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      The Commission recently approved a communication to the European
      Parliament and the Council on a new approach to technical
      Eighteen year's exprerience has shown that the delays and
      difficulties encountered derive to a large extent from the
      system of harmonization by means of detailed technical
      The Commission proposes a new approach consisting in the laying
      down in directives of criteria of safety and the protecxtion of
      the public interest, such as the protection of health, the
      consumer and the environment (in the home, at the place of work,
      etc...), to which products must conform, while entrusting to
      European standards - and, if necessary, national standards - the
      definition of technical characteristics of products.  The
      Commission sets out priority sectors in which this new approach
      could be applied and presents the principles and main elements
      on which the content of the directives should be based.  This
      communication will be on the agenda of the Interior Market
      Council on 11 February next.
      Technical harmonization : the results of 17 year's work
      Technical harmonization work has led to significant results in
      certain areas, such as motor vehicles, metrology and electrical
      appliances.  There are currently 177 relevant Council
      directives, adapted by 56 Commission directives, but it must be
      acknowledged that :
      - faced with the multiplicity of technical regulations and
      standards in all countries, the results in certain industrial
      fields are still almost negligible;
      - technology is now developing too fast to hold out any hope
      that harmonization procedurest and the decision-making process
      of the Council will ever be able to achieve an objective which
      seems destined to become increasingly remote rather than
      nearer to attainment;
      - the method of harmonization all too often proves inadequate
      for the realization of a true internal market, whose benefits
      must be enjoyed by all sectors of the economy : industry,
      workers, users and consumers.
      (1) COM(85)19
                                    - 2 -
      The new approach : outlin for a directive
      In the light of favourable experience the Commission considers
      that legislative work should gradually be oriented towards
      formulae laying down safety objectives to which products must
      conform and that legislation should make reference to standards
      - preferably European but national if necessary - as regards the
      technical characteristics of products.
      The plan rests on the following four fundamental principles :
      - harmonization of legislation is limited to the adoption of the
      essential safety requirements (or other requirements in the
      public interest) to which all products placed on the market
      must conform in order to benefit from freedom of movement
      within the Community.
      - the competent industrial standardization bodies will be
      allotted the task of drawing up, with due regard to
      technological developments, of the technical specifications
      that industry needs in order to produce and market products
      conforming to the essential requirements laid down by the
      -  the technical specifications will in no way be mandatory but
      will retain the status of voluntary standards;
      - at the same time however, governments are obliged to
      recognise products manufactured in accordance with the
      harmonized standards (or, provisionally, national standards)
      as conforming to the "essential requirements" laid down by the
      relevant directive -which means that the manufacturer may opt
      to produce goods which do not conform to the stadard, though
      in that case the onus of proof that his products conform to
      the essential requirements of the directive is on him).
      Where a national standard is inadequate, the Commission, with
      the assistance of a standing committee of national experts, may
      refuse to extend its validity for the Community as a whole.
      The Commission will make a start as soon as possible on the
      necessary work for the implementation of this approach.  The
      studies will relate to the following areas.
      - Mechanical engineering
        Harmonization has already begun in certain fields, namely
      pressure vessels, gas applicances, construction plant and
      equipment, hoisting and lifting gear; in other fields, such as
      machine tools, there is no directive
      - Construction products   Priority area : behaviour in fire of
      construction materials    and components.
      - Electrical appliances

In the fields not covered by existing directives.



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