Malta shown yellow card over failure to transpose EU rules on professional services

European Commission launches infringement procedures against Austria, Cyprus, Germany, Malta, Poland and Spain for excessive and unjustified obstacles in the area of professional services

European Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska said the action is an opportunity to create a dynamic single market for professional services
European Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska said the action is an opportunity to create a dynamic single market for professional services

The European Commission is pursuing legal action against Malta and five other countries for failing to transpose EU rules on the recognition of professional qualifications.

On Thursday, the European Commission said it would be launching infringement procedures against Austria, Cyprus, Germany, Malta, Poland and Spain on the grounds that their national rules include excessive and unjustified obstacles in the area of professional services.

The Commission considers that requirements imposed on certain service providers in these Member States run counter to the Services Directive.

European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska said: "Freedom to provide services is one of the foundations of the single market. There are still barriers in a number of Member States preventing companies and individuals from providing their services freely across the EU – be it restrictions on legal form and shareholding, professional qualification requirements, or fixed tariffs.”

“Today I am not just waving a yellow card. I am sending a message of opportunity: a dynamic single market for professional services will lead to a more competitive European economy for the benefit of all of us."

The Commission said that excessive shareholding requirements – such as the requirement that the professionals should hold 100% of the voting rights and capital in a company, or should have its corporate seat in a given jurisdiction – can make a second establishment or cross-border provision of services in the six countries difficult.

Compulsory minimum tariffs are not necessary in order to ensure high-quality services of either domestic or foreign services providers, whilst depriving consumers of more competitively priced services, the Commission added.

Malta and the five other countries have to adapt their rules governing shareholding requirements and prohibitions of multidisciplinary practices (for architects and engineers in Austria, Cyprus and Malta, for patent agents in Austria) as well as repeal minimum compulsory tariffs (for procuradores in Spain, architects, engineers and tax advisors in Germany, patent agents in Poland and veterinarians in Austria).

Professional qualifications

The European Commission has also requested in reasoned opinions 14 member states, including Malta, to transpose Directive 2013/55/EU on the recognition of professional qualifications.

The Directive provides a modern EU system for the recognition of professional qualifications, simplifies existing rules and accelerates recognition procedures while ensuring that qualified professionals wishing to work in another Member State respect the requirements of the host country.

The Directive should have been transposed into national legislation by 18 January 2016.

However, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and the United Kingdom have not yet communicated to the Commission the complete transposition of the Directive into their national law.

The Member States now have two months to notify the Commission of the full transposition of the Directive; otherwise, the European Commission may decide to refer them to the Court of Justice of the EU.

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