Harmonisation of legislations in the EU
The removal of technical obstacles to trade in industrial products is normally based on Article 115 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU (ex Article 94 TEC), which provides for the approximation of such provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action that directly affect the functioning of the common market. On this legal basis, the Commission has for many years been trying to align national regulations with Community standards agreed upon in Council directives. Such alignment is not, however, as easy as it seems at first sight. As technical regulations relate to production systems and consequently investments already made, and as their harmonisation sometimes entails the need for industrialists in some Member States to change their production systems by means of new investment expenditure, the removal of technical obstacles to trade used to be the subject of interminable discussions. Each member country tried to persuade its partners that its own technical regulations were the best and should be adopted by the European Community.
The harmonisation directives have harmonised the national regulations in fields as diverse as motor vehicle equipment, foodstuffs and proprietary medicinal products. Thus, considerable progress has been made in the motor vehicle sector, in particular as a result of the entry into force of the EC type-approval for motor vehicles and their trailers [Directive 92/53, replaced by Regulation 168/2013, implemented by Regulation 901/2014]. In the foodstuffs sector a body of Community inspectors is responsible for evaluating and checking the control systems in the Member States [Regulation 882/2004, last amended by Regulation 2015/1012]. Directives have been adopted in the particularly sensitive areas of food additives, colourings and sweeteners [Directives 94/34, 94/35 and Regulation 1333/2008]. The harmonisation work relating to pharmaceutical products has culminated in the creation of the single market in medicinal products and in the establishment of a European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products [Regulation 726/2004, see section 17.3.7].
The laborious procedures involved in the approximation of laws leads to results which are very useful for economic integration. Indeed, once the standards are the same in all member countries, type approval of a product granted in any member country is recognised by all the others. The manufacturers need only guarantee that all examples of a product will conform to the prototype that has been approved in the directive. Items which do not conform may not be sold anywhere in the common market, including the producer's home market. Conversely, no Member State may apply more stringent national rules to oppose the import or use of products which meet EU requirements. But, the harmonisation of legislations is also very useful for consumers, since it guarantees them the quality and safety of products circulating in the large market.