The modernised Professional Qualifications Directive – The end of crisis-induced unemployment in the EU?

Andrea Redondo

LL.M in European Law and Economic Analysis, College of Europe; BSc in Economics and Finance, LSE; LLB, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and Universidad Complutense of Madrid


On 20 November 2013 the Council of the European Union adopted Directive 2013/55/EU on the modernisation of Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications.[1] As Commissioner Barnier had predicted,[2] the Council adopted the Directive at first reading, following an agreement with the European Parliament which had itself voted in favour of the text at its plenary session of 9 October 2013. This article analyses the historical background and key features of the modernised Professional Qualifications Directive and provides an answer to the question of whether this modernised Directive will bring an end to crisis-induced unemployment in the EU.


Historical background

Long have the days passed where a fully-qualified professional of one Member State was strongly dissuaded from moving to a different country as they would most likely fail to satisfy the requirements to practice their profession in the host Member State and would, consequently, have had to complete, again, an entire training course in the host country. Proof of this blatant restriction to free movement of persons and services is the abundant case law of the Court of Justice in this respect, like the Vlassopoulou,[3] Klopp[4] and Gebhard[5] cases, just to name a few.

In order to overcome this serious hurdle to the achievement of the internal (then common) market, Member States introduced, and subsequently enhanced, rules on mutual recognition of qualifications to reduce the burden for professionals wishing to work in a Member State different from the one where they had acquired their professional qualification.

In 2005, the Professional Qualifications Directive entered into force,[6] which consolidated the acquis communautaire – composed of 15 Directives – in this field of EU law and included some additional innovative aspects. This Directive provided for the following:

  • Automatic recognition for a limited number of professions on the basis of harmonised minimum training requirements. This automatic recognition entailed that the host Member State could only check whether the qualifications were in line with the minimum required by the Directive. Automatic recognition applied to doctors, dentists, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, veterinary surgeons and architects.
  • A general system for the recognition of evidence of training, applicable to a large majority of professions. On this basis, access to regulated professions was granted to any professional demonstrating that s/he is a fully-qualified professional in the Member State where he or she obtained the professional qualification. It is only in the cases where the qualifications of a professional substantially differ from those required by the host Member State or in those cases where the length of the time spent in the profession falls short of those of the host Member State that the latter may impose compensatory measures in order to close the gap and thus grant the professional full access to the relevant field of expertise. These compensatory measures can be of two kinds: (i) an adaptation period which takes the form of a period of supervised practice; or (ii) an aptitude test.
  • A new system of free provisions of services on a temporary and/or occasional basis. With the exception of professionals involved in the public health and safety sector, professionals can, in principle, provide their professionals on a temporary and/or occasional basis without a prior check of professional qualifications.  In this respect, Member States can only gather information on the status of the temporary or occasional workers in an annual declaration which covers detailed information about the establishment, insurance and professional competences in another Member State.

Given that the 2005 Professional Qualifications Directive already seemed like a big step forward, it is legitimate to ask the following question: why did the Directive require a modernisation so shortly after its entry into force? The answer, which was already identified in the Single Market Act of April 2011,[7] is that modernisation is required to reflect the changes and evolutions that have occurred recently in EU labour markets, to bring the Directive into the twenty-first century – in particular in light of the great importance of modern technologies – and to respond to the need of simplification by having a smoother system of recognition of qualifications supporting the mobility of professionals across the EU. According to the Single Market Act, modernising the legislation applicable to the system of recognition of professional qualifications was the key action to improve mobility of EU citizens in the single market. And this is precisely what the modernised Professional Qualifications Directive seeks to achieve.


