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Free movement of professionals

Free movement of professionals

Professionals in the EU can move across borders and practice their occupation or provide services abroad. These webpages provide practical information on EU legislation governing the recognition of professional experience in the EU.

Coronavirus response in relation to the free movement of health professionals and their training

The Commission has issued a communication with guidance to EU countries to help them address the shortages of health workers created by the coronavirus emergency. It addresses practical concerns regarding the implementation of Directive 2005/36/EC on professional qualifications in respect to healthcare professionals.

The guidance sets out how EU countries can speed up procedures to facilitate the mutual recognition of their qualifications in line with the flexibilities allowed by the Directive 2005/36/EC. It also clarifies how EU countries can ensure that the directive's rules on minimum requirements on doctors' and nurses' trainings can be respected in cases where students are not able to complete their trainings because of disruptions due to the coronavirus crisis, including by requesting a derogation from these rules. The guidance affirms the Commission's availability to support EU countries and professionals to weather the crisis, maintain their free movement rights and ensure patients' safety.

Policy developments

The system of recognition of professional qualifications in the EU is governed by Directive 2005/36/EC, recently amended by Directive 2013/55/EU. The directive provides a modern EU system of recognition of professional experience and promotes automatic recognition of professional experience across the EU.

In May 2020 the Commission published a report on the implementation of certain new elements introduced by Directive 2013/55/EU and an accompanying staff working document.

Other policy developments

Recognition of professional qualifications in practice

In practice, the recognition of professional qualifications laid down in Directive 2005/36/EC enables the free movement of professionals such as doctors or architects within the EU. Other professions, such as lawyers or sailors, fall under the scope of different legislation.

The recognition of professional experience in practice

The European Professional Card

In January 2016, the Commission introduced a new, EU-wide digital procedure for the recognition of professional qualifications – the European Professional Card (EPC). The procedure, currently available for general care nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists, real estate agents and mountain guides, makes it easier for Europeans to work where their professional skills are needed. The EPC contributes to the objective of making the Single Market a reality in practice.

Transparency and mutual evaluation of regulated professions

To clarify the status of regulated professions in the EU, the European Commission conducted a transparency and a mutual evaluation exercise.

Transparency and mutual evaluation

Database of regulated professions

The database of regulated professions contains information on regulated professions, statistics on migrating professionals, contact points and national authorities in EU countries, EEA countries, the UK and Switzerland.

Economic studies

The Commission contracted an independent study to provide more insight into the relationship between professional regulation and service quality. In 6 case studies researchers traced impact of regulatory variations on a wide range of quality indicators. The studies contribute to the development of empirical research methods and strategies to analyse this complex relationship.

Study: Effects of regulation on service quality

The Commission contracted several independent economic case studies, conducted at country level, to analyse the effects of reforms of regulatory requirements to access professions. The results of these studies demonstrate that, for the cases analysed, less restrictive regulation can have a positive impact on the labour market.

Six case studies on the economic effects of reforms of regulated professions

An independent study to assess the prevalence and labour market impacts of occupational regulation in the EU was conducted using the 2015 European Survey on Regulated Occupations. The aim was to reinforce the evidence base on the economic costs and benefits of occupational regulation.

Study: Measuring prevalence and labour market impacts of occupational regulation in the EU

Brexit

Supporting information

Documents

Information on EU websites

Contact points