Free movement in non-harmonised sectors
Companies in the European Union benefit from easy access to the European internal market and its nearly 500 million consumers thanks to common procedures, standards and rules between the countries. Some aspects however are still governed by non-harmonised national provisions. The free movement of goods principle helps to prevent that they lead to trade barriers in the internal market.
Free movement of goods: objective and limits
The free movement of goods has been a key element in creating and developing the internal market. This principle is laid down by Articles 34, 35 and 36 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU) , preventing Member States from adopting and maintaining unjustified restrictions on intra-EU trade.
However, the scope of Article 34 TFEU is not unlimited. Selling arrangements and other marketing rules (e.g. opening hours for shops), which are indistinctly applicable to domestic and imported goods in principle, fall outside of its scope.
Moreover, the TFEU provisions do not preclude prohibitions justified on grounds of public morality, public policy or public security, the protection of health and life of humans, animals or plants, or the protection of industrial and commercial property, as well as other mandatory requirements recognised by the Court of Justice (e.g. protection of the environment). Such prohibitions must, however, remain proportionate and must not amount to arbitrary discrimination or a disguised restriction on trade between Member States.