• In Case 71/76 Thieffry [1977] ECR 765, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ultimately decided that the right to establishment in Article 49 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) is extended to a right to the recognition of graduate diplomas.

Facts of the Case

  • The applicant had a law degree from Belgium. This degree was recognised by a French university as the same as a French law degree. In French law though, degrees in law obtained from other Member States were only equivalent to degrees which may be used to advance their studies, and were not able to be used to progress for professional purposes and practice.
  • As a result of this French law, the applicant could not practice as a lawyer in France.

Issue in Case 71/76 Thieffry [1977] ECR 765

  • The issue in this case was whether the right to the recognition of diplomas as equivalent to nationally obtained diplomas existed, under Article 49 TFEU, under the right to freedom of establishment.

The CJEU Held

  • The French law preventing the applicant from practising as a lawyer in France was incompatible with Community law, Article 49 TFEU (the freedom/ right to establishment).

The CJEU Specifically Said

  • [9] “under the second paragraph… freedom of establishment includes the right to take up activities as self employed persons, under the conditions laid down for its own nationals by the law of the country where such establishment is effected” [776]
  • [15] “it follows from the provisions cited taken as a whole that freedom of establishment, subject to observance of professional rules justified by the general good, is one of the objectives of the Treaty.” [777]
  • [19] “In particular, there is an unjustified restriction on that freedom where, in a Member State, admission to a particular profession is refused to a person covered by the Treaty who holds a diploma which has been recognised as an equivalent qualification by the competent authority of the country of establishment and who furthermore has fulfilled the specific conditions regarding professional training in force in that country, solely by reason of the fact that the person concerned does not possess the national diploma corresponding to the diploma which he holds and which has been recognised as an equivalent qualification.” [778]
  • [27] “In these circumstances, the answer to the question referred to the Court should be that when a national of one Member State desirous of exercising a professional activity such as the profession of advocate in another Member State has obtained a diploma in his country of origin which has been recognised as an equivalent qualification by the competent authority under the legislation of the country of establishment and which has thus enabled him to sit and pass the special qualifying examination for the profession in question, the act of demanding the national diploma prescribed by the legislation of the country of establishment constitutes, even in the absence of the directives provided for in Article 57, a restriction incompatible with the freedom of establishment guaranteed by Article 52 of the Treaty.” [779]