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European Court of Justice: quotas for foreign EU students not always illegal

In early April, the European Court of Justice ruled that quotas limiting the access of foreign students from another EU country may, under certain conditions, be acceptable, even though they are in principle incompatible with the right to free movement under European law. In reaction to an influx of students in para-medical subjects from France into Wallonia, the Walloon government had limited access of students from other EU countries to 30 percent of its capacity. Likewise, Austria, which is faced with a strong inflow of German students in medical studies, set a quota of 20 percent for EU foreigners (and five percent from outside of the Union). Both quotas had been tolerated by the European Commission – but only until 2012. 

In the present case, the Court was dealing with the Walloon issue. It found that limiting access could be acceptable if the provision of para-medical services in the country was in danger. The Walloon government had argued that the French students typically returned to France after graduation, thus leaving Wallonia without para-medical professionals. Austria is claiming to be in a similar situation with regard to medical doctors. The European Court of Justice has now referred the case back to the Belgian courts, which must assess if para-medical provision in Wallonia is really in danger.


La Libre belgique