Free trade within EU to receive fresh boost

Finance minister Scholz has presented a bill to give German customs more employees and powers.

The free movement of goods across borders, one of the pillars of European integration, is set to receive a renewed boost after a Parliament committee backed a legislative package to improve the “mutual recognition” of products which are not standardised at EU level.

Parliament’s internal market committee was voting (27 November) on the ‘Goods Package’, which contains three directives on mutual recognition, market surveillance and product labelling. 

The package was introduced by the Commission in February in an attempt to make it more difficult for member states to block imports on the basis that they do not meet particular national standards (see EURACTIV 14/02/07). 

After MEPs had adopted his report, Alexander Stubb (EPP-ED, FI) said: “Some 75% of all goods in the EU have been harmonised. The remaining 25% should follow the principle of mutual recognition”.

Stubb estimates the cost of non-application of mutual recognition at €150m. He said that the internal market should be based “on trust between member states that goods lawfully marketed elsewhere in the Union are safe”. 

Specifically, his report clarifies and defines more strictly the circumstances under which a member state may apply national technical rules excluding products manufactured elsewhere in the EU from their domestic market. 

Additionally, the committee adopted a report by André Brie (GUE/NGL, DE), which seeks to strengthen market surveillance by obliging member states and the Commission to inform the public about products found on the market which do not meet existing safety standards. 

Parliament also adopted a single definition of the ‘CE’ mark and rules governing the responsibility of manufacturers who use it on their goods, proposed by Christel Schaldemose (EPP-ED, DK) to address consumers’ confusion over products which display either national markings or the ‘CE’ mark. 

Stubb said: “In the long run, all national marks should be abolished. They are just a poor and expensive excuse for protectionist measures. This package improves market surveillance in the EU”. 

However, MEPs rejected a proposal to create a “CE+ mark”, which would have indicated that a compliance verification body had checked the product. 

The EU has been under particular pressure to improve its ‘CE’ toy-marking system since concerns arose over the safety of imports following the summer withdrawal from the market of more than 20 million Chinese-made toys (see EURACTIV 26/09/07). 

The whole package is set to be voted upon in the Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg in February 2008. 

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