A vision for the internal market for industrial products

The European Commission has produced a policy paper setting out its vision for the future of the EU’s internal market for industrial products.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee: A vision for the internal market for industrial products (COM(2014) 25 final of 22 January 2014 - not published in the Official Journal).

SUMMARY

EU legislation on industrial products sets out the essential requirements relating to safety, health and other public interests that businesses must comply with when putting products on the EU market, including the affixing of the CE marking. This legislation also sets out the compulsory steps to be taken to demonstrate that the product complies with EU law before it can carry the CE marking.

The overall conclusion of an online public consultation and assessment in this area is that the EU’s internal market legislation for products is relevant to meeting EU objectives relating to the need for technical harmonisation measures with high levels of protection of health and safety and consumers, and to the environment. Therefore, it is not only a key factor for the competitiveness of European industry but also for consumer and environmental protection.

Certain points for improvement were also identified in the policy paper known as a communication. Whilst the Commission seeks to keep up with the pace of technological challenges in the 21st century, it also wishes to take account of European industry’s demand for periods of regulatory stability without any major overhaul of the rules.

The policy paper identified the following priorities.

Strong enforcement mechanisms

This means stepping up the Commission’s efforts to ensure that EU law is respected to safeguard important public interests such as health and safety; the protection of the environment and security; and the protection of consumers. The Commission is looking into the possibility of drafting a legislative proposal on how to streamline and harmonise economic sanctions of an administrative or civil nature where EU law is not respected.

Cross-sector legislation on products

The Commission will assess the need to adopt horizontal (i.e cross-sector) legislation setting out common elements across sectors.

Innovation and the digital future

The Commission will take into account innovation and technological developments when it is developing new legislative proposals relating to industrial products. It will also launch an initiative on e-compliance whereby companies can demonstrate their compliance with EU legislation electronically.

The blurring distinction between products and their connected services

Manufacturing firms are increasingly offering services (e.g. maintenance and training) along with their traditional products. The Commission will examine how to improve the way in which this blurring distinction between products and services is handled.

More regulations, fewer directives

Subject to a case-by-case assessment, the Commission will give priority to regulations as a source of EU law rather than directives because, being directly applicable in EU countries, they lead to more certainty for business.

A business-friendly approach to product rules

Currently, businesses are faced with many laws applying to the same products/manufacturers and the boundaries between many of the laws are sometimes unclear. When carrying out a periodic review of sectoral legislation, the Commission will consider whether EU law on industrial products can be brought together with other legislation applicable to the same category of products.

The global market

The EU should continue to promote international convergence of legislation and technical standards for industrial products while ensuring a high level of protection of public interests. The Commission should ensure more focus on the impact of EU regulation on the international competitiveness of EU businesses.

Last updated: 28.07.2014