Do you want to sell or buy services in the EU? This section will guide you through the fundamentals of the EU single market for services in terms of legislation, recognition of professional qualifications, applied standards and external trade.

Services are crucial to the EU economy. They account for over 70% of the EU’s GDP and for an equal share of its employment.

Rights of EU suppliers

If you are a European services supplier, you have the right to

  • establish a company in another EU country

  • provide or receive services in an EU country other than the one where your businessis established

EU Single Market for Services legal basis 

What is the legal basis for the European Single Market for Services? 

The Services Directive (2006/123/EC) covers most services sectors including retail, tourism, construction and business services. It refers to services traded between EU countries, as well as to services provided within one of the countries. In short, the Directive

  • removes red tape and simplifies the rules for establishment of service providers in their home country and abroad
  • simplifies the rules for cross-border supply of services into other EU countries
  • strengthens the rights of service consumers
  • ensures easier access to a wider range of services

Use the Quick guide to the Services Directive to find which services are covered, what are the main provisions and how it benefits service providers and service recipients.

In addition to the Services Directive, a number of sector specific laws set the rules for financial services, transport, telecommunicationspostal services and broadcasting.

Recognition of professional qualifications

Are professional qualifications recognised between EU countries?

Yes, professionals in the EU can move freely across borders and practice their occupation or provide services abroad.

  • the Professional Qualifications Directive (2005/36/EC) facilitates the mutual recognition of professional qualifications between EU countries
  • there are also specific Directives for lawyers and certain other professions dealing with establishment in another EU country and the cross-border provision of services
  • the European Professional Card is a EU-wide digital procedure for the recognition of professional qualifications. It is currently available for general care nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists, real estate agents and mountain guides
  • the database of regulated professions contains information on regulated professions, statistics on migrating professionals, contact points and national authorities in EU countries, EEA countries and Switzerland

About the EU single market for services.



  • you can find here an analysis of the legal consequences of the United Kingdom's withdrawal on provision of services and posting of workers
  • you can consult other guidance notices on impact of UK’s withdrawal - the full list is available on the EU’s website on Brexit preparedness

External trade

EU's bilateral trade agreements with third countries lead to significant market openness for trade in services. The list of trade agreements is available here.

Find information about trade in services in your market of interest.

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