We find ourselves in a very opportune moment for the regulatory development concerning the qualifications of geologists in Europe. The European Union’s current agenda includes several policies that are highly relevant to the geosciences community, such as the Critical Raw Materials Act, the Net Zero Industry Act, the Soil Health Act, and the CCS Initiative.

This is a situation that we must not squander, as it provides us with the ideal framework within which to address several aspects that have long been missing from existing regulations while promoting the free movement of geology professionals.

Nearly two decades ago, European Commissioner Bolkestein, responding to a written question from MEP Gerard Collins, acknowledged the significance of the European Geologist title, recognising it as a document that “attests to a high level of expertise in the specified field”[1].

However, despite the European Commission’s recognition of the European Geologist title, it has not gained the prominence that Commissioner Bolkestein’s response suggested it would.

The reality of the geology profession’s development in terms of free competition with nationals of European Union countries varies significantly from one place to another. It is disconcerting to observe that only in Spain, Poland, Estonia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Slovakia does the recognition of a national title (once registered with the Official Professional Association in some countries like Spain) enable geologists to practice their profession without discrimination, much like their national counterparts, in those countries.

This is where problems may arise. A geologist might temporarily or permanently relocate to another EU country where the geology profession is not regulated (which is the case for most of the EU, the European Economic Area, and Switzerland) and wishes to start working as a geologist under the same conditions as the country’s citizens. To begin with, one must ascertain the requirements for practicing in the host country, check whether they align with the qualifications and memberships obtained in their home country, and, if not, seek guidance on the necessary steps. In some cases, these requirements may prove insurmountable, or, in the best-case scenario, they may demand a significant amount of time.

To minimise or eliminate the challenges outlined in the previous paragraph, Directive 2013/55/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, dated November 20, 2013, was enacted. This directive amends Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications and Regulation (EU) No 1024/2012 concerning administrative cooperation via the Internal Market Information System (IMI Regulation).

These regulations address captivating topics that are particularly pertinent for practitioners, especially in the field of geology in countries where it remains unregulated. These Standards bring clarity and specificity to the definitions of the following terms:

  • “Professional experience”: The actual and lawful engagement, either full-time or part-time, in the relevant profession within a Member State.
  • “Aptitude test”: An evaluation assessing the knowledge, skills, and professional competencies of an applicant, conducted or recognized by the competent authorities of the host Member State. Its purpose is to determine the applicant’s suitability for practicing a regulated profession within that Member State.
  • “European professional card”: A certificate that verifies either the fulfilment of all prerequisites for providing services temporarily and occasionally within a host Member State or the recognition of professional qualifications for establishing oneself within a host Member State.
  • “Lifelong learning”: The encompassing term for ongoing education, vocational training, non-formal instruction, and informal learning activities undertaken throughout an individual’s life. These activities serve to enhance knowledge, skills, competencies, and may also include professional ethics.

In this directive, the “European professional card” corresponds to our European Geologist (EurGeol) title. It boasts a lifelong learning through the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) component. Consequently, as a highly standardized and rigorously monitored title, which has been meticulously overseen by Professional Associations and the European Federation of Geologists, we must strive for its inclusion. As stated in the EFG’s letter to the European Commission in June 2023 during the consultation period for the future European Act on Critical Raw Materials, the EFG itself highlights the importance of incorporating the title of European Geologist into this legislation as a Standard, thereby elevating the geology profession to regulated status throughout the European area, in accordance with the Professional Qualifications Directive.

This development would represent a monumental stride for European professional geologists. On one hand, it would acknowledge, without administrative barriers, that a geologist with official qualifications from any Union member country can practice their profession in any European Union nation, within the European Economic Area, and in Switzerland. Furthermore, as the requirements align with the CRIRSCO framework (Committee for Mineral Reserves International Reporting Standards), this recognition should extend to countries following the Reporting Code for exploration activities and mining due diligence. Since we as geologists evaluate the reliability of resource and mining reserve estimations in projects; assess the effective management of operations; and scrutinise designs, exploitation methods, and assets, this recognition should also be reciprocal for our colleagues from other countries, such as the USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and others.

Let us geologists actively collaborate from within the Federation, particularly the Minerals Panel, to attain this milestone. It would be a game-changing accomplishment for the over 140,000 geologists within the European Union, the European Economic Area, and Switzerland.

[1] Free movement of workers (9.2.2001). WRITTEN QUESTION P-0505/01 by MEP Gerard Collins to the Commission.

About the Author: Chartered geologist. Former General Director of Environmental Quality and Water Resources and former President of the Water and Waste Consortium of the Autonomous Government of La Rioja (Spain), he has been working since September 2023 in the private industrial capital goods sector in the direction of the Department of quality management and assurance.
He is also a researcher at the IER Research Center – Government of La Rioja in the Area of Natural Sciences.
EurGeol (European Federation of Geologists) since 2005 and member of its Panel of Experts on Minerals and Sustainable Mining. Former Delegate of the Spanish Association of Professional Geologists (ICOG) where he held the position for 8 years. Former member of the UNECE UNFC Expert Group. Member of the Editorial Boards of the Journals Tierra y Tecnología (ICOG), Zubía and Zubía Monográfico (IER) and the European Journal of Geologists (EFG).

Contributor: Rubén Esteban

Instituto de Estudios Riojanos (IER) - Government of La Rioja

Disclaimer: This article expresses the personal opinions of the author. These opinions may not reflect the official position of the European Federation of Geologists (EFG).