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Mutual recognition of goods

Mutual recognition of goods

The mutual recognition principle ensures market access for goods that are not, or are only partly subject to EU harmonisation legislation. It guarantees that any good lawfully sold in one EU country can be sold in another. This is possible even if the good does not fully comply with the technical rules of the other country (although there may be exceptions where public safety, health or the environment are concerned). 

What the European Commission does

Technical rules developed at national level may create unnecessary obstacles to intra-EU trade. The Commission aims to

  • guarantee the free movement of goods
  • make sure EU countries accept goods lawfully marketed in another EU country unless very specific conditions are met (these 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 stems from Articles 34-36 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and is further defined in Regulation (EU) 2019/515 on the mutual recognition of goods lawfully marketed in another country. Regulation 2019/515 applies from 19 April 2020 and replaces Regulation (EC) No 764/2008. It defines the rights and obligations in relation to the mutual recognition principle for competent authorities and businesses when selling goods in another EU country.

The regulation outlines how to apply mutual recognition in individual cases. It includes

  • a well-defined assessment procedure to be followed by competent authorities when assessing goods
  • obligatory elements to be included in an administrative decision that restricts or denies market access
  • a voluntary ‘mutual recognition declaration’, which businesses can use to demonstrate that their products are lawfully marketed in another EU country (practical advice on mutual recognition declaration is available)
  • a business-friendly problem solving procedure, based on SOLVIT, that includes the possibility of an assessment from the Commission on the compatibility of a decision restricting or denying market access with EU law
  • stronger administrative cooperation to improve the application of the mutual recognition principle, for instance through the Information and Communication System for Market Surveillance (ICSMS)
  • more information to businesses through reinforced 'product contact points' (see below) and the 'single digital gateway'

The Commission’s opinions

The Commission adopted its first opinion under the Regulation on Mutual Recognition of Goods.

The opinion's main highlights are that

  • Regulation (EU) 2019/515 on the mutual recognition of goods is directly applicable
  • authorities should take necessary measures to remedy a failure to apply a legal act that is binding in its entirety and directly applicable, relying on the existing legal remedies available in the national administrative procedure
  • the remedy for failure of applying Regulation (EU) 2019/515 on the side of the authority should not pose any additional burden on the economic operator
  • the competent authority should always check, and if needed, apply Regulation (EU) 2019/515 before/when deciding that non-harmonised goods are not compliant with the national technical rules, independently of whether the economic operator claims the application of the Regulation (EU) 2019/515 or not
  • administrative decisions should include reasons for the decision as well as the elements listed in the Regulation
  • competent authorities should notify other EU countries and the Commission of their administrative decision via ICSMS within 20 working days from the day of the decision

Product contact points

Product contact points are established in each EU country to provide free advice related to the mutual recognition regulation within 15 working days.

Guidance document for Mutual Recognition Regulation (EU) 2019/515

This guidance document explains various aspects of the regulation, including the mutual recognition declaration for businesses and the assessment of goods by national authorities. It also offers practical information on support services provided by SOLVIT centres and Product Contact Points.

Trainings on mutual recognition

In January 2021 the Commission organised two types of trainings on mutual recognition

  • 'Train the trainers' - for experts from EU countries, EEA and EFTA states, and Turkey who will hold trainings on mutual recognition in respective countries and languages. The training material is available in all official EU languages.
  • 'Training on mutual recognition and ICSMS' - intended for competent authorities applying the principle of mutual recognition in their everyday work. Since these authorities are notifying their decisions denying or restricting market access via ICSMS, we also demonstrated the use the new mutual recognition module of ICSMS. The training material is available in all official EU languages.

 A short summary of the mutual recognition regulation for businesses is also available in all official EU languages.

Guidance documents for Regulation 764/2008

The following guidance documents were available for the repealed Regulation 764/2008:

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