Ref. :  000017837
Date :  2005-03-18
Language :  English
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Free movement of goods: too many infringements are hampering economic growth

Author :  Union européenne


Free movement of goods means essentially that Member States must in principle accept in their market products that are legally produced and/or marketed in another Member State. However, some national technical rules established by Member States undermine this principle. Though many have legitimate policy objectives, in cases where the free movement of goods is threatened, the Commission can launch infringement proceedings against the Member State concerned. Despite progress in consolidating the internal market, 146 infringement proceedings for breach of the principal of free movement of goods were still open at the end of 2004.

As Commissioner responsible for the free movement of goods, Vice-President Günter Verheugen stated: “The number of internal market infringements remains stubbornly high. This puts a break on the creation of growth and jobs the EU so badly needs. This is why it is so vital that the Commission clamps down on infringements of the single market principle.”

Among the infringement proceedings being launched in 2005 are the following examples of dubious practice:

* Treatment of garlic capsules (in exactly the same concentration as the raw product) as a medicine, attracting an onerous authorisation procedure.
* Complete absence (or inadequacy) of parallel import procedures for medicines or for pesticides, obliging products imported in parallel to undergo the same testing as the (identical or almost identical) authorised proprietary product has already gone through.
* Subjecting animal cages, road traffic equipment and other products to heavy type approval procedures based on outdated product specifications rather than straightforward functional performance tests.

In the internal market the trade in goods is ensured either through the direct application of the principle of free movement of goods (Article 28 – 30 EC) or through specific single market rules implementing this principle. The Commission is responsible for ensuring that EU law is correctly applied. It may open infringement proceedings against a Member State, if the Commission believes that EU law is infringed. If necessary, the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice.

Anyone may lodge a complaint with the Commission against a Member state about any state measure or administrative practice. However, the Commission’s services may decide whether or not further action should be taken on a complaint. When the Commission decides to pursue a complaint, the Commission allows the Member State to present its views regarding the facts stated in the complaint, through the letter of formal notice.

The reasoned opinion expresses the Commission’s view that an infringement exists and asks the Member state to remove it within the stated time limit. If no reply to the reasoned opinion is received or if the reply is unsatisfactory, the Commission has the possibility to refer the case to the Court of Justice.

Finally, it should be underlined that any finding by the Court of Justice obliges the Member state to comply with EU law.
As guardian of the EU Treaty, the Commission is also monitoring a substantial body of national legislation affecting the internal market. In 2004, 557 notifications of new draft national rules were received by the Commission under Directive 98/34/EC (provision of information in the field of technical standards and regulations


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