OFF-PISTE

Austria is facing legal action to break up its impenetrable ski-instructor cartel

Austria: great for skiers, tough for ski instructors.

The European Commission has ruled that some of the country’s requirements for instructing on its slopes “discriminate against non-Austrian ski instructors without justification.”

Western Austria’s skiing hotspot of Tyrol was singled out for breaking EU laws that protect freedom to provide services. According to the EU Commission ruling, the state’s legislation “prevents foreign ski instructors from accepting clients already present in Austria, thus limiting their right to provide services to clients they accompany from the country where the respective ski school or ski instructor is established.”

Local Tyrolean ski instructors, meanwhile, are “entitled to accept clients without any restrictions.”

“Other Alpine regions do not seem to provide for such restrictions. The Tyrolean requirements are neither proportional nor necessary,” the Commission said.

The southeastern Austrian state of Styria also does not recognize some teaching qualifications for non-Austrian instructors, which may violate EU laws on the free movement of workers.

The Commission has raised these concerns with Austria in the past, but said in a statement that the country had “not adequately addressed” them or taken sufficient measures “to remedy the situation.”

According to Reuters, Austria will analyze the charges before taking further action. “We will not accept that foreign ski schools will lower the security and quality standards which we in Tyrol have built up over decades,” the governor of Tyrol, Guenther Platter, said.

It’s now up to the EU Court of Justice to decide whether or not these restrictions do violate EU laws. If it finds violations, it will issue a set of directives to Austria to change its ways, with the threat of a financial penalty if the country does not comply.

The Commission’s statement is part of a monthly series of “infringement decisions” in which it calls out member states that do not comply with EU laws.

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