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Procedure : 2001/2554(RSP)
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Document selected : B5-0247/2001

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Thursday, 5 April 2001 - Strasbourg
Professional fees

European Parliament resolution on scale fees and compulsory tariffs for certain liberal professions, in particular lawyers, and on the particular role and position of the liberal professions in modern society

The European Parliament,

-  having regard to Articles 6, 52, 81 and 82 of the Treaty establishing the European Community,

-  having regard to Directive 98/5/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 1998 to facilitate practice of the profession of lawyer on a permanent basis in a Member State other than that in which the qualification was obtained(1) ,

-  having regard to Directive 77/249/EEC of 22 March 1977 to facilitate the effective exercise by lawyers of freedom to provide services(2) ,

-  having regard to Council Directive 85/384/EEC of 10 June 1985 on the mutual recognition of diplomas, certificates and other evidence of formal qualifications in architecture, including measures to facilitate the effective exercise of the right of establishment and freedom to provide services(3) ,

-  having regard to the Eighth Council Directive of 10 April 1984 based on Article 54 (3) (g) of the Treaty on the approval of persons responsible for carrying out the statutory audits of accounting documents (84/253/EEC )(4) ,

-  having regard to Directive 89/48/EEC of 21 December 1988 on a general system for the recognition of higher-education diplomas awarded on completion of professional education and training of at least three years" duration(5) ,

-  having regard to the Commission Decision of 30 June 1993 relating to a proceeding pursuant to Article 85 of the EEC Treaty (IV/33.407 - CNSD)(6) ,

-  having regard to the Commission Decision of 30 January 1995 relating to a proceeding under Article 85 of the EC Treaty (IV/33.686 - Coapi)(7) ,

-  having regard to the Commission decision of 7 April 1999 in Case No IV/36.147 - EPI code of conduct (8) ,

-  having regard to the judgment of the Court of Justice of 18 June 1998 in Case C-35/96(9) , Commission of the European Communities/Italian Republic,

-  having regard to the judgment of the Court of Justice of 30 January 1985 in Case C-123/83, BNIC/Clair(10) ,

-  having regard to the judgment of the Court of First Instance of 28 March 2001 in Case T-144/99, Institute of Professional Representatives before the European Patent Office v Commission of the European Communities,

-  having regard to the Commission interpretative communication of 9 December 1993 concerning the free movement of services across frontiers (93/C/334/03),

-  having regard to the communication from the Commission to the Council and European Parliament of 29 December 2000 on an Internal Market Strategy for Services (COM(2000) 888 ),

A.  whereas the liberal professions are one of the pillars of pluralism and independence in society and fulfil roles in the public interest, and the legal profession in particular is one of the pillars of the protection of the fundamental right to defence and the putting into effect of the principle of the rule of law,

B.  whereas in some Member States there are compulsory tariffs which lay down the minimum and/or maximum amounts to be paid by clients for services provided by liberal professions,

C.  whereas, according to the case-law of the Court of Justice, lawyers, and pari passu members of other liberal professions, are undertakings which are subject to competition rules,

D.  whereas the case-law of the Court of Justice does not prevent Member States from establishing compulsory tariffs(11) because 'Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty apply only to anti-competitive conduct engaged in by undertakings on their own initiative. If anti-competitive conduct is required of undertakings by national legislation or if the latter creates a legal framework which itself eliminates any possibility of competitive activity on their part, Articles 81 and 82 do not apply. In such a situation, the restriction of competition is not attributable, as those provisions implicitly require, to the autonomous conduct of the undertakings'(12) , whereas Articles 81 and 82 may apply, however, if it is found that the national legislation does not preclude undertakings from engaging in autonomous conduct which prevents, restricts or distorts competition,

1.  Considers that liberal professions are the expression of a democratic fundamental order based on law and, more particularly, an essential element of European societies and communities in their various forms;

2.  Considers the importance of regulations, satisfying the requirements of Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, that are established under their own responsibility by professional groups to guarantee the quality of services, to fix special standards of value, to observe those regulations in a professional manner and to include professional ethics;

3.  Notes the high qualifications required for liberal professions, the need to protect those that distinguish liberal professions to the benefit of European citizens and the need to establish a specific relationship based on trust between liberal professions and their clients;

4.  Considers that diversities rooted in culture, legal history, sociology and ethnology of the various professional groups in the Member States need to be respected by application of the principle of subsidiarity;

5.  Recognises that the manifestation of traditional values of the liberal professions must adapt to the changing business world and the needs of the modern consumer;

6.  Calls on the Commission to keep a close eye on the rules adopted and the decisions taken by associations of members of liberal professions which make it difficult for nationals of other Member States to provide services freely;

7.  Recognises the importance attached in some Member States to compulsory tariffs with a view to providing high-quality services to citizens and to creating a trustful relationship between liberal professions and their clients;

8.  Calls upon the European Commission to follow strictly the interpretation of the Court of Justice in the application of competition rules to the compulsory tariffs of liberal professions;

9.  Considers that only compulsory tariffs established by professional bodies or associations of all members of a given profession may, according to the circumstances, be regarded as decisions adopted by associations of undertakings subject to competition rules;

10.  Considers that Member States are authorised to establish compulsory tariffs taking into account the general interest (and not only the interest of the profession), and to protect the high moral, ethical and quality standards that lawyers, tax consultants, accountants, doctors, psychotherapists, architects and members of other liberal professions represent and their clients trust in;

11.  Considers that the goal of promoting competition in the professions must, in each individual case, be reconciled with the objective of maintaining purely ethical rules specific to each profession;

12.  Points out that rules which are necessary, in the specific context of each profession, in order to ensure the impartiality, competence, integrity and responsibility of the members of that profession or to prevent conflicts of interest and misleading advertising, and which, in addition, do not represent barriers to the free movement of services, are not considered to be restrictions of competition within the meaning of Article 81(1) of the Treaty;

13.  Calls upon the Commission, within the scope of the new Internal Market Strategy for Services, to analyse rapidly, and to dismantle, persistent barriers to the cross-border provision of services;

14.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission.

(1) OJ L 77, 14.3.1998, p. 36.
(2) OJ L 78, 26.3.1977, p. 17.
(3) OJ L 223, 21.8.1985, p. 15; last amended by Directive 90/658/EEC and the Act of Accession (A/F/S) of 1994.
(4) OJ L 126, 12.5.1984, p. 20.
(5)OJ L 19 , 24.1.1989, p. 16.
(6) OJ L 203, 13.8.1993, p. 27.
(7) OJ L 122, 2.6.1995, p. 37.
(8) OJ L 106, 23.4.1999, p. 14.
(9) European Court Reports 1998, p. I-3851.
(10) European Court Reports 1995, p. 391.
(11) See Case C-185/91 Reiff [1993[ ECR I-5801, paragraphs 17 and 19; Case C-153/93 Delta Schiffahrts- und Speditionsgesellschaft [1994[ ECR I-2517, paragraphs 16 and 18; and Joined Cases C-140/94 to C-142/94 DIP and Others [1995[ ECR I-3257, paragraphs 18 and 19).
(12) Judgment of the Court of 11 November 1997. Joined cases C-359/95 P and C-379/95 P. European Court Reports 1997, p. I-6265.

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