Parliament has adopted a package of measures to enhance free trade within the bloc after it emerged that many member states are blocking imports of specific products from other EU countries on the basis that they do not meet particular national technical standards.
The major objective of the proposed package, originally tabled by the Commission in February 2007, is to make it easier for companies and especially SMEs to sell their products throughout the Union, while at the same time improving consumer protection.
It primarily aims to do so by facilitating the application of the principle of “mutual recognition”, whereby the quality and safety standards of goods produced in one EU member state are sufficient to allow their sale throughout the EU.
Strongly welcoming Parliament’s decision, Commission Vice-President responsible for enterprise and industry Günter Verheugen said the measures would “give the internal market new boost” and create a “win-win situation for enterprises and consumers”.
Varying technical regulations among member states mean that the principle of mutual recognition is often denied. Examples range from one country’s refusal to allow imports of bicycles with battery-driven lights on the basis that dynamo-powered lamps are more reliable, to another’s requirements for expensive additional testing of the chemical reactions of clothes when exposed to body sweat and saliva.
The adopted package aims to enhance confidence in technical regulations while allowing for a high level of product quality and safety through the following principal measures:
- Introducing better market surveillance rules to ensure that unsafe products are removed from the EU market;
- Establishing an accreditation system for European conformity assessment bodies to enhance the credibility of CE marking;
- Establishing a common legal framework for industrial products by setting out common definitions and procedures to allow future legislation to be more consistent and easier to implement, and;
- Making member states bear the cost of demonstrating that a product is unsafe if they wish to remove it from their market and obliging them to give detailed objective reasons to the manufacturer, allowing them to react, before the final refusal.
The Council is expected to adopt the package soon to allow the new measures to enter into force in 2009.
The package, which the Commission estimates could give a €150 billion boost to intra-EU trade, has received a warm welcome from businesses. “Although the free movement of goods is one of the most complete freedoms in the EU, we sometimes forget that companies are still facing numerous barriers when trading across borders within the internal market,” said Xavier Durieu, secretary general of the retailers, wholesalers and traders group EuroCommerce.
“This package signals a strong commitment of our institutions to defend the EU’s internal market which is so essential to the competitiveness of our companies manufacturing here in Europe. A better internal market framework is good for SMEs, good for consumers, and good for workers. Now let’s make it work,” added Mark Redgrove, head of communications at Orgalime, the European engineering industries association, on BlogActiv.