Germany must remove trade barriers

By Helen Wright22 June 2011

The European Commission has told Germany to remove additional certification requirements that it imposes on construction products sold in its country, claiming that it is in breach of EU Single Market rules.

The Commission said that German authorities often demand additional approvals and certifications, such as the German Ü mark (Ü-Zeichen), for construction products despite the fact that they have already been approved for the market under the Europe-wide CE marking system.

A CE mark is a mandatory conformance certificate for many products placed on the market in the European Economic Area. For construction products, these rules aim to remove technical barriers to trade by providing standard criteria for assessing their performance in relation to their essential characteristics.

"Construction products with the CE marking from other Member States are often denied access to the German market. In addition, the German legislation in question is not updated frequently enough to provide manufacturers with sufficient legal certainty in relation to the applicable requirements for construction products," the Commission said.

The Commission has begun EU infringement procedures against German authorities with the dispatch of a "reasoned opinion" requesting that Germany change its current rules and practices.

Second request

However, this is the second time that the Commission has asked Germany to remove its trade barriers for construction products. In 2007, the EU introduced harmonised product standards which aimed to ensure that the regulatory needs of all Member States were met under the CE certification, avoiding situations where individual countries could demand that a product from another country had to fulfil additional requirements.

But Germany continued to impose some additional requirements in relation to construction products, and in October 2008, the European Commission sent its first "reasoned opinion" requesting that Germany amend its practices and legislation.

"However, Germany continues to fail to do so," the Commission said, adding that its second request "indicates clearly why Germany has to amend its legislation and practices concerning harmonised standards for construction products".

The German Ministry for Traffic, Buildings & Development has two months to respond to the second reasoned opinion. After that, the European Commission could refer the case to the European Court of Justice if the Member State still does not comply with EU law. The European Court of Justice could, in turn, impose financial penalties for the infringement.

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