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Brussels, 24 November 2010

Free movement of goods: Commission asks Lithuania to eliminate obstacles to the registration of right-hand vehicles

The European Commission has decided to request Lithuania to eliminate obstacles to the registration of right-hand drive vehicles in Lithuania. Lithuanian legislation requires that the steering wheel is placed on the left-hand side of the vehicle. New cars, as well as used cars, with right-hand drive cannot currently be registered in Lithuania. The Commission considers that these registration restrictions constitute a disproportionate barrier to the import of right hand drive vehicles into Lithuania from other EU Member States. The request takes the form of a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures. If Lithuania does not inform the Commission within two months of measures taken to ensure full compliance with its obligations under EU law, the Commission may decide to refer Lithuania to the EU's Court of Justice.

In the Commission's view, if a motor vehicle meets EU type-approval requirements, it can be driven safely in all Member States irrespective of whether it is left- or right-hand drive. The Commission therefore considers that a total ban on the registration of right-hand drive vehicles is disproportionate to the legitimate public policy objective of ensuring road safety and protecting of human life and health.

As far as new cars are concerned, the Commission believes that the obstacles to the registration of right-hand vehicles are contrary to Directive 70/311/EEC on type-approval of steering equipment and framework Directive 2007/46/EC on EC type-approval of motor vehicles. Regarding used cars, the Commission considers that Lithuania is breaching EU rules on the free movement of goods (Article 34 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

Through the EU's so-called type-approval system, cars placed on the European market have to meet specified performance standards. This type-approval ensures that products approved in one Member State can be legally sold throughout the European Union, significantly reducing testing and certification costs and related administrative procedures whilst ensuring that pan-EU requirements for the safety of motor vehicles are met. Type-approval is based on the principle that manufacturers must issue a certificate of conformity for each vehicle manufactured, attesting that it conforms to the approved type.

The Commission first notified the Lithuanian authorities of the issue by sending them a letter of formal notice on 3 November 2009.

More information on free movement in non-harmonised sectors:

More information on the Commission’s initiatives on the automotive industry:

For more information on EU infringement procedures, see MEMO/10/605

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