Principle of Equality: License to practise medicine

August 3, 2010

While Austrian graduates with a medical degree automatically receive a licence to practice medicine in all EU countries, however, in Austria itself they may not practice as a general practitioner without additional education and training. In order to work as a GP, they must acquire a specific diploma as a general practitioner or a specialist.

This legal situation favours primarily foreign students, who will in any case return to their home countries in the EU. But considering the waiting times for openings for study places where basic medical studies can be completed, Austrian and foreign students can, for example, see this as an additional incentive to immediately gain a professional foothold in the EU area. This, however, does not automatically correspond to the interests of the Austrian population with regard to having adequate numbers of GPs available for the best possible care.

The Austrian Constitutional Court is of the opinion that a less favourable treatment of Austrian citizens in comparison to foreign nationals must be gauged in accordance with the principle of equality. Therefore, an objective justification is not necessary. The Constitutional Court has also applied this consideration to so-called reverse discrimination (of Austrian citizens). This is not discrimination according to the criteria of citizenship, but the discrimination of purely domestic issues vis-à-vis issues that relate to the European Community.

The non-academic further qualification of doctors is in the interest of the best possible care of the population and therefore a motive on the part of the legislator that must be recognised. But even with this reasoning, it is questionable if, under the aspect of the principle of quality, sufficient reasons can be put forward that medical training that enables the independent practice of medicine in all EU countries outside of Austria does not provide a sufficient qualification for the independent practice of medicine in Austria.