In a bid to make it easier for companies and professionals to provide services across the EU, on 10 January, the Commission today released its long-awaited services package.
As previously reported, the Commission has been looking to give fresh impetus to the services sector by removing obstacles to the growth and exchange of services in the EU, in particular within regulated professions, including the legal profession.
Following its 10 week public consultation held in the summer on the proportionality of professional regulation and Member States’ National Action Plans (created by Member States as part of a ‘mutual evaluation and transparency’ exercise), the Commission released its proposal which includes: a new European Services e-card that service providers could use to show compliance with applicable rules; a proportionality assessment of national rules on professional services; and an improved procedure for Member States to notify the Commission when drafting measures introducing new requirements or authorisation schemes in relation to services.
Under the proposed Directive establishing the proportionality assessment, Member States will be required to ensure that, before introducing new legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions restricting access to or pursuit of regulated professions or amending existing ones, an assessment of their proportionality is undertaken.
Any new rules will therefore need to be justified by ‘public interest objectives’, such as the protection of consumers and the safeguarding of the proper administration of justice and must be “necessary and suitable for securing the attainment of the objective pursued and [must] not go beyond what is necessary to attain that objective”.
The package also includes guidance recommending national reforms in relation to the regulation of professions, which includes an assessment of the legal profession.
In particular, the guidance, which is non-binding, recommends that the UK assesses “the possibilities for adopting a more flexible approach as regards professional liability insurance obligations so as to reduce the financial burden for professionals”.
The Law Societies Joint Brussels Office will monitor the developments around these policy dossiers and liaise with the Commission to gain more insight into the long-term plans for new legislation.