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No 17 (July 99/Juillet 99/Juli 99)
The European Commission has recently adopted a Communication which
looks at ways of facilitating and improving the application of the principle of
mutual recognition in the Single Market. Under this principle, each Member
State is required to accept on its territory products which are legally
produced and/or marketed and services which are legally provided in other
Member States. The Member States may only challenge the application of the
principle in certain limited cases, for example where public safety, health or
the protection of the environment are at stake, and the measures which they
take must be compatible with the principles of necessity and
The principle of mutual recognition, which has been developed by the Commission and the Court of Justice since the latter's famous "Cassis de Dijon" judgment (120/78), plays a key part in opening the Single Market in all the sectors which have not been the subject of harmonisation measures at Community level or which are covered by minimal or optional harmonisation measures. Under the principle, a producer or service provider who has complied with the requirements of his country of origin basically has the right to sell his products or provide his services in all the other Member States. Mutual recognition is therefore a powerful factor in economic integration which respects the principle of subsidiarity.
* Better monitoring
The Member States will be required to draw up succinct, regular reports on the difficulties encountered in applying mutual recognition and the possible improvements. Decision No 3052/95 of the European Parliament and of the Council already requires the Member States systematically to notify the Commission of any derogations from mutual recognition (see SMN 7). The Commission, for its part, has decided to draw up an evaluation report for the Council and the Parliament every two years, setting out the tangible results achieved by applying the principle of mutual recognition to products and services. This report will highlight the sectors which are causing problems and suggest corrective measures. The first of these reports is annexed to the Communication.
As part of the Dialogue with Citizens and Businesses (see SMN 16 and page 5), the Commission has decided to launch an information campaign featuring a general "Guide" and sectoral guides. The Commission also intends to publish an explanatory brochure, intended for a broad public, with the aim to making citizens and economic operators more aware of the principle.
* Improving the application by the national authorities
The Court of Justice has recently confirmed the obligation to include mutual recognition clauses in national legislation (see SMN 15). The Commission wants every Member State to take steps to ensure that all the authorities involved (at national, regional and local levels) are aware of their responsibilities in this area. The authorities in all the Member States, at all levels, must therefore cooperate more effectively with each other. Meetings between the heads of the co-ordination centres could be useful in this context. More systematic use of the Single Market Contact Points should henceforth be encouraged by all Member States.
* Improved case management
The Commission will systematically examine the extent to which Member States are fulfilling their obligations and will subsequently improve its handling of infringement cases. It will also endeavour to develop a modern method of managing mutual recognition which will allow rapid identification of the problem and make it possible to find a pragmatic, effective solution for economic operators. The Commission will prepare a specimen application form which will be forwarded to the European and national federations concerned so that their members can use it in their contacts with the authorities responsible for applying mutual recognition.
For more information,