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Mutual recognition in the EU's single market

Mutual recognition in the EU's single market


COM(1999) 299 final - Mutual recognition in the single market



It explains the importance of mutual recognition — one of the key principles underpinning the single market. It enables goods and services to flow freely throughout the EU without having to harmonise national legislation. The communication identifies problems in its application and ways these could be tackled.


The principle means that any product lawfully sold in one EU country can be sold in another, even if it does not meet all its technical rules — except in strictly defined circumstances.

The communication highlights the following problems:

absence of reliable information on application of mutual recognition,

costs and delays due to poor internal organisation in some national administrations,

reluctance of officials to approve a product they do not know, accompanied by certificates in languages they do not speak.

Some products, notably the more complex, face specific national health, safety and consumer protection requirements. This is particularly true in the food, electrical, vehicle, precious metal, construction and chemical sectors.

Services in areas such as business communication, construction, patents and security are often judged against a ‘general interest’ criterion for that country's public.

The communication suggests the following measures:

stronger monitoring through a biannual European Commission evaluation report, with an accompanying economic analysis of the application of the mutual recognition principle. This could identify areas where full harmonisation might be required;

potential legal action against EU governments that fail to implement the principle;

more comprehensive information about the principle to key players such as national and regional administrations, businesses, lawyers and professional federations;

training for national authorities and representatives of professional bodies from the sectors most concerned, with national, regional and local seminars held in parallel;

more effective ways of dealing with problems by reducing the time to deal with individual complaints.

EU countries have an important role to play by:

embedding mutual recognition into national law;

replying without undue delay to requests for its use;

strengthening cooperation between government departments;

making better use of national contact points.

Mutual recognition agreements promote trade in goods between the EU and key markets such as Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and the US.

Regulation (EC) No 764/2008 lays down the rules and procedures national authorities must apply if they intend to refuse, or to apply extra conditions, to a mutual recognition request for a product.


Mutual recognition


Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament — Mutual recognition in the context of the follow-up to the action plan for the single market (COM(1999) 299 final of 16 June 1999)


Resolution of the Council of 24 June 1999 on the management of Agreements on mutual recognition (OJ C 190, 7.7.1999, p. 2)

Regulation (EC) No 764/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 July 2008 laying down procedures relating to the application of certain national technical rules to products lawfully marketed in another Member State and repealing Decision No 3052/95/EC (OJ L 218, 13.8.2008, pp. 21-29)

last update 04.01.2016