Select Committee on European Union Forty-Ninth Report


FREE MOVEMENT: RECOGNITION OF PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS (7239/02)

Letter from the Chairman to Margaret Hodge MBE MP, Minister of State for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education, Department for Education and Skills

  Sub-Committee F (Social Affairs, Education and Home Affairs) considered the proposal at its meeting on 15 May. The Committee welcomes this attempt to simplify and consolidate existing legislation and case-law on the recognition of professional qualifications in the European Union. In its recent report entitled Working in Europe: Access for All (15th Report, session 2001-02, HL paper 88), the Committee stressed the need for a simplified, transparent and flexible regime of professional recognition in the regulated professions as a means of enhancing labour mobility within the EU.

  The Committee notes that, along with consolidating existing legislation, the draft Directive includes a series of innovations. While at first sight these innovations seem helpful, their exact scope is at times unclear. We would therefore be grateful to receive your comments on the following matters.

Free movement of services

  The Committee welcomes the flexible regimes envisaged for service providers but notes that the provisions of services is somewhat artificially distinguished from establishment through the use of a 16-week per year threshold. Is the Government satisfied with the use of this criterion? Article 5(2), on the other hand, does not preclude assessment on a case-to-case basis: would this allow periodic activities exceeding the 16-week threshold to be classified as services in certain circumstances?

  In your Explanatory Memorandum, you refer to the need to strike the right balance between free movement and public health and safety protection. We would welcome any concrete examples of how public health and safety might be compromised by the current draft and any views on how these potential challenges might be addressed.

Freedom of establishment—common platforms

  The proposal innovates in establishing a flexible mechanism of co-operation between the Commission and the professional associations in Member States in putting forward "common platforms", setting out criteria which, if fulfilled by the applicant's qualifications, would enable the requirement for compensatory measures by the host Member State to be waived. It is however unclear how this assessment is going to be made: will it be done by the Commission itself, the Committee referred to in Article 54, or the authorities of the host Member State?

Freedom of establishment-knowledge of languages

  The Committee welcomes the incorporation of ECJ case-law in Article 49 of the draft Directive, requiring that knowledge of the language of the host Member State must be proportionate to the practice of the beneficiaries' profession. We further note that, where appropriate, it is for the host Member State to ensure that the applicant can acquire the necessary knowledge of the language. What is the cost, if any, of such obligation to the Member States involved? Is the Government prepared to accept this provision as it currently stands?

The Committee on the recognition of professional qualifications

  The Directive states that this Committee is there "to assist" the Commission and the Commission's EM adds that that the Committee "can also be seized of all questions concerning the working of the Directive" (p 15). But its exact tasks are far from clear. You note in your Explanatory Memorandum that the full implications of this development will need to be discussed in detail. We would welcome any further information on the role, powers and functions of this body.

  The Committee decided to retain the document under scrutiny pending clarification of these points.

16 May 2002

Letter from the Chairman to Ms Margaret Hodge MBE MP, Minister of State for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education, Department for Education and Skills

  Thank you for your letter of 3 July regarding the above proposal. Your detailed response has been very helpful to Sub-Committee F in its examination of the proposal and is greatly appreciated.

  We note that a number of important points (such as the balance between free movement and the protection of public health) are still in need of clarification. The Committee supports the introduction of safeguards on these matters and welcomes your commitment to keep us informed of progress during negotiations. The Committee decided to clear the present document from scrutiny, but will, of course, wish to follow further developments closely.

18 July 2002


 
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