European bar associations remain mandatory after eleventh hour intervention

A last-minute intervention by European Commission vice-president Viviane Reding has prevented bar associations across the EU becoming optional rather than mandatory.

The commission published its first Annual Growth Survey last week, setting out economic growth priorities for the next decade. The accompanying communication originally asked EU member states to remove restrictions on professional services, including compulsory membership of professional associations.

Reding recognised the restriction would have adversely affected the legal sector across Europe as bar associations require members to be qualified in order to practise.

The final version of the communication now requires member states to remove “unjustified restrictions on professional services such as quotas and closed shops”.

Lawyers are required to be members of bar associations in the majority of European member states, with some associations also acting as the lawyers’ regulatory body.