The Association of Professional Tourist Guides has lodged a policy conference motion with Unite the union, opposing the latest EU directive on the professions. They say that new proposals by the Commission will make it easier for unqualified persons to come into Britain to guide at tourist sites and monuments.
The guides say that the Commission is tampering unnecessarily with its own directive (2005/36/EC) on cross-border recognition of qualifications – indeed the guides cooperated on that directive in order to mould it to their advantage. Now they point to a new shift of balance in favour of employers in the country of origin rather than the host state, and to the Commission’s latest attempt to grab more powers for itself.
The Commission is dissatisfied with the way professionals prefer to work in their own country instead of obeying the laws of “free movement”. This is manifestly the case with local guides, whose job is inseparable from the history, culture, bricks and mortar of their own nation, country, region, or city.
Tourist guides are differentiated from tour managers, who are highly mobile, have no recognisable qualifications, work for commission, and accompany clients from state to state. Their employers, the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA), would like them to have access to the guiding profession without investing in the required national training. ,
Guides refute the suggestion in the EU booklet Your Single Market that they are “highly mobile”, and are calling on the Commission to correct this misrepresentation of the profession in Britain. They received a reply in January this year denying the blindingly obvious. The Commission wrote: “Certain arguments have been put forward asserting an ‘area-specific’ qualification as a defining characteristic of a tourist guide•. [this] might create obstacles to the free movement of professionals which may not be in line with the principles of recognition of professional qualifications and the jurisprudence of the European Courts.”
This bureaucratic insistence on universal mobility would be funny if it weren’t so serious. They go on to say: “•the re-emergence of these questions presents a good opportunity to revisit the consistency of European standards in the tourism area•taking into consideration the views of other bodies representing professionals in the practice of tourist guiding”. That last remark is a reference to the drawing up of British guiding standards in 2005, when the guides succeeded in having ETOA restricted to observer status. Guides have spent decades fighting for control of their own profession. It should now be clear that one directive just leads to another. They should go further– oppose EU membership and be done with it. ■