REPORT on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council repealing Council Decision 85/368/EEC on the comparability of vocational training qualifications between the Member States of the European Community

4.4.2008 - (COM(2007)0680 – C6‑0398/2007 – 2007/0234(COD)) - ***I

Committee on Employment and Social Affairs
Rapporteur: Jan Andersson
(Simplified procedure – Rule 43(1) of the Rules of Procedure)

Procedure : 2007/0234(COD)
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on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council repealing Council Decision 85/368/EEC on the comparability of vocational training qualifications between the Member States of the European Community

(COM(2007)0680 – C6‑0398/2007 – 2007/0234(COD))

(Codecision procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Commission proposal to the European Parliament and the Council (COM(2007)0680),

–   having regard to Articles 251(2) and 150(4) of the EC Treaty, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C6‑0398/2007),

–   having regard to Rules 51 and 43(1) of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (A6‑0132/2008),

1.  Approves the Commission proposal;

2.  Calls on the Commission to refer the matter to Parliament again if it intends to amend its proposal substantially or replace it with another text;

3.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council and the Commission.



Council Decision 85/368/EEC of 16 July 1985 on the comparability of vocational training qualifications between the Member States of the European Community[1] called for the Commission and Member States to cooperate in drawing up job descriptions in specified occupations, and then match vocational training qualifications (VET) recognised in the Member States with the agreed job descriptions. The mutually agreed job descriptions were to be published in the Official Journal of the European Community.

The Decision also required Member States to designate a coordination body responsible for ensuring, in close cooperation with the social partners and the occupational sectors concerned, the dissemination of information on comparable vocational qualifications and to submit to the Commission a national report every four years on the implementation of the Decision and the results obtained.

The aim of the Decision was to enable workers to make better use of their qualifications to obtain suitable employment in other Member States.

Non-implementation of the Decision 85/368/EEC

In the present proposal, the Commission points out that, at first stage, 219 VET qualifications were designated, in cooperation with the Member States, in 19 sectors reflecting occupations in which workers' mobility was considered to be the most important. Procedures for defining job descriptions and comparing qualifications were also established with the involvement of Cedefop.

However, a report prepared for the Commission in 1990 highlighted the difficulties in this process and acknowledged the slow pace of progress, as, by 1990, data on the comparability of qualifications had been published for only 5 of the 19 specified sectors, covering 66 occupations. This report proposed to accelerate the pace, setting targets to agree job descriptions in 14 more sectors before the end of 1992. But, in practice, these targets were not achieved.

The Decision also proved too inflexible to adapt to changing needs. Although, it referred to the need to adapt to new situations brought about by the impact of technological change on employment and job content, the Commission, Cedefop and the Member States came to accept that the centralised approach chosen, and the constant and rapid evolution of qualifications, soon made the published information out of date. Therefore, the work carried out at the European level had little impact at the level of national and sectoral stakeholders and the implementation of the Decision was abandoned.

Context of the Commission proposal

The present proposal provides for the repeal of Decision 85/368/EEC, as a redundant piece of legislation. The Commission considers that implementation of the Decision has not been effective in achieving the comparability of vocational qualifications for the benefit of workers seeking employment in another Member State. It further considers that the methods and approach used to describe and compare qualifications provided for in the Decision differ from those currently applied in education and training systems.

The Commission proposal forms part of the simplification programme within the Commission Legislative and Work Programme for 2007, which aims to simplify the regulatory environment for business and other stakeholders and remove obsolete and unused legislation. Moreover, the Commission believes that Decision 84/368/EEC is superseded by other, more recent and efficient instruments and measures taken at European level which increase transparency, support transfer of qualifications and facilitate the valuing of learning outcomes, such as, in particular, the European Qualifications Framework.

The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and other Community instruments

The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) should address the limitations of Decision 85/368/EEC, by focusing on improving the transparency of qualifications and by introducing a decentralised approach for co-operation which reflects the increasing complexity of qualifications in Europe.

The Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council which was adopted on 14 February 2008[2], establishes the EQF as a reference tool for the comparison of qualification levels in national qualifications systems, as well as qualifications systems developed by international sectoral organisations. The EQF's main components are a set of European reference levels described in terms of learning outcomes, and mechanisms for voluntary co-operation. It is recommended that Member States relate their qualifications systems to the EQF by linking qualification levels to the corresponding EQF levels and, where appropriate, develop a national qualifications framework. Member States are further recommended to ensure that, by 2012, all qualification certificates, diplomas and "Europass" documents bear the appropriate EQF level. In addition, the setting-up of a EQF advisory group, composed of representatives of Member States and involving the European social partners and other stakeholders, is an important element promoting common approaches and ensuring the quality of the process.

The EQF differs from Decision 85/368/EEC in scope. As an instrument for the promotion of lifelong learning, it covers, at all levels, general and adult education, higher education, as well as vocational education and training (VET) – which was the sole focus of the Decision.

