A key element of the internal market in the European Union is the free movement of people, goods, services and capital.
Such free exchange of goods and services may be impaired by "non-tariff barriers to trade", such as rules or standards which need to be met by products or processes and which vary between member states.
In order to eliminate such technical barriers to trade, the European Commission developed a concept known as "New Approach" which has since been adopted by the Council. According to this New Approach, the Directives issued by the European Union will in future set out only fundamental requirements, e.g. in terms of security, safety or functions, whereas the more detailed technical regulations will be specified, on behalf of the European Commission, by the European standardisation organisations CEN, CENELEC and ETSI by way of harmonised standards.
So far, a number of such directives have already been developed in the regulated sector for product groups such as toys, gas equipment, data transmission terminals, machines, medical equipment, non-automated scales, pressurised equipment and construction products.
With regard to sectors for which no EU directives have yet been developed ("non-regulated sector"), member states may adopt national regulations, always providing that they include no hidden non-tariff barriers to trade.
Conformity assessment system
The conformity assessment system provides, i.a., that all testing, monitoring, certifying, calibrating, verifiing and authentication bodies in Europe and their staff proceed along comparable criteria. The system was adopted in the form of a "Global Approach" by the EC Council Resolution of 21 December 1989 as an overall concept for conformity assessment. The concept applies to EU Directives as much as to the non-regulated sector.