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Registering change

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The Single Market is one of Europe’s key achievements, but it needs to be further strengthened in some areas so as to fully deploy its potential as creator of growth and jobs. In the field of registration of vehicles previously registered in another Member State, for example, the lack of harmonisation continues to act as a barrier to the free movement of goods, thus resulting in administrative burden for both businesses and citizens. With a view to addressing this issue, the European Commission recently launched a public consultation in order to get those most affected involved in finding a solution.

The Single Market has brought significant benefits to both consumers and businesses. However, obstacles still remain. One such obstacle is the issue of registration of vehicles previously registered in another Member State.

Double trouble

When buying a car in another Member State, or transferring it to another Member State from where it was bought (such as when one moves abroad), EU businesses and citizens are frequently faced with cumbersome re-registration formalities and paperwork and, possibly, double payment of registration tax. This is because national laws on taxation upon registration are not harmonised, and are often applied across Europe in an uncoordinated manner. As a result, applicants often have to de-register the car in the Member State of origin and re-register in the Member State of destination. In most Member States, re-registration often involves supplementary paperwork and expenses, and applicants are often required to provide the same information again. Several Member States even oblige the applicant to undergo a roadworthiness test, despite the fact that the person is in possession of valid documents. Car rental companies also face this problem when trying to move their fleets from one Member State to another depending on the seasonal variation demand.

What’s more, this obligation to register a motor vehicle previously registered in another Member State can also cause problems for the registration and taxation authorities of the receiving Member States.

With the deepening of the Single Market, this problem has become more pronounced. SOLVIT, Europe’s online tool for detecting and solving problems related to the Single Market, found that 5 per cent of reported cases are related to vehicle registration. One major problem was the requirement to have a national certificate of conformity for vehicles that had previously been registered in another Member State. This obligation to register a motor vehicle already registered in another Member State is frequently the subject of the rulings of the Court of Justice.

Easing the burden

These administrative formalities and requirements for moving a motor vehicle from one Member State to another represent a significant barrier to the free movement of goods, services and workers. And what should be a simple procedure often turns into a bureaucratic nightmare, with cumbersome re-registration formalities and paperwork.

As part of its strategic initiative to re-launch the Single Market, an essential element of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the European Commission is determined to ease car registration for citizens across EU, and is taking steps to do so. In March 2011, the European Commission launched a public consultation to identify the main difficulties encountered by EU citizens and companies when moving a car bought and registered in one Member State to another. This initiative is one of the actions set out in the EU Citizenship Report 2010pdf, which complements the Single Market Act of 2010.

"Buying a car in one Member State and then moving it to another should not be complicated,” said European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani Choose translations of the previous link , Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship. “This public consultation will provide us with a better understanding of the problems encountered by citizens and companies, and with ideas on how to improve the situation. Our aim is to save time and money for consumers and businesses, as well as for national registration offices.", he added.

The consultation, which closes on 26 May 2011, will serve as the basis for the European Commission to take appropriate action.

Road testing the options

Citizens, national authorities (vehicle registration authorities) and stakeholders (businesses, private organizations and lobby groups) are encouraged to take part in the consultation, which provides one tailor made questionnaire for each category. Results of the public consultation will be discussed in a conference organised by the European Commission.

A number of options are on the table, including: improving the implementation of existing EU law through additional guidance and better administrative cooperation; self-regulation by registration authorities with a view to an agreement on common registration principles; the amendment of existing legislation on recognising vehicle registration documents, or a new legislative instrument proposed by the European Commission setting out the conditions for national vehicle registrations and the subsequent rights and obligations of drivers and national authorities, including the establishment of a European registration certificate, issued by national licensing authorities that will allow recognising vehicles already registered in another Member State.

Simplifying formalities and conditions for registering cars across the EU is part of the EU’s re-launch of the Single Market. By targeting one of the obstacles EU citizens, businesses and public authorities face in their daily lives and reducing administrative burden, this action can contribute to liberating resources for growth.

A typical problem

A company was trying to register in Poland a car which had previously been registered in Germany. The Polish authorities did not accept the harmonised German registration certificate consisting of two parts in accordance with Annexes I and II to Directive 1999/37/EC, as provided for by Article 3 of the same Directive, but asked for a Polish translation. This certificate is explained in detail in the annexes to the Directive and can be read simply by comparing the harmonised letters and numbers. There was therefore no need to understand the language in which the certificate is written.

SOLVIT Poland convinced the relevant authorities that the law needed to be amended and the new version entered into force on 1 January 2010, thus bringing national rules on car registration into line with EU law.


'Internal Market and Enforcement' Unit,
Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry

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