Internal Market


SERVICES IN THE INTERNAL MARKET  

Directive 2006/123 of 12 December 2006 on services in the Internal Market

The Directive aims at facilitating the exercise of activities of services in the European Union, whether on a permanent or temporary basis.

The Directive first provides that Member States have the obligation to simplify their administrative procedures for having access to services and exercising service activities within their territory and to create points of single contact, which provide information to service providers who wish to establish themselves or provide their services within their territory.

Regarding freedom of establishment, i.e. the permanent and stable provision of services by a national of a Member State in another Member State, the host Member State can only impose an authorization scheme if it is non-discriminatory, justified by an overriding reason relating to the public interest and if its objective cannot be attained by means of a less restrictive measure.

Concerning the free provision of services, i.e. the temporary exercise of a service activity in a Member State, the host Member State must guarantee free access to and free exercise of a service activity within its territory. Member States may only impose restrictions if they are justified for reasons of public policy, public security, public health or the protection of the environment and provided that they are necessary, proportional and non-discriminatory.

On 24 September 2015, the European Commission published a public consultation on geo-blocking. This consultation aims at gathering views and opinions on the different restrictions faced by users, consumers and businesses when they access or provide information, shop or sell across the borders in the European Union.

Preventing unjustified geo-blocking has been identified by the Commission as one of its priorities in the Digital Single Market strategy released on 6 May 2015. This consultation will inform the Commission and will help in preparing proposals on geo-blocking. Actions could also include targeted changes to the e-Commerce framework and the framework set out by Article 20 of the Services Directive. 

Geo-blocking can include the following practices:
  • blocking any access to websites across borders ;
  • allowing access to websites across borders but denying the possibility to complete the order or purchase after obtaining information on the geo-localisation of the user ; 
  • allowing access to websites across borders but denying the possibility to download digital products across borders ; 
  • allowing access to websites across borders but denying the possibility to pick up, deliver or ship the goods across borders.
  • differentiating prices or other conditions on the basis of nationality, country of residence of customers or the location from which they are accessing the services.

 
RECOGNITION OF PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS 


The Directive prohibits Member States from restricting the free provision of services within their territory for reasons related to the professional qualifications of the service provider.

Concerning the freedom of establishment, the Directive establishes, depending on the profession concerned:            
  • A general system for the recognition of professional qualifications based on the principle of mutual recognition, the host Member State remaining free to compare the qualifications that it requires to exercise a specific profession with the professional qualifications obtained in the Member State of origin and to possibly impose compensatory measures (adaptation period or aptitude test).
  • A system of automatic recognition of qualifications attested by professional experience.
  • A system of automatic recognition of qualifications for specific professions, mainly in the health sector.
The European Parliament and the European Council agreed on a new proposal in October 2013: Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications and Regulation on administrative co-operation through the Internal Market Information System
The directive is applicable since 18 January 2016.

Consolidated version of directive 2005/36 (20 November 2013)

The revised legislation provides the following:

The European Professional Card:
  • the administrative procedure to issue a European Professional Card shall not entail any additional cost for the individual professional;
  • in order to speed up procedures, Assistance Centres may support competent authorities in the preliminary processing of the documentation referred to in the text;
  • the competent authority of the home Member State shall validate a European Professional Card within three weeks (rather than 2 weeks) from the date it receives a complete application;
  • the host Member State shall acknowledge to the professional concerned receipt of an application for validation of the European Professional Card within five days from the date of receipt of that application;
  • time limits are amended for professions with patient safety implications;
  • tacit recognition of qualifications by the host Member State shall not constitute automatic recognition of the right to practise the profession in question;
Rules regarding Partial access:
  • the host Member State may refuse partial access on the basis of overriding reasons of general interest;
  • the professional must be fully qualified to exercise in the home Member State the professional activity for which partial access is requested;
  • partial access shall not be granted to professions which benefit from automatic recognition under the draft Directive;
  • Member States can grant partial access on a case-by-case basis to health professionals whose work has no implications for patient safety.
  • Partial access may be rejected if such rejection is justified by reasons of general interest to safeguard public health and patient safety.
Competent authorities shall submit publically available reports to the Commission and to the other Member States on their decisions on the compensation measures, including the reasons justifying them, as well as whether progress was achieved towards further co-ordination with other Member States, including through Common Training Principles.

 
TOURIST GUIDES  

The free movement of tourist guides within the European Union, mainly when they provide their services on a temporary basis, has been problematic for organizers for many years.

In this respect, the Court of Justice of the European Communities ruled in several decisions that compliance with Article 49 of the EC Treaty establishing the free provision of services prevents Member States from subjecting the provision of services by tourist guides who accompany a group of tourists from another Member State to the condition of possessing an authorization (license or other), which implies the acquisition of a specific qualification, when the service provided consists in guiding tourists in places other than museums or historical monuments which can only be visited with a specialized guide.


Despite this case law, some Member States have nonetheless kept restrictions to the free provision of services by tourist guides, for example by adopting extensive lists of sites or historic buildings that may only be visited with a specialized guide, with the consequence that complaints have been submitted to the European Commission.

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