Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Study: Simplification and mutual recognition in the construction sector under the Services Directive

Study: Simplification and mutual recognition in the construction sector under the Services Directive
Published on: 04/02/2016
The objective of the study was to provide a legal analysis of authorisation schemes and their respective conditions for providing construction services in 14 selected Member States in the context of the Services Directive (2006/123/EC).

The study referred to the construction of a one-floor 2 bedroom house and a 10-floor office building as case-studies. It did not refer to:

  • public works
  • requirements regulating professions
  • land-use, spatial planning and zoning controls
  • rules on the use of building materials and waste management
  • requirements regarding the employment relationship of workers, including the posting of workers
  • rules pertaining to the use of building once completed.

The key objectives of the study were:

  • To identify, by a legal analysis, to which extent Member States make full use of simplification as required under the Services Directive for the benefit of cross-border construction service providers.
  • To clarify how Member States apply the mutual recognition principle to service providers coming from another Member State.
  • To explore the possible role of voluntary certification for mutual recognition.
  • To conduct interviews with stakeholders to clarify what the situation is on the ground.

The main findings of the study were:

  • 6 out of the 14 selected Member States impose so-called 'horizontal authorisation schemes' controlling access to the market, varying greatly in conditions imposed, and in most cases applicable without regard for the cross-border element of service provision.
  • In the context of those horizontal schemes but also in relation to building permits, common to all Member States, the study found a frequent duplication of a priori controls, a major lack of mutual recognition of equivalent requirements previously complied with, significant administrative burden, and equally restrictive controls and conditions for temporary cross-border provisions as compared to establishment cases.
  • Voluntary certification schemes are largely inoperable in enhancing mutual recognition given the complexity and diversity of national standards
  • Stakeholders emphasized the lack of available and user-friendly information on applicable requirements and the complexity of such requirements as major obstacles to cross-border operations.

General recommendations are:

  • Horizontal authorisation schemes should be rare, and when they do exist, should result in simplified building permits.
  • Mutual recognition and self-certification should also operate to limit controls, particularly building permits, to a minimum, with extensive use of tacit approval or even mere prior notifications.
  • Simpler document requirements, full electronic procedures and comprehensive and user-friendly information should be put in place.