Professional rights rap for Greece

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) yesterday ruled against Greece for failing to adopt a European Union directive that would allow foreigners to work here without having to face unnecessary bureaucracy. The EU regulation should have been adopted in October 2007, since when the European Commission has been in regular contact with Greece over the issue. Athens was threatened in May 2008 that it would be hauled before the ECJ. In September of that year, the Greek government assured Brussels that a presidential decree was being prepared but this failed to materialize. The Commission decided to take Greece to court over the matter in October 2008 and Athens was given a deadline of June this year to adopt the legislation. However, the government failed to meet this date and Greece could now be handed a hefty fine. The directive (2005/36) makes it easier for qualified professionals such as architects, accountants, teachers and health workers to practice their professions in EU countries other than their own, with a minimum of red tape but while safeguarding consumers’ interests and public health. The regulation aims to ensure the mutual recognition of professional qualifications between member states but Greece has a notoriously complex system for recognizing professional and academic diplomas. The European Commission sent Greece a warning letter in April demanding to know what action it has taken since the 2008 ECJ ruling, which stated that degrees from private colleges be granted the same recognition as those from state institutions. The warning letter takes Greece a step closer to being fined by Brussels, as it has failed to take any action since the previous ruling in October 2008, which called on the government to ensure that the qualifications awarded by schools affiliated with established European universities be given full recognition. The government did not comment on yesterday’s ECJ ruling.