Towards a seamless internal EU market for industrial goods

Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Industry and Entrepreneurship (first from left), went to Rome, in the toy shop "Little Big Town" in Piazza Venezia, to present the "EU Stop Fakes" campaign in the presence of Ivano Maccani, Provincial Commander of the Guardia di Finanza (Italian Finance Guard) (second from left). (EC Audiovisual Services, 20/12/2013).

Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Industry and Entrepreneurship (first from left), went to Rome, in the toy shop “Little Big Town” in Piazza Venezia, to present the “EU Stop Fakes” campaign in the presence of Ivano Maccani, Provincial Commander of the Guardia di Finanza (Italian Finance Guard) (second from left). (EC Audiovisual Services, 20/12/2013).

Twelve years after the ‘internal market’ initiative launched in 1992, with which the European Union erased the technical, fiscal and any other barrier impeding the internal circulation of goods within the boundaries of the club, and still there are impediments to the free internal circulation of industrial products. The European Commission in order to neutralise those last remaining obstacles in the free circulation of manufactured products will issue on Wednesday 22 January a Communication entitled, “A vision for the internal market for industrial products”. As the Commission puts it “The objective is to improve the legislative framework on the internal industrial market and set out a broader vision for the next decade”.

In this way the Commission responds positively to the March 2013 European Council’s request, to report on the review of the internal market for industrial products. This Communication will constitute an integral part of the Industrial policy package, which the Commission will present on 22 January 2014. As the EU’s executive arm notes, “The internal market for products has been a frontrunner in EU economic integration. Intra EU-trade in goods represented around 17% of EU GDP in 1999 and close to 22% in 2011. Strengthening the effectiveness of the internal market for industrial products was identified as a priority in the October 2012 update on an integrated Industry Policy”.

Technical barriers

Despite the fact that everybody can buy and sell industrial products within the boundaries of the EU without particular requirements, special taxes or other obstacles there is still a series of technical barriers which impede the free circulation of industrial products. This observation doesn’t refer to the circulation of consumer products. It applies mainly to machinery and installations for business uses.

To identify those obstacles the Commission ran its standard and highly effective tool of public consultation. This procedure lasted for 12 weeks from 22 January to 17 April 2013 and constitutes the most important part of this Commission initiative. A round number of 144 replies were sent to Brussels. The relevant Press release notes that “The results of the consultation, together with the conclusions of the study ‘Evaluation of the internal market for industrial products’ will allow the Commission to point the way forward for the development of the internal market for industrial products”.

According to the 144 replies of the business community to a general inquiry about the remaining barriers in the internal market for products, those impediments may be categorised under 6 headings. According to the Commission services analysis of the responses those categories are the following:

* Weak market surveillance by some member states, in particular of non-consumer products, and weak controls at EU borders leading to unfair competition.
* Divergent transpositions of EU legislation. This is relevant for the electrical equipment sector, the construction sector and the machinery sector.
* Barriers are created where the conditions for putting into service, installation and/or use/operation are not harmonised. This is relevant for electrical equipment and for the weighing industry.
* Voluntary marks and labels, just as broadly accepted specific national approval procedures, create de facto barriers within the internal EU market. This is very relevant for the electronic equipment sector.
* English is commonly used by industry for technical documentation and the responders ask that legislation should not impose extra language requirements.
*Labelling requirements for consumers and in particular when those need to be in the local language are particularly burdensome for the industry say some of the responses.

What the industry needs

The industry calls for further harmonisation particularly in the following cases: non-road mobile machinery (a demand coming mainly from Germany), leather products, food contact materials and rubber products. Some companies complain about the lack of a dispute resolution process of cross-border litigation related to the free movement of products within the EU. Last but not least the construction sector, “deplores the non-recognition of technical certificates from one country to another”.

No doubt there is still a lot to do in order to attain a completely unobstructed circulation of industrial goods within the EU territory.

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