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Tag ‘Michel Barnier’

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

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

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.”

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.]

Barnier responds to Lord Hutton’s FT article “Brussels is set to create a pension disaster for Britain” (6 August)

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

(As published in FT 07/08/2012)


Let me set the record straight in response to Mr Hutton’s article “Brussels is set to create a pension disaster for Britain” (6 August): Yes, we need more occupational pension funds. No, the European Commission will not put occupational pensions at risk.

Throughout Europe, defined benefit schemes have suffered as a result of the financial crisis. This has led a number of employers in the United Kingdom and other countries to discontinue defined benefit schemes. This development reflects economic reality and has nothing to do with the planned review of the EU’s Pension Funds Directive, which dates from 2003.

The European Commission has not yet made any legislative proposals in this regard. What we have done so far is asked the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority to carry out a quantitative impact study in order to examine the potential costs and benefits of the introduction of a more risk-based solvency regime to occupational pension funds. The purpose of this study, which will be initiated shortly, is to test in real life and together with all the relevant stakeholders a number of different options and technical parameters.

In contrast to what has been claimed in numerous press reports in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, the European Commission’s work in this field will be guided by a number of important principles: Account would be taken of the difference between a pension promise and an insurance contract, full recognition would be given to existing national supporting mechanisms, such as pension protection schemes and employer covenants and there would be no copy and paste from Solvency II, which is a prudential regime designed primarily for the insurance industry.

Moreover, the long term nature of pensions would be recognised both in the valuation of the pension liabilities and in the capital charges for long term investments. The idea is not to penalise certain types of investments but to give proper recognition to the risk mitigation effects following from a diversified investment portfolio. Finally, transitional rules would be foreseen as necessary.

No one can deny the challenges ahead in the pensions area. Ducking political responsibility by sacrificing the future for the present is not an option. Through the review of the Pension Funds Directive, the Commission will contribute to national pension reforms already underway in the United Kingdom and other countries, incorporate existing best practices and avoid regulatory arbitrage between insurance undertakings and pension funds, where these compete with interchangeable products in the single market.

Michel Barnier

European Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services

Is “Brussels” preventing the UK from introducing tougher capital requirements for banks?

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Letter to the Editor of The Daily Telegraph, sent on 22nd Decmber 2011


You reported on 20 December 2011 that “Brussels has demanded that key banking regulations are set centrally” but that Brussels itself “is proving an obstacle to reducing systemic risk”.

Let me put the record straight. “Brussels” has not demanded anything. All EU national leaders called in 2009 for “a European single rule book applicable to all financial institutions in the single market.” They realised that many banks had been poorly managed, regulated and supervised.

One important chapter of the single rule book concerns implementing international agreements known as Basel III, setting capital requirements for banks. How and when individual countries can raise those requirements is now being debated in the European Parliament and Council of Ministers. But contrary to many reports, the Commission’s proposal allows considerable flexibility for national supervisors on this.

We understand that London has the largest financial sector in the EU and we want UK supervisors to be able to do their job properly. This is a time for rational debate about the discretions needed at national level in a single market with a single rule book, not for simplistic stories setting “Brussels” against “London and “the City”.

Yours faithfully

Olivier Guersent

Head of Cabinet of Michel Barnier
European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services

EC in the UK

Check the EC Representation in the UK website

Please note that all statements in all entries were correct on the date of publication given. However, older archived posts are not systematically updated in the light of later developments, for example changes to EU law.

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