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Working in the Single Market: Professional Qualifications

28 July 2009
by inadim -- last modified 01 August 2009

The EU's policy on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications is an example of action undertaken by the European Commission to remove the remaining legal and practical obstacles that deter people from benefiting from the freedom of movement and right to reside in another EU Member State.


The rights of EU citizens to establish themselves or to provide services anywhere in the EU are fundamental freedoms in the Single Market. National regulations which only recognise professional qualifications of a particular jurisdiction present obstacles to these fundamental freedoms. These obstacles are overcome by EU rules guaranteeing the mutual recognition of professional qualifications between Member States.

These rules are mainly the following:

  • harmonisation of training requirements which allow for automatic recognition of professional qualifications and which are mainly in the health sector (doctors, nurses, dentists, midwives, veterinary surgeons, pharmacists and architects); further information for specific sectors can be found here.
  • mutual recognition which applies to all the professions for which Member States require a qualification, with the exception of the professions mentioned in the previous indent; the 'general system' is the system for the mutual recognition of professional qualifications established by Directive 89/48/EEC and supplemented by Directive 92/51/EEC.
  • automatic recognition of professional experience for professions of craft, commerce and industry sectors
  • rules applying to lawyers concerning the provision of services and the establishment under the title of country of origin
  • recognition of qualifications concerning activities in the fields of commerce and the distribution of toxic substances
  • coordination of the laws of the Member States relating to self-employed commercial agents which harmonizes civil law on the relationship between agent and principal (directive 86/653/EEC).

The EU has recently reformed the system for recognition of professional qualifications, in order to help make labour markets more flexible, further liberalise the provision of services, encourage more automatic recognition of qualifications, and simplify administrative procedures.

A new Directive (2005/36/EC), which has come into effect on 20 October 2007, consolidates and modernises 15 existing Directives covering all recognition rules, except for those applicable to lawyers, activities in the field of toxic substances and commercial agents. This is the first comprehensive modernisation of the EU system since its introduction over 40 years ago.

Source: European Commission

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