EC investigates ski instructor cases – while some media go off piste


February 27, 2014
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A number of UK media, including the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, have reported over the last few days on the arrest of British ski instructors in France, for allegedly operating without proper authorisation.

Most of these stories – and a follow up piece in the Telegraph by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson – extrapolated from the specific case at hand, currently being investigated by the European Commission in order to establish whether EU law was breached – to say or suggest that single market rules were in practice no use to British ski instructors. None of the media who ran these reports sought input from the Commission.

The Daily Telegraph did, however, in its own specialist ski section – and without reporting or quoting from this piece in the news section – run an informative interview with a British director of a ski school in France who comprehensively refuted much of the content of the other articles:

On 26 February EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier issued the following statement:

“I have just met with Malcolm Harbour MEP, Chair of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and Emma McClarkin MEP.

As I explained to them, I can’t comment on the details of the Butler case as it’s an ongoing legal case but suggesting the single market does not work for ski instructors is wrong.

There may be a few specific problems which need to be tackled on a case by case basis, but the facts are clear:

- Ski instructors are a regulated profession in a number of Member States, such as Italy, Austria or France. This is in line with EU law.

- There is an agreed procedure to be followed to have a qualification recognized in another Member State.

- Around 35,000 professionals (doctors, nurses, architects, etc.) benefit from it every year (up from 25,000 few years ago).

- Over 350 fully qualified British ski instructors have benefited from the recognition procedure and are currently established in France. (More British ski workers can work as seasonal workers.)

- Since I have been Commissioner, I have pushed strongly for a specific European recognition mechanism for ski instructors to cut red tape, sparing ski instructors the administrative checks on their qualifications.

- The recognition mechanism for ski instructors, a scheme backed by 11 Member States – including the UK, Italy, Austria and France – allows any fully qualified ski instructor who fulfils the conditions without any formality other than a declaration to:

- work for any ski school

- provide private coaching, for example on a freelance basis

- or to open their own ski school in any of those 11 member States.

I confirmed to both Malcolm Harbour and Emma McClarkin that my staff have received complaints on the recognition of qualifications for ski instructors in France and we are investigating them, seriously and efficiently in the way we investigate all complaints.”

Background
Well-established European rules (new Directive 2013/55 which strengthens and modernises Directive 2005/36) exist to ensure the recognition of qualifications and diplomas between Member States.

The profession of ski instructor is regulated in a certain number of Member States (the Alpine countries: Austria, Italy, Germany (Bavaria) and France) in particular for reasons of mountain safety. This is in conformity with EU law.

A ski instructor with a diploma from another Member State has the right to exercise his profession – in a self-employed or other capacity – in another Member State.

Nevertheless, pursuant to a procedure which is fully harmonised under EU law, the host Member State may impose two conditions concerning the freedom to provide services (health and safety) or the freedom of establishment:

  1. Prior notification to the competent authorities – this is the case for France, Austria, Italy, and Germany (Bavaria).
  2. The competent authorities have the right to check qualifications of ski instructors established and exercising on their territory during a pre-determined period (3 months) in order to compare national requirements. In case of occasional service provision, Member States can check qualifications for professions with health and safety implications and must decide within one month whether compensating measures are required. Once this has been done, and in the case of ski instructors, certain Member States have been entitled to impose a specific compensating measure, for reasons of mountain safety – the EUROTEST.

In the context of a pilot project and in order to create an AUTOMATIC RECOGNITION MECHANISM, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was agreed and signed in 2012 between nine Member States (Austria, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Italy, Romania and UK) Two more Member States were added in 2013 (Czech Republic and Slovenia)

Under the MoU, instructors with the highest level of qualifications in their home Member State and having passed the EUROTEST can benefit from a professional card and from automatic recognition, thus exercising freely their profession in one of these Member States, establishing themselves there, opening their ski schools or freely providing their services.

[Note: a French ski instructor who wants to open his own ski school in France or work independently must also pass the EUROTEST.]

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