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 Management of the procedure at Community level.

A European Communities' enquiry point has been set up within the Commission to manage the notification procedure. This is known as the EC-TBT Enquiry Point. There is also a service responsible for the TBT notification procedure in each Member State.

The EC-TBT Enquiry Point ensures the European Communities' participation in the information and notification system for technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures established by the Agreement.

In particular it is responsible for sending the WTO Secretariat notifications of proposed Community acts falling within the scope of the Agreement, for following up comments received by the European Communities and for responding to requests for information made by the enquiry points of third countries on announced proposals. In liaison with enterprises, it also analyses proposals announced by third countries and coordinates the comments of the European Communities on these texts.

The Community enquiry point also exchanges information with its counterparts in Member States. To this end, a group bringing together the national services responsible for notifications has been created. Chaired by the Community enquiry point, it meets regularly to discuss issues linked to the Agreement's application. This group has recently been enlarged to include the services responsible for notifications in the new Member States of the European Union.

The activities of the Community enquiry point are mainly aimed at increasing the participation of Member States and European enterprises in the notification procedure established by the Agreement and at encouraging, by monitoring the measures announced by third countries, the integration of European enterprises within the world economy.

In order to understand the practical operation of the notification procedure at Community level, the following three scenarios should be analysed: notification of proposed Community acts, notifications of proposals elaborated by Member States of the European Union and notifications of third countries.

Community texts

Texts are announced by the Commission on behalf of the European Communities at a stage which allows any comments from other WTO Members to be taken into account. In general, proposed acts which must be adopted by the Council or by the Council and Parliament are announced at the stage of the Commission's final proposal. Proposals to be adopted by the Commission are announced as soon as there is a sufficiently stable proposal which can be made available to the public.

When a third country asks for an extension to the deadline in order to analyse a text announced by the European Communities, the latter tries, as far as possible, to grant this extension.

Where a Community text is subject to comments, the European Communities takes account of these and tries not to adopt the text before having replied to them. It generally responds to comments made on Community texts and on proposals of its Member States. This ensures it is in the best position when it asks third countries to respond to its own comments.

Texts of Member States

According to current practice, Member States are responsible for notification, with the Commission not being involved at this stage. However, the European Communities do intervene where one of its Member States receives a comment from a third country. In fact, where the exercise of Community competence is involved, Member States cannot themselves react; they must send the Commission a proposed reply via the EC-TBT Enquiry Point. The Commission then prepares the definitive reply in close liaison with the Member State in question and sends this on behalf of the European Communities.

The national authorities responsible for notification may, however, contact the Commission if they have any doubts about the obligation to announce a proposal.

The notification procedure established by the TBT Agreement has similarities with the notification procedure for technical regulations established at Community level by Directive 98/34/EC and the two procedures can influence each other. In particular, with regard to a text which must be announced under both procedures, this raises an issue as regards the timing of the two notifications.

Member States of the European Union are free to choose the most appropriate time. Accordingly, they may decide to announce a proposal at the same time to the Commission and to the WTO or, on the other hand, they may announce a text to the WTO only after completing the procedure established by Directive 98/34/EC. At the moment, most Member States simultaneously announce their proposals to the Commission and to the WTO.

Texts of third countries.

Notifications from third countries allow texts envisaged by them, which risk harming the economic interests of European enterprises, to be identified.

For Community enterprises, the main advantages of the notification procedure are being informed about proposed regulations of third countries, being able to adapt their production in time to the new requirements and having the opportunity to make their opinion known on the announced texts.

Enterprises can send their comments on the proposals of third countries either to the enquiry points of Member States of the European Union or to the enquiry point of the European Communities.

The Commission, based on the reactions of enterprises, Member States of the European Union and its own departments, prepares the definitive text of the comments which is then sent to the enquiry point of the notifying Member on behalf of the European Communities. These reactions are mainly aimed at preventing the adoption of measures creating unnecessary obstacles to trade and going against the interests of Community enterprises or at obtaining a delay in their entry into force to allow Community exporters to adapt and use up their stocks.

The existence of Commission delegations in third countries is also very important in terms of monitoring the regulatory activity of these countries. On the one hand, these delegations can conduct parallel negotiations with the notifying Member and, on the other, they can be easily contacted by Community enterprises exporting to the Member which are able to evaluate the negative consequences, if any, which may arise from the adoption of the announced measures.

 Comparison 98/34 vs TBT