Global technical harmonisation of vehicles
The worldwide technical harmonisation of vehicles is governed by two agreements to which the European Union is a party. These agreements aim to establish rules at global level to ensure high levels of safety, environmental protection, energy efficiency and protection against theft.
Council Decision 97/836/EC of 27 November 1997 with a view to accession by the European Community to the Agreement of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe concerning the adoption of uniform technical prescriptions for wheeled vehicles, equipment and parts which can be fitted to and/or be used on wheeled vehicles and the conditions for reciprocal recognition of approvals granted on the basis of these prescriptions ('Revised 1958 Agreement') [Official Journal L 346, 17.12.1997].
Council Decision 2000/125/EC of 31 January 2000 concerning the conclusion of the Agreement concerning the establishing of global technical regulations for wheeled vehicles, equipment and parts which can be fitted and/or be used on wheeled vehicles ('Parallel Agreement') [Official Journal L 035, 10.02.2000].
In order to further the mutual recognition of technical provisions and thus reduce barriers to free trade, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) was the forum for the preparation of an agreement on the technical harmonisation of vehicles, known as the "1958 Agreement". The European Community became a contracting party to this agreement on 24 March 1998.
The Community also played an active part in negotiating a second international agreement, known as the "parallel agreement" of 1998 , which entered into force on 25 August 2000. This agreement has the special feature that it encompasses certain countries that cannot accept the principles of mutual recognition in the 1958 agreement.
The purpose of the two agreements is to create harmonised technical regulations regarding safety, protection of the environment, energy consumption and protection against theft. The same working parties and the same means of action are used for both agreements. The draft technical regulations drawn up by the working parties must be the subject of a vote in the decision-making body that administers the two agreements.
The conclusion of these agreements follows the objectives of the common commercial policy: they contribute to eliminating the existing technical barriers to trade in vehicles and vehicle equipment and parts and preventing the appearance of new barriers. The involvement of the Community allows the harmonisation work already undertaken to be maintained and facilitates access to third-country markets. The Community's accession to these agreements also allows the creation of a specific institutional framework for arranging cooperation between the contracting parties.
The 1958 Agreement
Under the 1958 Agreement, a contracting party that has adopted a UNECE regulation is entitled to grant type approvals for the vehicles, vehicle equipment and parts covered by that regulation. It is also required to accept the type approvals granted by any other contracting party that has adopted the same regulation. To date more than 120 regulations have been drawn up under this agreement.
The 1958 Agreement has 47 contracting parties. Under the terms of the agreement, new regulations and amendments to regulations in force are adopted if they receive two thirds of the votes cast by the contracting parties present. A new regulation comes into force for all contracting parties that have not notified their disagreement within six months of notification, unless more than a third of the contracting parties enter objections, in which case the regulation does not come into force.
Mutual recognition of type approvals between the contracting parties that apply the regulations has facilitated trade in vehicles throughout Europe.
The "parallel" 1998 Agreement
Unlike the 1958 Agreement, the parallel agreement does not contain any provisions on the mutual recognition of type approvals, which allows countries unwilling to assume the obligations inherent in mutual recognition to play a concrete part in drawing up global technical regulations.
For the preparation of new global technical regulations, the agreement provides for two different approaches. The first consists in harmonising existing regulations or standards, while the second involves drawing up new global technical regulations where there have not previously been any.
The agreement provides for existing regulations of the contracting parties that could be harmonised to be listed in a Compendium of candidate global technical regulations in order to make it easier to transform them into global regulations. A regulation is added to the compendium if it is supported by at least one third of the votes cast by the contracting parties present, including a vote of the European Community, Japan or the United States.
The inclusion of a global technical regulation in the Global Registry must be adopted by a consensus vote of the contracting parties present and voting. If one of the contracting parties votes against a recommended global technical regulation, it will therefore not be included. Global technical regulations are entered into a Global Registry, which acts as a depositary of the technical regulations that are intended to be adopted subsequently by countries throughout the world.
The fact that a global technical regulation has been established does not oblige the contracting parties to give it legal force. On the other hand, the contracting parties must notify their decision on whether to adopt a global technical regulation and the effective date from which it will apply. Furthermore, every contracting party that votes in favour of the establishment of a technical regulation is required to submit the regulation to the process it uses to give such regulations legal force.
The Commission carries out all the necessary procedures on behalf of the Community, including:
- the adoption and notification of global technical regulations;
- participation in resolving disputes;
- amending the agreement.