-directive-200536ec_en.pdf.

(6)  European Commission, ‘Evaluation of the Professional Qualifications Directive’, Brussels, 5 July 2011.

(7)  European Commission, DG MARKT, SOLVIT 2010 Report: Development and performance of the SOLVIT network in 2010, (2011).

(8)  European Commission - Flash Eurobarometer, ‘Youth on the Move: Analytical Report’, May 2011.

(9)  Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on administrative cooperation through the Internal Market Information System (‘the IMI Regulation’), (COM(2011)0522).

(10)  Court of Justice judgment of 13 November 2003, Case C-313/01, Morgenbesser, ECR I–13467.