Key features of the modernised Professional Qualifications Directive

Whilst the modernised Directive builds on the achievements of the existing Directive, it also incorporates new features. As the European Commission very elegantly puts it, “the modernisation of the Directive reaffirms the underlying philosophy of mutual recognition and mutual trust between Member States, whilst exploring innovative ways to better reflect it in practice”.[8]

In a nutshell, the key features of the modernised Professional Qualifications Directive are as follows:

  • Creation of the European Professional Card (“EPC”):[9] this is actually one of the major features of the modernised Directive. The EPC, which will not take the form of a physical card due to the risk of falsification or outdating, will be an electronic certificate to allow the cardholder to obtain the recognition of his or her qualifications in a simplified and accelerated manner. In particular, this electronic certificate will be exchanged between competent national authorities through the Internal Market Information System “(IMI”).[10] The competent authority of the home Member State will communicate any requisite information about the professional at stake to the competent authority of the host Member State via IMI, thereby significantly reducing the administrative burden and costs for professionals.
  • Modernisation of the definition for harmonised minimum training requirements for the professions which benefit from automatic recognition. For example, for doctors, the modernised Directive clarifies that the basic medical education ought to be based on 5,500 training hours done within a minimum of 5 years.
  • Mutual evaluation of regulated professions: in order to limit as much as possible the number of regulated professions, Member States will have to provide a detailed list of the professions that are regulated and the activities that are exclusively reserved to these professionals, as well as to justify the need to regulate these professions. There shall be a subsequent mutual evaluation of these professions which shall be facilitated by the European Commission.[11]
  • Common training principles: the currently existing system of automatic recognition will be further extended to new professions on the basis of the common training framework or tests. If in at least one third of Member States access to a particular profession is regulated, a common training framework or test can be established. The qualifications obtained under such frameworks or tests would then be automatically recognised in all the participating Member States.
  • Language skills: the verification of language skills at the host Member States can only take place once the latter has recognised the professional qualification of the individual concerned, although it can, however, take place before the professional accesses the profession. Quite importantly, language verifications – which must be proportionate to the activity pursued and free of charge for the professional – must be limited to the knowledge of only one official language of the host Member State, the choice of which is left to the person concerned in case of multilingual Member States.
  • Training abroad: young professionals wanting to access regulated professions will have the opportunity to do part – or even the entirety – of the traineeship in another Member State.
  • Alert mechanism: the modernised Professional Qualifications Directive is not only intended to enhance the free movement of professionals. It also aims to strengthening the protection of patients and consumers by means of an alert mechanism for education and health professions. More concretely, the competent authority of the home Member States must inform the competent authorities of all other Member States via IMI of any identified professional from these specific sectors who has been – temporarily or permanently – suspended or prohibited from practising his or her professional activity, or who has made use of falsified documents.



It is undeniable that the modernised Professional Qualifications Directive is a very important step forward in reducing – perhaps even significantly – unemployment in the EU as an enhanced mobility of professional will allow labour markets to work more efficiently. The new features contained in the modernised Directive are so far-reaching that new generations of professionals will enjoy from a greater exposure to foreign potential employers which will undoubtedly reduce the currently exorbitant levels of youth unemployment. This will have positive consequences not only on professionals, but also on customers and patients who will equally benefit from the internationalisation of free movement of professionals.

However, whether the modernised Professional Qualifications Directive will have specifically such a positive impact on crisis-induced unemployment is much more questionable. In particular, crisis-induced unemployment has most severely affected people in a difficult age range who, following a long period of unemployment, have seen their employability drastically plummet. Furthermore, and rather unfortunately, these people may lack the necessary linguistic skills and have too strong ties holding them back for them to seek job opportunities outside their national borders. This is a reality which Member States and EU institutions seem to have deliberately obviated in order not to face the cruel reality which results from such a floor-shaking crisis as the one we have been experiencing in the European Union for over 5 years now.

Consequently, this modernised Professional Qualifications Directive is certainly to be applauded as it gives a great leeway to future generations of professionals and enhances the protection of consumers and patients, but this does not mean that Member States and EU institutions – and, in particular, the European Commission – can feel relieved from their obligations vis-à-vis current generations of professionals. They must still work hard to put forward tangible and palatable initiatives which will alleviate the current unsustainable situation.

[1] Directive 2013/55/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 November 2013 amending Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications and Regulation (EU) No 1024/2012 on administrative cooperation through the Internal Market Information System (“the IMI Regulation”), available here:

[2] Statement by Commissioner Barnier, available here:

[3] Case C-340/89, Irène Vlassopoulou v Ministerium für Justiz, Bundes- und Europaangelegenheiten Baden-Württemberg, [1991] ECR I-2357.

[4] Case 107/83, Ordre des avocats au Barreau de Paris v Onno Klopp, [1984] ECR 2971.

