Following the 2012 Communication on a new industrial policy, the Commission is taking a fresh look at the single market for products, which makes up 75% of intra-EU trade. As we advance in the 21st century can we really say that the internal market for all industrial products, i.e. manufactured non-food products, is delivering its full potential?
2012 marked the 20th anniversary of the internal market established with the primary aim of achieving social progress for all EU citizens.
The internal market for products is one of the success stories not only of the internal market policy itself but of the European Union in general. A common set of EU rules governs some 75% of products allowing them to circulate freely across the EU once compliant with these rules. In the case of absence of EU legislation, then the 'mutual recognition' principle applies i.e. products lawfully marketed in one Member State can be marketed in another Member State without satisfying additional requirements, even if the legislative requirements of the country of destination are different or even more stringent than those of the country where the products have first been marketed.
It is thus generally perceived that all technical and legal barriers in the internal market for products have been eliminated. Indeed, the internal market for food and agricultural products has been fundamentally reformed during recent years and with the new Toys Directive and the forthcoming proposal for a General Product Safety Regulation a new wind will blow through the consumer product market within the EU.
But can we really say that the internal market for all industrial products, i.e. manufactured non-food products, is completed? Are the rules still coherent and effective? Are our rules and structures properly adapted to the single market for products of the 21st century and to the needs of European industry, consumers and other stakeholders?
Against this background, the European Commission in its Work Programme for 2013, committed to deliver a strategic initiative updating and simplifying the rules for the circulation of products in the single market, and identify gaps still blocking free circulation. The objective of this initiative is to enhance the quality and efficiency of the internal market legislation for industrial products. It will address the elimination of remaining trade barriers, in particular for products with high-growth potential, ensure more consistency in the application of the legislation, and simplify its management and implementation.
This public consultation constitutes the first step in the process.
Firstly, and in line with the Commission's Work Programme, the public consultation explores issues related to the identification and elimination of remaining barriers to the internal market for industrial products, in particular for products not subject to Union harmonisation rules. This includes looking at issues such as mutual recognition, but also at different specific products:
In recent years for instance we have seen the development of high-growth / new technology products. For example, Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) such as industrial biotechnology, advanced materials, photonics and advanced manufacturing technologies, micro-/nanoelectronics or nanotechnology provide the technology bricks that enable a wide range of innovative product applications, including those required to address societal challenges.
Another innovative technology is 3-D printing which might lead to profound changes in how manufacturing is organised. How is the current legislative framework interacting with these types of innovations?
The markets for sustainable and environment friendly products are rapidly growing and it is necessary to explore whether Member States or even private sector requirements do not constitute a barrier to the free movement of these products. Such specific requirements might also present the risk of imposing parallel regulatory burdens on business on top of the general product legislation.
Also needs investigation whether the increasingly blurred distinction between products and services and whether the fact that some business models are now built upon the selling of a product along with its accompanying service, create a barrier to the free movement of products.
Second, the consultation aims at identifying specific problems associated with the bulk of harmonisation legislation for industrial products and its application as well as the potential for simplification. These issues relate for instance to CE marking and conformity assessment.
This public consultation will contribute to the reflection on the above issues by addressing a wide stakeholder audience.
This consultation is available in other languages.