Mutual recognition

Mutual recognition

Mutual recognition ensures market access for products that are not subject to EU harmonisation. It guarantees that any product lawfully sold in one EU country can be sold in another. This is possible even if the product does not fully comply with the technical rules of the other country.

What the Commission does

Technical rules developed at national levels may create unnecessary obstacles to inter-EU trade. The European Commission’s aims to:

  • guarantee the free movement of goods;
  • make sure EU countries accept products lawfully sold in another EU country unless very specific conditions are met. These specific conditions relate to the protection of public safety, health, or the environment.

The mutual recognition principle should not be mistaken for mutual recognition agreements that facilitate access to markets between the EU and non-EU countries.

How does the principle work?

The principle of mutual recognition stems from Regulation (EC) No 764/2008. It defines the rights and obligations for public authorities and enterprises that wish to market their products in another EU country. The Regulation also defines how a country can deny mutual recognition of a product.

Product contact points and products list

  • product contact points are established in each EU country. They help reduce the risk that a product does not get access to the market of the EU country of destination;
  • list of products are indicative and non-exhaustive. They show which products are not subject to the EU’s harmonisation legislation.

Guidance documents

The following indicative, non-binding guidance documents have been adopted to ease the application of the Regulation in specific sectors:

Improving and evaluating the principle of mutual recognition

The 'Goods package': Improving the principle of mutual recognition

The Single Market Strategy, 'Upgrading the Single Market: More opportunities for people and business' sets out to achieve more and better mutual recognition in goods. 

As part of the strategy, in December 2017 the Commission tabled a legislative proposal to make it easier for companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, to sell their products across Europe.  

Although the 'mutual recognition' principle allows products not subject to EU-wide regulation to move freely within the Single Market, in practice, it does not always work as it should. Companies wishing to sell products such as shoes, tableware or furniture in another EU country often face barriers, delays and extra costs. To make the principle faster, simpler and clearer in practice, the Commission has proposed a new Regulation on the Mutual Recognition of Goods. Companies will know if their products can be sold in another EU country in a couple of months, rather than years. They will also be able to use a voluntary declaration to demonstrate that their products meet the relevant requirements in their country. This will make it easier for authorities in other EU countries to assess whether or not mutual recognition should apply. A problem resolution mechanism will also allow for a faster resolution of disputes between companies and national authorities. Training and exchanges among officials will further improve collaboration and trust among national authorities. This will not prevent national authorities from taking legitimate public policy concerns into account.
The proposal is accompanied by the following documents:

Report on the application of the Regulation on mutual recognition

First report on the application of Regulation (EC) No 764/2008 - COM(2012) 292 final

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