14 Jun

European Parliament approves new rules on access to regulated professions

European Parliament has just approved new rules on access to regulated professions. The new rules aim to ensure that citizens can choose an occupation, conduct a business or provide professional services in the EU without facing discriminatory and unjustified restrictions.

The directive, approved by 519 votes to 112, with eight abstentions, will streamline and clarify how member states should undertake a “proportionality test” before adopting or amending national rules restricting access to or pursuit of regulated professions. It aims to ensure mobility of professionals and high-quality professional services across the EU.

About this topic, Andreas Schwab (EPP, DE), who steered this legislation through Parliament, has said: “50 million people in the EU work in regulated professions. That is the equivalent of 22% of the European labour force. The new directive will make sure that they are no longer hindered from exercising their profession in another Member State because of unproportionate professional regulation”.

The current uneven scrutiny of the regulation of professions has a negative impact on the provision of services and the mobility of professionals. Lawmakers aimed to strike a balance between the freedom of movement and the need to protect public interest objectives, such as consumer protection, public health or sound administration of justice.

The need to ensure high level of healthcare protection, the obligation for Member States to appropriately involve all interested parties, where relevant by public consultations, as well as the temporary or occasional provision of services, are among the issues agreed by the co-legislators.

In order to ensure that citizens and businesses will fully benefit from adequate and proportionate rules, Member States must ensure that effective remedy is available in accordance with national procedures.

Once approved by the Council and published in the EU Official Journal, member states will have two years to transpose the directive into national law.

Background

Regulated professions are present in all economic sectors, with the following being most relevant (the percentage indicates the relation to all regulated professions):

-health and social service: 40%

-business services (including lawyers, accountants and architects): 15%

-transport (such as taxi drivers): 9.6%

-public service and education: 9.1%

-construction (including civil engineers and craft professions): 6.6%

Several professional activities are already regulated at EU level (doctors, nurses, architects, pharmacists, auditors, insurance brokers etc.).

In the absence of harmonised requirements at EU level, the regulation of professional services remains a prerogative of the Member States. It is up to each one of them to decide whether there is a need to intervene and impose rules and restrictions for the access to or pursuit of a profession, so long as the principles of non-discrimination and proportionality are respected.

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