The worldwide technical harmonisation of vehicles is governed by two international agreements – the 1958 Agreement and the 1998 parallel Agreement. These agreements establish harmonised requirements at global level to ensure high levels of safety, environmental protection, energy efficiency, and theft protection. Both agreements help eliminate existing technical barriers to trade and prevent the creation of new ones. The involvement of the EU enables easy access to non-EU markets for manufacturers.
The 1958 Agreement on the technical harmonisation of vehicles was introduced by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). The Agreement provides the legal and administrative context for establishing international UN Regulations with uniform:
The EU became a contracting party to this agreement on 24 March 1998. The 1958 Agreement currently has 54 contracting parties and 133 UN Regulations annexed to it.
The UNECE Regulations, which are applicable under EU law, must be translated into all official EU languages and published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Status table of the translations (2 MB).
The 1998 Agreement applies in parallel to the 1958 Agreement. Its purpose is to further enhance the process of international harmonisation through the development of global technical regulations (GTR). The main difference is that the parallel agreement does not provide for the mutual recognition of approvals granted on the basis of global technical regulations.
The 1998 Agreement currently has 33 Contracting Parties and 15 UN GTRs that have been established in the UN Global Registry.
According to the CARS 2020 Action Plan, the acceptance of international vehicle regulations under the UNECE 1958 Agreement is the best way to remove non-tariff barriers to trade. To accommodate the needs of countries with emerging automotive industries and markets, the agreement needs to be modernised. The objective of the reform is to promote the principle of mutual recognition of certificates ("tested once, accepted everywhere") and maintain the highest levels of safety and environmental performance.
The Commission is leading a UNECE/WP.29 task force in charge of preparing a proposal for the reformed agreement. The main objectives are:
These draft proposals have been presented to the WP.29 in March 2013. The reform process should be finalised by 2016 at the latest.
The Commission issues an annual working paper on major automotive-related regulatory developments and activities at the World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations. In addition, the Commission publishes an annual status report on EU accession to UNECE Regulations in the area of vehicle approval.