Brussels, 23 May 2003
Report confirms benefits of preventive dialogue with the Member States to the Internal Market and the Enterprises
A European Commission report gives a favourable assessment of the compulsory procedure under which the Member States give prior notification of draft national regulations governing goods and on-line services. This system, which is currently based on Directive 98/34/EC, has been applied to national regulations on products for nearly 20 years. It was recently extended by Directive 98/48/EC to include Information Society services, and it continues to prove its effectiveness as a tool benefiting the Internal Market and European enterprises. The report clarifies the central role which the notification procedure played between 1999 and 2001 in avoiding the creation of barriers to the free movement of goods and services.
The Commissioner responsible for enterprise policy, Erkki Liikanen, has said: "A genuine culture of dialogue and transparency has taken root between the Commission and the Member States, thanks to the procedure for the prior notification of draft regulations. The procedure creates the necessary conditions for enterprises to develop their activities beyond their national borders. In response to technological and other changes, the Member States are devising increasingly complex regulations which are liable to create obstacles to the trade in goods and to the freedom to provide on-line services. In this context, the notification procedure is an essential preventive instrument whose effectiveness has been demonstrated yet again."
Directive 98/34/EC, as amended by Directive 98/48/EC, requires the Member States to notify the Commission of all draft national technical regulations on products and of draft national regulations aimed specifically at Information Society services. Drafts notified in this way cannot be adopted at national level for three months, extendable to six months (four in the case of on-line services) if the Commission or a Member State expresses an unfavourable position, known as a "detailed opinion".
Notified drafts are generally made available in all the official languages of the Community on the European Commission website http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/tris/
The on-line publication of information keeps enterprises informed of Member States' regulatory initiatives likely to impact on their activities and means that they can, where necessary, alert their national governments or the European Commission.
Between 1999 and 2001, the Member States proposed new technical regulations on a fairly regular basis. The report notes that, during this period, the Commission received more than 1 800 notifications in various fields. In the goods sector, the most important fields were agricultural foodstuffs, telecommunications, transport and construction, while, in the services sector, they were electronic signatures, e-commerce, data protection, digital television and domain names.
Permanent dialogue between the Commission and the national authorities, and between the Member States themselves, resulted in numerous exchanges of comments (more than 1 100 on all the drafts notified between 1999 and 2001). The Commission issued a detailed opinion in over 150 cases, while the Member States did so on more than 400 occasions. Thanks to this procedure, the Member States withdrew or made appropriate amendments to their drafts in almost every case. Infringement procedures were begun in just two cases, following the adoption of texts which the Commission regarded as incompatible with Community law.
These figures illustrate the positive role of the information procedure created by the "notifications" Directive. The analysis for the period 1999-2001 confirms the importance of this procedure as an instrument of dialogue and participation, both for the Member States and for enterprises. The creation of a public-domain Internet site and the adoption of a new system of electronic communication between the Member States and Commission departments helped to bolster this new approach.
The Directive also allowed a genuine Community reflex to develop in the Member States, which now endeavour to take account of the impact which their national regulations have on the functioning of the Internal Market, starting at the drafting and consultation stages.
The Member States' efforts to adapt to rapid technological development have vindicated the decision to extend the notification procedure to Information Society services (see the Commission report of 13 February 2003 (IP/03/227) on the functioning of Directive 98/34 in the field of Information Society services). The Commission is now studying the possibility of broadening the scope of the Directive to include service sectors other than on-line activities.
The procedure also needs to be applied as broadly as possible during the countdown to enlargement. Agreements designed to provide the applicant countries with a framework for participation in the procedure in the run-up to accession are currently being drafted.
The report, which will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union, is available on the following Internet site:
This site can also be consulted for further information on the notification procedure.