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Foreign recognition front and centre in Germany and Greece – and beyond

In Germany, legislative steps are being taken to improve the recognition of (certain) foreign degrees with the passing of the Recognition Act (Anerkennungsgesetz) by the federal government (Bundesregierung) on 23 March 2011. The legislation applies to qualifications and degrees related to some 350 professions. Under the proposed new law, certain professions will now be open to applicants who do not possess German or EU nationality. In addition, the applications required for recognition will be required to be processed within three months of their submission date. If passed, according to the Ministry of Education and Research, the legislation could affect approximately 300 000 people currently in Germany. The draft law also aims to streamline the application process and introduce a standardised federal procedure instead of different procedures administered in the various Federal States (Länder). The bill, which is now headed to the Federal Council (Bundesrat) and the Federal Assembly (Bundestag), is scheduled to take effect this year if passed.

Meanwhile, in Greece the realisation of a more level playing field for foreign private higher education institutions is an evolving issue. In January 2011, the European Commission issued a letter stating that Greece’s practise to impose exorbitant guarantees – from EUR 500 000 to EUR 700 000 – on foreign-owned private colleges operating within the country is incompatible with EU laws. This ruling came after the Greek supreme court ruled that the government could no longer ban private college degree-holders from entry into public-sector jobs, which, according to OECD Government at a Glance 2009, Country Note: Greece, account for approximately 14% of the Greek workforce.

Finally, a recent decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) related to the recognition of education and training completed abroad may cause some ripples through the EU. In a 5 April 2011 judgement, the ECJ noted that Greece had been right to reject the application of a Greek national seeking recognition to practice her profession as an engineer in Greece, after earning a bachelor and master’s degrees in engineering from the United Kingdom and working professionally there for some years. The ruling was based in part on the fact that the engineering profession in the UK “is regulated not by the Member State itself but by private organisations recognised by that Member State”.

German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (in German)

New York Times

Government at a Glance 2009 Country Note: Greece

European Court of Justice