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A Single Market for goods

One of the “four freedoms” of the Single Market is the free movement of goods. Member States may restrict the free movement of goods only in exceptional cases, for example when there is a risk resulting from issues such as public health, environment, or consumer protection.

The risks vary by product sector. Pharma­ceuticals and con­struc­tion products obviously present higher risks than office equipment or pasta for example. In order to minimise risks and ensure legal certainty across Member States, EU legislation harmonising technical regulations has been introduced in particular in the higher-risk product sectors.

Lower-risk sectors have not in general been the subject of legislation on a European level. Trade in this “non-harmonised” sector relies on the “mutual recognition” principle, under which products legally manufactured or marketed in one Member State should in principle be able to move freely throughout the EU.

Approximately three-quarters of the trade in goods within the EU are covered by harmonised regulations, while the rest is accounted for by the “non-harmonised” sector, which is either regulated by national technical regulations or not specifically regulated at all.

For more information on EU policy on free movement of goods, you can visit the Commission’s Enterprise and Industry website.