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In 2000 the European Union launched the Lisbon Strategy - an ambitious agenda for reform whose aim was to make the EU the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. At its half-way mark, in 2005, the Commission proposed a renewed approach to this strategy focusing on growth and jobs. The Commission identified improving the quality of European and national regulation to ensure the smooth functioning of the internal market as a key challenge in this respect.

One of the most dificult and important tasks in the management of the internal market is preventing the adoption of national technical regulations and standards which create new barriers to trade. Twenty years after its entry into force the Notification Directive (Directive 83/189/EEC, codified by Directive 98/34/EC) has proved to be a fundamental internal market instrument.

The mechanism set up by the original Directive 83/189/EEC is based on the agreement of the Member States to inform and consult each other and the Commission before they adopt technical regulations and to modify their drafts if necessary. By means of transparency and the exchange of information at the legislative proposal stage, the Member States have agreed to prevent the emergence of new obstacles to the single market.

A pre-adoption screening procedure for all draft technical regulations and standards relating to products was therefore established and gradually expanded. The Commission, the Member States, industry and individuals thus have an open window upon technical activities, which enables them to eliminate at source any barriers to the free movement of goods.

Throughout the past 20 years, the scope of the Directive has been gradually broadened to cover all industrial, agricultural and fishery products. Directive 98/48/EC extended the system to include Information Society services since a need was felt for a mechanism for supervising this new and rapidly evolving field, while leaving economic operators and the Member States alike as much freedom as possible to prevent obstacles to technological developments in this sector.

This procedure contributes to the application of the subsidiarity principle, both through enabling improvements to be made to national legislation and identifying areas where harmonisation is really necessary. Thus, the decision-making process can take place at the most appropriate level enabling decentralisation which safeguards the diversity of political, cultural and regional traditions. The Directive has provided an insight into national regulatory initiatives, has led to the creation of a genuine discussion forum, clearing the way for joint action to strengthen the internal market and has recently contributed to the establishment of the enlarged internal market of 25 Member States.

Furthermore, this mechanism is a tool of better regulation since it allows the difierent competent authorities, both at Community and national levels, to prevent problems ex ante thus avoiding costly and controversial infringement proceedings which can only be launched ex post. The exchange and gathering of information is also an efiective way of ensuring that national best practices become known and are used as a model for other regulatory initiatives.

Following a 2002 Commission Report which analysed barriers to the freedom to provide services and the freedom of establishment in the Internal Market1, the Commission’s services are working on the possible extension of Directive 98/34 to cover services other than Information Society services.

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Industry, as well as the Commission and the Member States, is involved in the notification procedure. Besides being able to examine legislation in their own countries, enterprises in the Member States have the opportunity of examining legislation proposed by countries to which they export or wish to export or to which they provide or envisage to provide Information Society services. As a consequence, they can plan to adapt their products or services to the new requirements; they can also identify protectionist elements in the drafts and take action to have them eliminated.

In order to use the system to full advantage, industry must therefore know how it works and how to access the notified texts. This may be done by means of a visit to our public database at the following address: enterprise/tris.

This booklet is one of a number of Commission initiatives designed to bring Community law closer to those who use it. My hope is that its publication will help to enhance the exchange of information, dialogue and cooperation which has constituted a new community culture.

Sabine Lecrenier

Head of Unit

Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry

[1] COM(2002) 441 final.

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