EU pressured to remove barriers to foreign practitioners

The EU is considering a range of requests from foreign governments to liberalise the access to its legal professions under commitments it will make in a future World Trade Organization (WTO) deal, following the ongoing so-called Doha Development Round.

WTO member countries have asked the EU to negotiate away restrictions on foreign legal specialists providing advice on law, without, for example, being formally qualified in a particular national code. They have also called for Brussels to force its member states to grant pan-European recognition to non-EU lawyers and introduce simplified licensing systems for foreign legal consultants.

The Round was launched in Qatar last year, but talks on liberalising services around the globe are actually more advanced, having been launched in 2000.

As a result, WTO member countries have reached the phase of striking bilateral deals based on these principles. Member countries have recently sent formal requests to their trading partners, which will result in counter offers and amended demands on the road to agreement.

Other demands on the EU relate to conveyancing, with calls for the EU to negotiate away existing rules in Greece and Denmark, where foreign purchasers have to acquire permission from the national authorities to buy any land; to enable them to buy land in protected areas in Germany, Ireland, Austria, Sweden, Italy and Finland; and to buy second homes and leisure dwellings in Finland, Italy and Greece.