The EQF also differs from Decision 85/368/EEC in the approach taken. The Decision requires intensive co-operation between experts from different Member States to constantly update the list, amend descriptions of occupations and qualifications and add new qualifications as necessary. The fact that only a limited number of occupations and vocational qualifications were covered reflects the ineffectiveness of the Decision. The EQF adopts a voluntary and decentralised approach where the Community provides a common reference framework, while detailed decisions are left to competent bodies at national and sectoral level. Consequently, Member States may relate their qualification levels to the EQF levels, so that any qualification falling within a particular level in their national system can be given an EQF level rating. Therefore, the EQF is designed to provide a common language to describe and understand qualifications, and thus contribute to increasing the employability and mobility of workers and learners.

Finally, the development of the EQF has been given broad support through a Europe-wide consultation process, involving the European social partners, sector and branch organisations, educational institutions and associations, as well as NGOs. A range of international experts with experiences in the field of qualifications and qualifications frameworks contributed also to its formulation.

Although the EQF should be the instrument which most closely pursues the aims and functions that Decision 85/386/EEC could not fulfil, there are several other instruments and measures at European level which increase transparency and facilitate the transfer of qualifications. These include Europass, the European Credit Transfer System for higher education (ECTS), the 2004 Council Conclusions on the identification and validation of non-formal and informal learning and the Ploteus portal.

Decision 2241/2004/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 December 2004 on a single Community framework for the transparency of qualifications and competences (Europass) introduces a set of European instruments to be used by individuals to describe their qualifications and competences. Europass is designed to promote occupational mobility and mobility for learning purposes.

The existing European Credit Transfer System for higher education (ECTS) has played an important role in facilitating student mobility and international curriculum development. Moreover, the emerging European Credit Transfer System for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET) is intended to facilitate the transfer, accumulation and recognition of learning outcomes and thus to improve citizens' transnational mobility.

A set of common European principles for the identification and validation of non-formal and informal learning were agreed by the Council in May 2004. These principles provide a basis for strengthening cooperation with a view to promoting the validation of non-formal and informal learning and encourage the Commission, the Member States and social partners to introduce more systematically methods and systems for validation.

The Ploteus portal on learning opportunities throughout the European countries is a service of the Commission which contributes to a better transparency of qualifications by providing information about education, training and learning opportunities available throughout Europe.

The mutual recognition of qualifications in the area of regulated professions is ensured by Directive 2005/36/EC of 7 September 2005. This Directive provides for a system of automatic recognition of qualifications for professions with harmonised training requirements – doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists, veterinarians, pharmacists, architects.


In the light of the above concerns expressed by the Commission with regard to the ineffective­ness of Decision 85/368/EEC in achieving the comparability of vocational qualifications for the benefit of workers seeking access to employment in another Member State, as well as to its lack of flexibility to adapt to the constant and rapid evolution of qualifications, your rapporteur agrees with the Commission proposal to repeal Decision 85/368/EEC as redundant.

In effect, your rapporteur considers that the aims of the said Decision are met by other transparency and mobility instruments, more particularly, by the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) which provides an overall framework for co-operation in the fields of education and vocational training and which was established by a Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council adopted in February 2008. He also agrees with the Commission on the need to repeal Decision 85/368/EEC following the adoption of the EQF, in view of avoiding a confusing situation that would emerge by leaving in force two instruments, the Decision as a redundant piece of legislation and the EQF, with similar aims but based on different methodologies and describing qualifications from opposite viewpoints.

The scope of Decision 85/368/EEC, whose sole focus is on vocational training qualifications, and of the EQF differ in that the EQF, in being an instrument for the promotion of lifelong learning, applies to all types of qualifications from those achieved at the end of compulsory education to those awarded at the highest level of academic and professional or vocational education and training.

Moreover, the EQF shifts the focus away from the approach based on learning inputs, such as the length of a learning experience or the type of institution, to a learning outcomes-based approach. In the EQF, learning outcomes are defined by a combination of knowledge, skills and competence and describe what a learner knows, understands and is able to do on completion of a learning process. The shift to learning outcomes introduces a common language make it possible to compare qualifications according to their content and profile, regardless of where or how these qualifications were acquired. It is thus expected to facilitate the validation of learning taking place outside formal education and training institutions, i.e. the non-formal and informal learning.

As the Recommendation establishing the EQF foresees that Member States relate their national qualifications frameworks to the EQF by 2010, most countries are now developing national qualifications frameworks. In this respect, the EQF is designed to link countries' qualifications systems, acting as a translation device to make qualifications more readable to Member States, employers and individuals and so facilitate the comparison, transfer and use of qualifications across different countries and different education and training systems. It is also designed to strengthen co-operation and mutual trust between the relevant stakeholders.

Your rapporteur believes therefore that, by supporting education and vocational training, the EQF presents significant advantages for citizens and employers in that it can encourage increased mobility for working or learning throughout Europe. In this way, the EQF largely encompasses and can better achieve the objectives of Decision 85/368/EEC.

For the above mentioned reasons, your rapporteur recommends to approve the present Commission proposal without amendment.

  • [1]  OJ L 199, 31.7.1985, p. 56
  • [2]  Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning, not yet published in the Official Journal



Comparability of vocational training qualifications between the Member States


COM(2007)0680 – C6-0398/2007 – 2007/0234(COD)

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Jan Andersson




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