The High Level Working Group on Competitiveness and Growth has been asked to comment of the Commission’s proposals to ensure that the regulation of professions across the EU is proportionate.

With 22% of the EU’s labour force working in a regulated profession, of which there are 5,500 in the EU, the European Commission is looking to modernise professional regulation to promote mobility of labour between Member States and competition as part of its Single Market Strategy.

The Commission has proposed introducing a proportionality test in the form of either a directive or a communication, which would set out minimum criteria to be used by Member States to analyse the proportionality of any new regulations for professions to ensure that no new disproportionate measures are adopted.

Additionally, the Commission is due to publish ”Guidance on reform needs in regulations of professional services” by the end of the year. This guidance will assist Member States with addressing any regulations that impede competition or create unnecessary obstacles to the mobility of professionals.

The proposals come following the completion of a public consultation this year on the proportionality of professional regulation (which the Law Societies Joint Brussels Office responded to and the results of which will be published shortly) and a ‘mutual evaluation and transparency’ exercise by Member States, as required by Directive 2013/55/EU, which amended Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications. As part of the latter exercise, 23 Member States, including the UK, reviewed their legislation and policies on professional regulation and set out actions that need to be taken to address unfit regulation.

During these assessments, it was found that the level of restrictions imposed on professions varies significantly between Member States and that there are many regulations which were introduced decades ago and are therefore no longer relevant. It was also commented that some countries had not effectively assessed the proportionality of regulations during the exercise, for example the need to increase business reliability was quoted as a justification for the regulation of clothes launderers and the risk of wrist injury and small explosions was given to justify the regulation of watchmakers.

In line with its role to monitor single market integration, provide guidance on competitiveness and growth and promote the exchange of information and best practice, the Presidency of the Council asked the High Level Working Group on Competitiveness and Growth (HLG), which is composed of two high level representatives per Member State, for their assistance with the proposed modernisation of professional regulation.  

In particular, the HLG was asked for its views on the work of the Commission, how it can support Member States to apply the guidance on reform needs and how Ministers can be supported to oversee regulations of professional services.

The Commission should take the HLG’s views into account when pursuing its modernisation of professional regulation.