Liberal professions are a key social and economic factor in all Member States of the European Union. Europe is developing into a knowledge-based service society in which liberal professions are becoming more and more important for the state and citizens due to the increasing complexity of society. The European Commission has acknowledged that services are one of the main drivers of the EU economy: they account for over two-thirds of EU GDP and employment and have been the source of all net job-creation in recent years. Approximately one third of this can be attributed to liberal professions.
Despite their growing importance and the fact that liberal professions often provide public services in core areas of general interest, the social significance of liberal professions is still not sufficiently acknowledged at EU level. The specific situation of liberal professions particularly is often not properly taken into account by the European authorities when developing European legislation and policies.
The consequences of the financial and economic crisis have put liberal professions and their professional self-government lately in the focus of the European Union authorities.This might result in initiatives which could compromise the values and the tradition of self-government of liberal professions in many Member States of the EU. The European Commission plays in this regard a key role by strongly pushing for more economic growth in the interest of open markets for services. Liberalization and deregulation of the liberal professions seem to be the solution to generate more economic growth.
It is the task of liberal professions to show that a short term gain in economic growth could have on the long run disastrous consequences for the society.
The Charter for Liberal Professions, elaborated and supported by European organisations representing professionals across Europe, aims therefore to set recommendations for the European Institutions to consider possible implications for liberal professions of any new or amended legislation and policies, and to enable the provision of high quality services for every citizen in Europe.The Charter also proposes a definition of the term ‘liberal professions’ based on the existing case law of the Court of Justice of the EU and outlines the distinguishing characteristics of liberal professions.
The European Institutions have emphasised the importance of liberal professions, also for European society, in various ways over the past decade. The following documents either directly or indirectly refer to liberal professions:
Definition of the term Liberal Professions
Since the term ‘liberal professions’ is understood differently in different Member States, a common definition of this term is crucial. In 2001, the European Court of Justice issued a judgment in the case „C-267/99, Adam./.Administration de l’enregistrement et des domaines de Luxembourg“ according to which liberal professions are described to be: ‘of a marked intellectual character, require a high level qualification and are usually subject to clear and strict professional regulation. In the exercise of such an activity, the personal element is of special importance and such exercise always involves a large measure of independence in the accomplishment of the professional activities.’.
The following principles are values shared by all liberal professions.
This is a model that should be reinforced rather than weakened.
Taking into account all the above, we urge the European Union authorities to:
The Charter for Liberal Professions was elaborated and is supported by the following organisations of liberal professions (1):
Council of European Dentists (CED): The Council of European Dentists (CED) is the representative organisation of the dental profession in the European Union, representing over 340,000 practicing dentists from 32 national dental associations and dental chambers in 30 European countries. Established in 1961, the CED promotes high standards of oral healthcare and effective patient-safety centred professional practice across Europe and contributes to the safeguarding and the protection of public health.
Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME): The Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME) represents national medical associations across Europe. We are committed to contributing the medical profession’s point of view to EU and European policy-making through pro-active cooperation on a wide range of health and healthcare related issues. We believe the best possible quality of health and access to healthcare should be a reality for everyone. To achieve this, CPME promotes the highest level of medical training and practice, the safe mobility of physicians and patients, lawful and supportive working conditions for physicians and the provision of evidence-based, ethical and equitable healthcare services. We offer support to those working towards these objectives whenever needed.
We see the patient-doctor relationship as fundamental in achieving these objectives and are committed to ensuring its trust and confidentiality are protected while the relationship evolves with healthcare systems. Patient safety and quality of care are central to our policies.
We strongly advocate a ‘health in all policies’ approach to encourage cross-sectoral awareness for and action on the determinants of health, to prevent disease and promote good health across society. CPME’s policies are shaped through the expertise provided by our membership of national medical associations, representing physicians across all medical specialties all over Europe and creating a dialogue between the national and European dimensions of health and healthcare.
European Council of Engineers Chambers (ECEC): The European Council of Engineers Chambers (ECEC) is the umbrella organisation of European Engineers Chambers. It represents the professional interest of Chartered Engineers on European level. Its members are national Chambers or other legally established public bodies representing authorized Chartered Engineers. Currently the ECEC represents 16 Chambers and over 300.000 highly qualified European Chartered Engineers who are members in these Chambers.
Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE):
The European Veterinary profession, embodied by the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), strives to promote animal health, animal welfare and public health across Europe. Together with its members, FVE aims to support veterinarians in delivering their professional responsibilities at the best possible level, recognised and valued by society. Further to their high education and training, and through the application of their specific knowledge of animals and related technical skills, veterinarians contribute - in a unique way - to the prevention and control of health and welfare issues in animals, including wildlife and related human health problems. Veterinarians therefore are experts in the field of animal health, animal welfare and public health.
"Veterinarians care for animals and people”
(1) The charter was also elaborated and is supported by the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union (PGEU) pending approval by PGEU General Assembly (see attached letter of support).