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Monday January 07, 2019

EC Calls for Single Market Renewal

The European commission published two communications calling for renewed political commitment to the Single Market and highlighting improvements to be made to standards of harmonisation. The documents, dated November, were in response to an earlier European Council paper, which called on the commission to assess the status of the Single Market, alongside any remaining barriers or opportunities. Both contained statements of importance for understanding the commission's priorities for 2019, especially in relation to product safety.

 

The European Single Market seeks to guarantee the free movement of goods, capital, services and labour throughout Europe, stimulating competition and raising the quality and safety of products. In its March assessment, the Council found that "strong industrial policy" was needed to reap the "maximum benefits of the Single Market." When combined with the harmonisation of standards, i.e. the use of voluntary technical specifications which allow manufacturers to demonstrate that their products comply with relevant EU legislation, the Single Market fuels economic growth and makes the everyday lives of European consumers safer and easier. This includes in the area of product safety, where common rules and standards are used Europe-wide to ensure that consumers are safe, able to trust the products they buy and use, and benefit from wider choice and higher quality products at lower prices.

 

"The Single Market in a Changing World": In this communication, the commission called on member states to renew their political commitment to the Single Market to ensure it continues to adapt to new developments and challenges. The commission highlighted three main areas for improvement, each of which has particular relevance to product safety:

  • Adopt Remaining Proposals: The commission called upon the European Parliament and the Council to adopt all measures it proposed to strengthen the Single Market before the end of its five-year legislative cycle in October 2019. 44 out of 67 proposed measures are yet to be adopted, including two measures critical to product safety in Europe: The Goods Package and the New Deal for Consumer package.
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  • Ensure Rules Are Consistently Applied: Inconsistent or weak enforcement of common rules remains a challenge. The commission requested that member states be increasingly steadfast implementing, applying and enforcing rules of the Single Market, including those relating to product safety, which it describes as "prerequisites… to deepen the Single Market."
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  • Ensure a European Approach: The commission called for leadership and continuous, timely and coordinated adaptation to new challenges in the changing geopolitical context. The commission specifically highlighted "products" as an area in which there was "significant further potential" for further integration, including in the product safety, which in turn would make the "Union even more attractive to international trading partners." The commission also flagged the importance of digital technologies, and highlighted international rules ensuring market harmonisation, interoperability and safety of digital products as priorities.

The commission also invited the European Council to hold a discussion on the Single Market to address the common priorities for action and the appropriate mechanisms required to accommodate the new political commitment with effective delivery at all levels of governance.

 

"Harmonised Standards": In its second communication, the commission reviewed the functioning of the European standardisation system and presented a plan to improve the efficiency, transparency and rapid delivery of harmonised standards for the Single Market.

 

European standards replace conflicting national standards in member states, setting a common standard of safety across the continent, increasing consumer trust and allowing business expansion across the market with limited additional costs. The commission and European Standardisation Organisations ensure the development of harmonised standards is consensus-based, transparent and inclusive. Once a harmonised standard is developed and approved by the commission, it is published in the Official Journal of the EU and takes legislative effect.

 

The commission committed to undertake four key actions:

  • Eliminate a backlog of harmonised standards to be published in the Official Journal to take effect in a timely manner.
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  • Review internal decision processes to streamline procedures for publishing the references to harmonised standards.
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  • Prepare a guidance on the Standardisation Regulation to improve consistency, speed and seeking to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the different actors at all stages.
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  • Reinforce the system of consultants, on an on-going basis, to support with the swift and robust assessments of harmonised standards and timely citation in the Official Journal.

Further, the commission committed to continuing to work with all relevant partners to ensure European standardisation is successful and continues as a core aspect of the Single Market.

 

Dispatch from the EU is a monthly feature provided exclusively for PSL subscribers by Cooley LLP, www.cooley.com. For further information about the above, contact Rod Freeman at rfreeman@cooley.com.