[5] Case C-55/94, Reinhard Gebhard v Consiglio dell’Ordine degli Avvocati e Procuratori di Milano, [1995] ECR I-4165.

[6] Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on the recognition of professional qualifications (OJ L 255, 30.9.2005, p. 22), available here:

[7] Single Market Act – Twelve levers to boost growth and strengthen confidence, SEC(2011) 467 final,  available here:

[8] Modernisation of the Professional Qualifications Directive – frequently asked questions (point 5), available here:

[9] It should be noted, however, that although the Directive creates the EPC as a concept, the introduction of the EPC for a particular profession requires the adoption of further implementing acts by the European Commission.

[10] More information concerning IMI is available here:

[11] In this respect, see the Communication of the Commission of 2 October 2013 on evaluating national regulations on access to professions, SWD(2013) 402 final, available here:

Call For Papers – The Thousand Faces of the Four Freedoms

KSLR European Law Blog hereby invites you to submit abstracts on the topic of  “The Thousand Faces of the Four Freedoms

The EU internal market – the embodiment of the four fundamental freedoms of goods, services, persons and capital – has arguably been one of the EU’s most successful and indeed influential constructs. However, like most EU concepts, it is troubled by divergent interpretations. This has led to great debate by various commentators, and it is these plentiful widespread arguments to which we seek discussion for the blog. Articles and case comments on any areas related, directly or indirectly, with any one of the EU’s four freedoms are welcomed.

Please submit abstracts of no more than 250 words by 4 November 2013 to and We only accept abstracts relating to EU law.

Authors of selected abstracts will be informed within two weeks. A full paper (1,500 to 2,000 words) should be submitted by 9 December 2013. The style guidelines may be found at The articles resulting from selected abstracts will be posted on KSLR European Law Blog website.

The call for papers is open to submissions from students and professionals from the UK and abroad but only specific to EU law.

Please email the above addresses if you have any further questions. We look forward to hearing from you!

KSLR EU Law Blog is a blog run by the students of the King’s College London and forms a part of the KCL Student Law Review. The blog is an informal academic forum in which law students and professionals express their opinion EU law issues and are informed about recent developments in EU law. You can like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @EUKSLR

When your neighbour is your enemy, what happens to European integration? Case C 364/10 Hungary v Slovak Republic [2012]

Egle Dagilyte


PhD candidate at King’s College London and Senior Lecturer in Law at Bucks New University


In the judgment, delivered on 16 October 2012, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) had to resolve a conflict between two Member States that joined the Union in 2004.

What happened?

In this case, Hungary claimed that Slovakia infringed free movement of persons (in particular, Article 21(1) TFEU and the Citizenship Directive 2004/38) by not allowing Mr Sólyom, the Hungarian President, to enter its territory. Slovakia, for its part, stated that this prohibition was valid for one day only – the day of the 41st anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops, which included Hungarian troops. In short, the dispute was a conflict of a political nature relating to the soviet history of both Member States, which ended up before the Court as a matter of non-discrimination and free movement of persons under EU law.

Apart from the historical and political context, procedural aspects of the case were also interesting, as indirectly they reflected the European Commission’s attitudes towards current anti-democratic developments in Hungary. Initially, Hungary asked the Commission to bring infringement proceedings before the Court of Justice against the Slovak Republic under Article 258 TFEU.  The Commission considered, however, that the dispute was outside the scope of EU law. Hungary then decided to bring infringement proceedings before the Court of Justice on its own initiative against the Slovak Republic, as authorised by the Treaty (Article 259 TFEU). The Commission decided to intervene in the proceedings in support of the Slovak Republic.

On 6 March 2012 Advocate General AG Bot delivered his opinion, in which he came to the conclusion that the Slovak Republic did not infringe EU law.  The Advocate General considered that “it was indeed in the performance of his duties as the President of Hungary, and not simply as a citizen of the Union, that Mr Sólyom wished to visit the town of Komárno” (para 49). Therefore, the movements of the Heads of State, although made within the Union, fell within the sphere of diplomatic relations that remain within the competences of Member States and were governed by international law, and not by EU law (paras 51-57). The only restriction placed by EU law was the prohibition for Hungary and Slovakia to exercise their diplomatic relations “in a manner that might lead to a lasting break in diplomatic relations between two Member States” (para 58).

