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As expected (see the ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, September 2012), the European Commission has reached a decision in the second half of December over Austria’s prior request to further extend the moratorium on the quotas for foreign students that want to enrol in medical studies within the country. The Commission has decided in favour of this request, its legal action against Austria and the French Community of Belgium being de facto suspended until December 2016.
In 2007, the European Commission started infringement proceedings against Austria and the French Community of Belgium after both countries tried to limit the access of foreign nationals (especially coming from the neighbouring countries — Germany in the case of Austria and France in the case of the French Community of Belgium) in medical and paramedical study programmes, by imposing national quotas. This measure was imposed in Austria and the French Community of Belgium after a stark increase in the number of applicants from the respective neighbouring countries.
While the measure clearly breached the EU Treaties, and especially the principle of free movement, the European Commission agreed that such inflows could potentially create shortages of personnel in the healthcare systems of the two countries on the long run. It then suspended the legal proceedings and asked the two countries to bring proof that without the quotas their national healthcare systems would be at risk. The deadline for bringing this proof was now extended for another 4 years, i.e. until the end of 2016.