As the newly-elected President of CEI, I would like to say hello to all the members of CEI, throughout the nine countries that we now represent in Europe. We have one or more associations of estate agents in Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, totalling well over 20,000 member agents.
CEI has been very active since its foundation in 1988 but there are still many problems to be sorted out for the real estate profession in Europe, with its variegated legislative situations and differing market conditions. CEI aims at harmonising the laws regulating the admission to the profession and also to harmonise, as much as possible, the working practices of estate agency in Europe.
The Treaty of Rome of 1958 required the abolition "of obstacles to the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital" between the Member States, and the single European market, of approximately 360 million people, effectively came into being in 1993. Now we have in fact, free movement of people and goods across borders and with it should come the right to work in another Member State on an equal basis. Seeking new opportunities, an estate agent may wish to open up a branch office in another Member State.
Well and good, but this proves not so simple in our case. Section 222 of the Treaty of Rome excludes for the moment property transactions from European legislation and states that a country does not have to lower its standards of professional qualification, to accept a person from another Member State. There is also no specific regulation regarding the reciprocal recognition of qualifications of estate agents as a profession, as it does exist for medical doctors, midwives, pharmacists and architects.
What further complicates matters, is that in some countries the qualifications required to become an estate agent, are quite minimal, if not completely non-existant, as is the case in Germany. The resulting paradox is that a German, wishing to set up an agency in highly regulated France, would have to satisfy strict criteria for which he is not prepared and also in a foreign language, hardly in keeping with the principal of free movement established in 1958.
CEI, through its constant presence in Brussels, has already promoted to the European Commission D.G. XV, that it examine the situation of estate agency for this purpose of recognition of qualifications and is contributing with its unique comparative study, "The Legal Situation of Estate Agency in Europe" and will maintain regular contact and collaborate with them on this matter.
If we consider that the average European family spends approximately a third of its total annual income on the rental of its primary home and many spend their life-time's savings to purchase their home and that estate agents play a dominant role in the destination of this family wealth, it is therefore imperative that the access to this important profession be properly and uniformally regulated, to ensure the necessary responsibility, competence and professionalism.
There should in fact be a Directive from the European Council to encourage Member States to harmonise laws in Europe and require minimum, but adequate, standards for admission to the real estate profession. CEI is actually working on a draft Directive for presentation to the E.C. on this matter, even though there appears to be many hurdles to regulating our profession. This is where the combined effort of the 21.000 CEI members, plus their associates, can help a lot, by pressing these points home to their local Euro Members of Parliament.
Another ambitious project CEI has underway, is the organisation of training courses for the specialisation in international estate agency across European borders and I hope to be able to give you some interesting news on this in a later communication.
I would like to take the opportunity to remind members to utilise the CEI International Referral Forms when collaborating with member agents in other countries, as they have been studied to improve communication and help them conclude more sales across borders. You may collect a set from your national association (they are bi-lingual for non-English countries).
There is a lot more being studied at CEI, in its aim be the Voice of Estate Agency in Europe, to generally improve the real estate profession as a whole, to influence the European Union on real estate policy matters and to defend the interests of European estate agents, as well as those of consumers, ensuring that property purchases be conducted by experienced professionals, of high ethical standards.
I certainly will do my best to maintain the high level of work set by the Presidents who have preceded me.
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Copyright L. Camillo 2000