The ruling of the Court of Justice

The Court started with the famous statement based on its previous case law that “citizenship of the Union is intended to be the fundamental status of nationals of the Member States” (para 40) and that every person who is a national of an EU Member State is entitled to such a status (para 41), including Mr Sólyom, the Hungarian President. However, the Court stated that “EU law must be interpreted in the light of the relevant rules of international law, since international law is part of the European Union legal order and is binding on the institutions” (para 44). This is an interesting statement in relationship to the recent claims by the Court of the autonomy of the European legal order from international law, which generated extensive legal debates, especially in the context of the UN and EU terrorist lists. The Court went on to distinguish whether, at the time of the expected entry, Mr Sólyom was acting as the Head of State and concluded in the affirmative (paras 45-50). This “specific character” of the EU citizen acting as the Head of State was “capable of distinguishing the person who enjoys that status from all other Union citizens, with the result that that person’s access to the territory of another Member State is not governed by the same conditions as those applicable to other citizens” (para 50). Therefore, Mr Sólyom could rely neither on Article 21 TFEU nor on Directive 2004/38 to gain entry to Slovakia. The Court also rejected Hungary’s argument that Slovakia abused EU rights by relying, during diplomatic communications, on the same Directive when refusing Mr Sólyom’s entry (paras 53-61).

The second and fourth heads of complaint by Hungary related to the future (i.e. hypothetical) infringements of EU law (Article 3 TEU, Article 21 TFEU, Directive 2004/38) by Slovakia. These complaints were rejected as inadmissible. In doing so, the Court pointed to the purpose and nature of the EU law-enforcement procedure under Article 259 TFEU: “as the aim of the Treaty is to achieve the practical elimination of infringements by Member States and the consequences thereof… an action under Article 259 TFEU concerning future possible infringements or limited to seeking an interpretation of EU law is inadmissible.”

The outcome: what does it mean for European integration?

Even though Hungary’s claims on all accounts were dismissed in their entirety, this case was an important one: it was decided by the Court sitting as the Grand Chamber (15 judges). Two important observations could be made.

Firstly, this is only the sixth time in the history of European integration that one Member State has initiated an action for failure to fulfil obligations directly against another Member State.  The enforcement procedure under Article 259 TFEU is rarely used, as Member States generally prefer, for political reasons, to ask the Commission to act under Article 258 TFEU. Of the five earlier cases under Article 259 TFEU, none related to diplomatic relations of Member States and only three were closed by final judgment. These were 141/78 France v United Kingdom (regarding fishing boundaries and the notification of conservation measures), C-388/95 Belgium v Spain (whether the designation of origin “Rioja” wines was Spanish), and C-145/04 Spain v United Kingdom(whether the inhabitants of Gibraltar could participate the European Parliament elections).

Secondly, the use of Article 259 TFEU procedure in diplomatic relations between Hungary and Slovakia illustrates important dynamics for European integration, especially since the enlargements of 2004/2007. Whilst the Court did not refer to AG Bot’s Opinion in its judgment, the Advocate General emphasised that “a lasting break in diplomatic relations between two Member States … would, in fact, be incompatible with the integration process … and would constitute a barrier to the attainment of the essential objectives of the Union, including the aim of promoting peace” (para 58). Interestingly, Hungary and Slovakia are not the only neighbouring Member States that tried solving their diplomatic conflicts through litigation before the Court. One could point out to the recent highly-political Runevic-Vardyn litigation, which touched upon national sensitivities of Poland and Lithuania.

While “my neighbour is my enemy” attitude is not uncommon in the history of European integration (take the initial membership of the UK and the French position as an example), it poses great problems for European project. If Jean Monnet’s vision of the future Europe and the recent Nobel Prize are to mean something, all 27 Member States need to find dialogue not only on political/historical issues, but also on many social and economic ones, which are central for the effective functioning of the Union. Otherwise, in addition to the current economic and Euro crises, we are to face uncertain times, indeed.


Note: This article was originally published on 15 November 2012 on the Bucks New University Law Blog (