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The art of European Union case-law

ECJ, C-35/02 – Vogel; A general national authorization for doctors to practice dentistry

Could the proper interpretation of an EU Directive be prohibiting a national rule from granting a general authorization?

By its two questions, which can be examined together, the national court is asking whether Directive 78/687 must be interpreted as precluding a national rule that grants a general authorisation to doctors who have not received the training required by Article 1 of that directive to carry out the activities of a dental practitioner and whether the answer to that question depends on the title under which those activities are practised. (C-35/02, par.20)

The Court’s reply

It follows from all the foregoing that the answer to the question referred must be that Directive 78/687, properly construed, precludes a national rule containing a general authorisation for doctors who have not completed the training required by Article 1 of that directive to carry out the activities of a dental practitioner, irrespective of the title under which those activities are carried out. (C-35/02, par.38)

The proper interpretation; should be a grammatical one.

At the outset, it should be recalled that Article 1(1) of Directive 78/687 provides that to be entitled to practice dentistry under one of the titles referred to in Article 1 of Directive 78/686, a dental practitioner must hold a diploma, certificate or other evidence of formal qualifications referred to in Article 3 of Directive 78/686. (C-35/02, par.24)

Only derogations expressly provided for in the EC Treaty or in the relevant directives are allowed (see Case C-40/93 Commission v Italy, cited above, paragraph 23). In that regard, three types of derogation are provided for, namely, first, the derogation set out in Article 7 of Directive 78/686, second, the one referred to in Articles 19, 19a and 19b of that directive and, finally, the derogation mentioned in Article 1(4) of Directive 78/687 (see Case C-40/93 Commission v Italy, paragraph 21). (C-35/02, par.25)

Article 1(4) of the Directive 78/687 applies only to the recognition of diplomas, certificates or other evidence of formal qualifications obtained in a non-member State (see Case C-40/93 Commission v Italy, paragraph 22). Article 7 of Directive 78/686 is applicable only to nationals who hold diplomas, certificates or other qualifications issued by the Member States before Directive 78/687 came into effect, in other words before 28 January 1980. Articles 19, 19a and 19b of Directive 78/686 concern only the transitional provisions applicable to people who received or embarked on their dental training in Italy, Spain or Austria respectively, under a system prior to the one in place as a result of the entry into force of those directives in those Member States. (C-35/02, par.26)

Paragraph 1(1) of the ZHG, which grants a general authorisation, from 28 January 1980 onwards, for doctors to practice dentistry on a permanent basis without completing the dental training required by Article 1 of Directive 78/687 is therefore not covered by any of the derogations from that provision referred to in paragraph 25 of this order. (C-35/02, par.27)

Moreover, it should be recalled that it is not open to Member States to create a category of dental practitioners which does not correspond to any category provided for by Directives 78/686 and 78/687 (see Case C-40/93 Commission v Italy, cited above, paragraph 24, and the order of 5 November 2002 in Case C-204/01 Klett [2002] ECR I-10007, paragraph 33). (C-35/02, par.28)

Applying that interpretation of those directives, the Court has ruled that a person may not carry out the activities of a dental practitioner even where he holds a diploma in medicine and has followed a specialised course in dentistry of three years’ duration (see Case C-40/93 Commission v Italy, Case C-202/99 Commission v Italy, and Klett, all cited above). Persons who hold only a diploma in medicine are, a fortiori, precluded from carrying out such activities. (C-35/02, par.29)

It follows that a general authorisation for doctors to practice dentistry on a permanent basis without holding the diplomas, certificates or other qualifications referred to in Article 3 of Directive 78/686, as required by Article 1 of Directive 78/687, is contrary to Community law. (C-35/02, par.30)

In that regard, the title under which those doctors intend to practice dentistry is of no relevance. If German doctors who do not have the training required by Article 1 of Directive 78/687 were authorised to practice dentistry under a title other than ‘Zahnarzt’, that would create a category of dental practitioners which does not correspond to any category provided for by Directives 78/686 and 78/687. (C-35/02, par.31)

The proper interpretation; the teleological one.

However, Mr Vogel submits that neither Directive 93/16 nor Directives 78/686 and 78/687 contain any restriction on the scope of doctors’ activities. In his view, if the Court were to rule that under Directives 78/686 and 78/687 doctors may not practice dentistry, those directives would be incompatible with Directive 93/16, since under that latter directive, doctors are entitled to practice odontostomatology, a discipline in the field of dentistry. (C-35/02, par.32)

In that regard, it need only be noted that Directives 78/686 and 78/687 seek to establish a clear separation of the professions of dental practitioner and doctor (see Case C-202/99 Commission v Italy, cited above, paragraph 51). Those directives apply to dental practitioners whereas Directive 93/16 applies to doctors and specialist medical practitioners. Even though Article 27 of that directive authorises specialist medical practitioners to practice stomatology, they must have met the training requirements laid down in that directive, namely at least three years of specialist training. (C-35/02, par.33)

The issue about the indirect effect of EU secondary law.

Mr Vogel also submits that the provisions of Directives 78/686 and 78/687 cannot apply to the dispute in the main proceedings because the provisions of a directive do not have direct effect against individuals. (C-35/02, par.34)

In that regard, it should be remembered, first, that the Member States’ obligation under a directive to achieve the result envisaged by the directive, and their duty under Article 10 EC to take all appropriate measures, whether general or particular, to ensure fulfilment of that obligation, are binding on all the authorities of the Member States, including, for matters within their jurisdiction, the courts (see, inter alia, Case C-168/95 Arcaro [1996] ECR I-4705, paragraph 41, and Case C-62/00 Marks & Spencer [2002] ECR I-6325, paragraph 24). (C-35/02, par.35)

Is there an infringement of the principle of non-retroactivity, if the previous case-law is to be implemented? The demand for ruling in light of the European law.

Mr Vogel submits, inter alia, that Directives 78/686 and 78/687, and the Court’s previous judgments relating to those directives, concern the right to practice dentistry under the title of dentist and not, as is the case at issue here, the right to practice dentistry as a doctor. In any event, those judgments were delivered well after he had embarked on his medical studies, on the basis of which he was expecting to be able to practice dentistry by virtue of Paragraph 1(1) of the ZHG, with the result that were those judgments to apply to his situation they would infringe the principle of non-retroactivity. (C-35/02, par.23)

It follows that, in applying domestic law, regardless of whether the provisions concerned are prior or subsequent to the directive, the national court called upon to interpret that law is required to do so, as far as possible, in the light of the wording and purpose of the directive, in order to achieve the purpose of the directive and thereby comply with the third paragraph of Article 249 EC (Case C-106/89 Marleasing [1990] ECR I-4135, paragraph 8, and Marks & Spencer, cited above, paragraph 24). (C-35/02, par.36)

 

 



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