CLEAR News - Summer 2003

International News

EU to Scrutinize Professional Regulations for Barriers to Effective Competition

Mario Monti, the European Competition Commissioner has declared the European Commission will examine the regulations that relate to the 'liberal professions' with regards to competition law.
The announcement comes after the publication of a research report for the Competition Directorate General in January 2003. Entitled Economic Impact of Regulation in the Field of Liberal Professions in Different Member States, the report discusses the degree of regulation in the Member States, provides examples of trends (i.e. "the introduction of obligatory continuing education, facilities for specialization, or in some cases, specific voluntary certification and/or benchmarking systems") before concluding that countries with less regulation had a proportionately larger number of providers who in turn generate higher turnover within the profession. It also stated that a lower level of regulation "is not a hindrance, but rather a spur to, wealth creation." The general summary ends with the following statement, which is indicative of the direction in which the Commission is likely to move:

"We are led by this study to the overall conclusion that the lower regulation strategies which work in one Member State might be made to work in another, without decreasing the quality of professional services, and for the ultimate benefit of the consumer." Those professions named in the study are accountants, the legal profession, architects, engineers and pharmacists. 

Following publication of the report, the Commission launched a consultation paper asking for input from professionals and consumers alike, with a deadline of May 31, 2003. Looking forward, the Commission aims to identify current "disproportionate and unjustified" regulations and rules by the end of this year. 

Individual Member States have also recently undertaken similar reports, with Ireland's Competition Authority identifying regulations and rules that may need to be loosened regarding the regulation of solicitors, barristers, engineers, architects, veterinary surgeons, medical practitioners, dentists and optometrists. A complete copy of the report is available from the Authority's website. 

CLEAR News will update this story as further information becomes available. 

Related Links:
European Commission
Irish Competition Authority

European Commission Updates Strategy for Internal Market for Services
May 7, 2003 saw the European Commission adopt an Internal Market Strategy for 2003-2006  designed to identify and remove those remaining barriers to the free movement of goods and services, particularly in these important years following the enlargement of the Union.  The Commission believes the market is currently operating at a sub-optimal level and that it should consist of a larger percentage of cross-border trade than is currently the case.  It suggests that national laws and administrative regulations can be barriers to trade that prevent free movement of goods and services.

The strategy includes information about the Directive on Professional Qualifications, which the Commission aims to see introduced by March 2004. It also holds out the prospect of a Directive on services in the Internal Market by the end of this year that would "establish a clear and balanced legal framework aiming to facilitate the conditions for establishment and cross-border service provision." In order to achieve this goal pan-European professional regulations and codes of conduct are to be encouraged.  

The report includes a list of legislation, reports or proposals and a timetable for implementation where appropriate. As such it represents a roadmap for likely action by the Commission within the regulatory arena for the coming years.  

Mutual Recognition Agreement Sought Between U.S. and European Architects

Negotiations recently began between the Architects' Council of Europe (ACE), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the National Council of State Boards of Architectural Registration (NCARB) regarding a mutual recognition agreement for architects.  It is hoped that an agreement will be reached by the middle of next year that will
result in Member States of the EU recognizing the qualifications of an architect licensed in U.S. and vice versa.  

These negotiations follow the signing of the Accord on Co-operation and Professionalism in Architecture in December 2002, the result of three years work and part of the Transatlantic Economic Partnership.  

Related Links:  
Architects' Council of Europe (ACE)

American Institute of Architects (AIA)
National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB)