The objective of this study was to determine the current status of training in cardio-thoracic surgery in Europe and the residents' perception of the effects of the full implementation of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) on training. We conducted a web-based survey of trainees registered with the European Association of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery and 79 respondents form the basis for this analysis. A majority of trainees (69.6%) are aware of the implications of the EWTD and 58.7% believe it will have an impact on their training. Most residents (98.7%) work well over the time limitations stated in the Directive and 96.2% are of the opinion that a 48-hour week would be insufficient to meet their learning needs. A large proportion (60.5%) of European trainees are dissatisfied with their training and report low-levels of regular assessment of their progress (37.8%) and of training facilities (27.4%). Only 23.3% of European trainers appear to attend training courses. Striking differences exist among European countries with regards to standards of training. These findings are alarming. Training in cardio-thoracic surgery across the European Union requires urgent attention to unify and improve the standards of training and compensate the potential negative impact of the EWTD.