Greece under EU pressure on degrees issue

Greece is to be called before the European Court of Justice over the government’s refusal to recognize certain tertiary degrees earned abroad or granted by subsidiaries of foreign universities operating in Greece under franchise. The European Commission’s decision last Tuesday to refer Greece to the court, after years of fruitless pressure on Greece to change the law, will eventually affect graduates of tertiary institutions abroad who seek equal professional rights with graduates of Greek state universities. At present, graduates of foreign institutions are required to apply to the relevant state body for recognition that their degree is equivalent to a corresponding Greek degree and to obtain certification from Greek consular offices in the country of origin that the degrees are genuine. The current system also gives the State the right to judge the standard of professional qualifications, something that, according to European Union legislation, is exclusively the right of the member state where the qualification was obtained. The decision will also affect the roughly 25,000 graduates of foreign universities’ subsidiaries in Greece. Education Minister Petros Efthymiou told Kathimerini yesterday that in a letter to the European Commission in April 2002, he had said Greece would go to the EU’s judicial bodies if the Commission insists that the laws of the internal market had precedence over constitutional provisions on tertiary education. The case is likely to take about two years.