Mr Josef Robl, Secretary General of European Council of Engineers Chambers
Maintaining contacts with EU institutions is of greatest importance
You are elected as a Secretary General of ECEC at the 3rd ECEC General Assembly Meeting in Italy. What are your major successes?
The biggest success was establishment of the ECEC actually was possible and I'm very proud about that because I was one of the proponents in the preparation of this
umbrella association. And I'm happy that ECEC is getting more and more members.
During these first years of our young organisation, it was already possible to find common positions in a lot of important aspects of professional life of Chartered Engineers (for example common position on the professional qualification directive and the services directive) and to voice them towards the European Institutions. I think it was also an important step, to establish an ECEC representative in Bruxelles (together with Austrian and German national Chambers), which can bring a new momentum to our work and makes it possible to take part in the daily work and events in Bruxelles.
When the Treaty of Lisbon comes into effect, professional organisations like the ECEC shall have a much bigger significance than now |
When the idea for establishment oft the European Council of Engineers Chambers ECEC was born?
The great importance of an effective representation for professional interests of Chartered Engineers and their national engineers chambers in front of the European Institution is of course evident for quite some time already. The actual steps towards such a representation were taken 2000 at the 2nd Engineering forum in Budapest and at last 2002 at the 3rd Engineering Forum in Croatia with a common declaration of the goal to establish the "European Council of Engineers Chambers". Austria had the task of organisational and legal preparation of this establishment and we were very happy, when finally the statutes were adopted in September 2003 in Vienna.
What are the most important reasons for any national chamber of engineers to become a member of ECEC?
The decisions taken on European level have a high impact on our professional lives, therefore it is important to participate in the European decision making process in the best possible way. This is hardly possible for the national chambers by themselves. To be "heard" by the European Constitutions it is necessary to represent a significant number of professionals throughout Europe. So for the National Chambers ECEC can be the strong common voice in Europe. For this, the Bruxelles representation is also an important base.
The European institutions as well as the European legislation underline the importance of the work of professional Chambers to secure quality in services throughout Europe. National Chambers can not achieve by themselves this goal, so the best way to handle the challenges that arise with the implementation of the services directive is to cooperate within the profession.
In summary the European dimension of our professional lives (European legislation, cross border services...) is so big and complex that nowadays it doesn't make sense for a professional Chamber anymore to operate on national level only.
What kind of support can be expected from ECEC for its members?
According to the statutes the objectives of ECEC are to represent professional interests of academic engineers in front of Commission and Parliament, to encourage/propose/monitor/follow/comment the process of passing European regulations/decisions in all the areas that are important for the profession and the Chambers, to define professional qualification standards and association rules, to support the system of freelance engineering professions, to create common principles of engineering ethics as the basis of understanding and self-confidence among European chartered engineers and to create a positive atmosphere for actual and future cooperation and coordination in common and particular activities with other European engineers organisations.
What is the position and advantage of our ECEC in comparison with other existing associations of engineers in EU?
ECEC should not be seen as competitor compared to other associations of engineers. Cooperation of ECEC with other European associations of engineers is normal and very important it actually is even an ECEC objective in the statutes. For national Chambers membership in more than one organisation, like we in Austria, can make sense this can for example depend on the scope of the profession in their country.
What is special and important about ECEC compared to other associations is that ECEC members are public bodies that are legally authorized in their countries, which is not the case in most other European Associations. This authorization by law guarantees that the profession is represented not by small lobbying interest groups, but by professional bodies that are based on principles of democracy and transparency and are able to represent the profession as a whole. This, on one hand, can give the positions and views of the member organisations and if we transport this well also of ECEC a higher importance and acceptance by European Institutions and on the other hand means that common positions developed within ECEC can be transported to the member states much more efficiently and could even be transformed into national law.
Which national chambers are ECEC members, what are the requirements to enter membership, and how many individual engineers are ECEC members?
ECEC members are chambers from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Austria. Together they represent more than 180.000 European Engineers.
Members of the ECEC are the Chambers of Engineers or representative public bodies of the profession of engineers, who are professionally recognised according to national law in their country or national liaison associations of these. Chambers who want to become members must be established in the EU or in states applying (or attending to apply) for EU membership. Only one membership per country is permitted.
What are the most important results-successes achieved by ECEC? Is there the ECEC influence to European institutions, for example European Council?
I already said something about the ECEC's influence on European institutions. However, the ECEC must apply different strategies. One thing is to make known ECEC within the European institutions, especially the Commission and the European Parliament. Only regular contacts with these institutions also through our Bruxelles representation - can ensure that ECEC is always informed about ongoing developments and can react fast and give our opinions before or already in early phases of the decision making process. Of course it is also possible to bring views on important subjects to the knowledge of the Commission /Parliament event if there is no ongoing decision making process.
Additionally to these lobbying activities on European level contact to the institutions and especially to the European Council and the Parliament can and should be held on a national level by the member organisations. As the national ministers are the ones taking the decisions in the European Council it will be important to keep contact to the ministries and - as national Chamber - deliver the ECEC opinions there as well. It is usually also very helpful, when the member organisations keep contact to their national members of the European Parliament and also keep them - as members of the other important European decision making body informed about ECEC positions.
What can you tell us about issuing of the ENGCARD?
The ENGCARD Project which was issued by FEANI and is now in a feasibility study phase is of course an interesting project. With the implementation of the services directive and an increasing market of cross border mobility it is clear that systems to facilitate cross border services are an important issue. Of course this is also seen by ECEC and there are informal talks between the ECEC and FEANI taking place (end of March in Vienna).
Nevertheless, at the moment as discussed at the last ECEC General Assembly in Zagreb there are to many open questions in the ENGCARD system for us to decide if this could become a system that is efficient, legally clear and at the same time able to maintain quality standards. So ECEC decided for the moment to observe the development of the project. There will probably be some more information after the FEANI Conference on the ENGCARD project talking place in Brussels on 1st of April, where outcomes and recommendations of the feasibility study, which is financed by the European Commission, will be presented.
What are the most important instant and long-term plans of ECEC
For the moment I think the issuing of a code of conduct for engineers is an important aspect of our work it can facilitate cross border work of European engineers
and at the same time safeguard the quality of these services within Europe and it can also sharpen the profile of European Chartered engineers in Europe and position the
ECEC in a better and clearer way in contacts with the European Institutions.
With the treaty of Lisbon in force professional organisations like ECEC will be of even more importance than they are now. Because Article 11. of the treaty regulates
that the (European) institutions shall give "... representative organisations ... the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action"
The article obliges the European institutions to maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with "representative associations" as for example the professional Chambers - and to carry out broad consultations.
So this means that longterm the ECEC more than already now will have to position itself towards the European Institutions as a constant competent partner with knowledge and expertise. This is a huge chance that we should take in the best possible way.
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