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Mutual recognition set to avoid European qualification barriers

UK CHARTERED civil engineers will be able to work freely throughout Europe if a new attempt to secure mutual recognition of professional qualifications is successful.

The proposed Register of European Civil Engineers is being developed by the European Council of Civil Engineers, of which the ICE is a member, and will be discussed at a meeting in Dublin this week.

Mutual recognition should be assured by a European directive. But individual countries are still allowed to set provisos, such as experience of working in the country and/or knowledge of its main language. According to ECCE, this effectively excludes foreign engineers.

Getting work is made harder by bureaucratic application procedures which can repeat those needed to secure recognition in an engineer's own country.

To remove the barriers ECCE is proposing a system which 'will be based on confidence in the integrity of national assessment systems', removing the need for another, separate recognition procedure for every other country. The RECE system would be backed by 'continuing mutual inspection and evaluation'.

Engineers could become members of RECE if they:

possessed adequate experience and an engineering degree, or equivalent, accredited by a recognised body;

had been assessed by a peer review overseen by a RECE member and had kept relevant continuing professional development obligations up to date; and were bound by a code of professional conduct 'which has been established and enforced by each jurisdiction within which they are practising'.

Although corporate membership of a body such as the ICE would give automatic membership of the RECE, entry to the register will be overseen by a steering committee consisting of representatives from all ECCE members who sign up.

The steering group will ensure that RECE members' registration procedures and criteria are reviewed at least once every six years. It would also appoint the assessors.

The proposal has been made against the background of moves by the World Trade Organisation to encourage mutual recognition of professional qualifications through its General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). It is hoped that RECE will eventually operate outside Europe, particularly in the North American markets.

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