Internal Market and Standardisation

Source: Fabrice Debatty

The single market is all about bringing down barriers and simplifying existing rules to enable everyone in the EU to make the most of the opportunities offered to them by having direct access to 28 countries and 503 million people.

The cornerstones of the single market are often said to be the “four freedoms” – the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. These freedoms are embedded in the EC Treaty and form the basis of the single market framework. For companies, this means that it is much easier and cheaper to do business across borders.

Although one of the “four freedoms” of the Single Market is the free movement of goods, still Member States may restrict the free movement of goods only in exceptional cases, for example when there is a risk resulting from issues such as public health, environment, or consumer protection.

The risks vary by product sector. In order to minimise risks and ensure legal certainty across Member States, EU legislation harmonising technical regulations has been introduced. The single market is therefore enabled by Regulations and Directives that bring down further barriers in specific areas and are implemented at national level by Member States themselves.


In the case of Construction Equipment, they are regulated by a number of European Directives setting the essential requirements for their trade within the EU, regarding their performances in terms of Safety, Environmental protection, Workers protection etc.

The core piece of legislation is the Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC), but many other regulations apply and regulate other performances of the machine (Outdoor Noise Directive, Engines Exhaust Emissions for NRMM Directive…).

Other sectors have not in general been the subject of legislation on a European level. Trade in this “non-harmonised” sector relies on the “mutual recognition” principle, under which products legally manufactured or marketed in one Member State should in principle be able to move freely throughout the EU.

Approximately half of the trade in goods within the EU is covered by harmonised regu­lations, while the other half is accounted for by the “non-harmonised” sector, which is either regulated by national technical regulations or not specifically regulated at all.

In 2008 the European Institutions adopted the so called New Legislative Framework (NLF) package, which aimed at regulating horizontally some key points of the Single Market for Goods such as:

  • improving market surveillance rules;
  • enhancing the quality of  the conformity assessment of products through stronger clearer rules on the requirements for the notification of conformity assessment bodies;
  • clarifying the meaning of CE marking;
  • establishing a common legal framework for industrial products in the form of a toolbox of measures for use in future legislation.

While some of the objectives of the NLF have been achieved, this is certainly not the case of Market Surveillance, the loopholes of which are causing major problems to Construction Equipment Manufacturers (See more on Market Surveillance HERE).

The "New Approach", on which the NLF builds, represents an innovative way of technical harmonisation. It introduces, among other things, a clear separation of responsibilities between the EC legislator and the European standards bodies CEN, CENELEC and ETSI in the legal framework, allowing for the free movement of goods.

European Commission directives define the "essential requirements", e.g., protection of health and safety, that goods must meet when they are placed on the market.

The European standards bodies have the task of drawing up the corresponding technical specifications, which meet the essential requirements of the directives, compliance with which will provide a presumption of conformity with the essential requirements. Such specifications are referred to as "harmonised standards".