Psychology in the European Union: on-line workshop toward an european professional platform



Our membership of the European Union is affecting our life and work more every day.

At present, we are concerned above all with the macroscopic aspects, and it is with regard to these that we have to define our direction and strategy, stating with the Single Market. Today, to all intents the European Union means the free circulation of citizens, professionals, services and goods. It is as if all the dikes of the Dutch canals had been raised simultaneously, causing masses of water to move around in search of a new equilibrium. Or at least, a new equilibrium is what people are hoping for.

It is a powerful phenomenon and its outcome is uncertain. There are countless examples to teach us that extreme attitudes fail in the attempt to deal with this transformation. Protectionism at all costs fails, its barriers swept away by the laws of the market. Liberalism at all costs is equally unsuccessful, watching powerless as everything is swept away. In the metaphor, levees collapse under the force of the river in flood, and it is an anxious time as people wait for the waters to subside, since too many victims and too much devastation are caused. At the moment, no clear solutions are evident, at least from our limited viewpoint. At the same time, we are under an obligation to contribute to the definition of the new European equilibriums in our own sector.

Directive 89/48

The Single Market asks all Member States to harmonise their concept of the professional figure of the psychologist. The hinge-pin of this process is EC Directive 89/48, which regulates mutual recognition of qualifications as the basis of citizens’ rights to circulate and work freely .

Different educational systems are forced to compare their practices. Above all, the Anglo-Saxon tradition, with its substantially private nature, is coming into conflict with the Latin tradition, in which it is the state which provides and regulates education.

Horizontal measures and vertical measures

The implementation of the directive is based on two activities: mutual information (horizontal measures) and the creation of the so-called “professional platforms” (vertical measures).

From the first point of view, active participation in the exchange of information is necessary: at the Community level, at congresses of a European nature and at meetings of the central bodies, and thus above all in the Group of Co-ordinators of the DGXV; at a national level, at the Commissions called in cases of recognition of foreign qualifications; and at a professional level, in providing prompt replies to the various comparative questionnaires currently being circulated. Obviously, the individual countries retain the right to apply compensatory measures if the migrant’s professional qualifications differ too greatly from those required in the country in which he intends to work, in order to safeguard the quality and uniformity of the professional services available locally, regardless of where those providing the services have been trained. It is obviously necessary to manage these compensatory measures in a responsible manner, with a clear understanding of their purpose, and above all to promote all activities which become necessary.

From the second point of view, it is worth remembering that it is up to the individual professional associations in the different EU member states to promote concrete activities for harmonisation of the respective professional frameworks. This means first and foremost that European professional standards will have to be drafted on the basis of the reciprocal information deriving from the horizontal measures described above.

The objective is to establish a European quality mark based on optimum training criteria.. The quality mark, to be used only by those professionals who have fulfilled the stipulated training requirements, places no obligation on the member states, or on the Commission, but constitutes a solid, recognised common point of reference for defining professional status and regulating the Single Market, starting with the free circulation of workers. Above all, if the professional platforms established are to be real and not merely bureaucratic, Community training networks must be created, at the level of university education, of post-graduate specialist training, and of in-service training, if possible using the instruments and concrete operating backup which the Commission makes available for activities of this kind, mainly through the Socrates, and Leonardo programmes.