Doctors, nurses, architects and other professionals moving to another EU country will find it easier to get their qualifications recognised there thanks to a provisional deal struck by MEPs and the EU's Irish Presidency of the Council on Wednesday evening. It will bring in an electronic card listing professional skills and oblige professionals' home countries to do more to help them to obtain recognition abroad.
"We have delivered a text with many concrete improvements for citizens and especially the introduction of a European professional card, which I have advocated since 2007 and will soon become a reality. Tools for facilitating mobility, are also instruments of European citizenship, proving that Europe can work to improve everyday life", said rapporteur Bernadette Vergnaud (S&D, FR) after the deal was struck.
The deal, on a draft directive, would require member states and the Commission to take account of the wishes of professional bodies which opt for EU professional qualifications card for their members. If they do so, member states would grant the cards, which professionals could use then as a "passport" for mutual recognition purposes.
The deal also should accelerate the recognition process, which in some cases could take no more than four weeks, and would be based on the existing electronic information exchange system between member states' administrations.
It would also enable professionals to ask their home countries to arrange the recognition, rather than having to apply to the host country as at present. If the authorities were to fail to respond to a recognition request within the time limits set out in the directive, this would be deemed a tacit recognition of the qualification.
MEPs ensured that the directive will also cover traineeships, as an integral part of a professional's experience. Not only paid traineeships, as proposed by the Commission, but also the unpaid ones, will form part of the training giving access to a regulated profession.
The directive also aims to prevent health professionals, such as doctors, nurses or veterinary surgeons, who have been convicted of a crime or face disciplinary action from transferring their practice to another EU member state. All EU member states should be informed of such convictions or decisions to discipline a professional within three days, says the text.
The provisionally-agreed text still needs be formally approved by the Council Committee of Permanent Representatives and Parliament's Internal Market Committee. The committee will probably vote on the deal before the summer break, paving the way for a plenary vote in October.
Improving mobility for professionals is one of the 12 priorities of the Single Market Act, the Commission's action plan to improve the functioning of the single market. The existing Professional Qualifications Directive, which has applied since 2007, secures the automatic recognition of seven professions across Europe: doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, veterinary surgeons and architects.