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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

International technical harmonisation

The worldwide technical harmonisation of vehicles is governed by two international agreements – the 1958 Agreement and the 1998 parallel Agreement. These agreements establish harmonised requirements at global level to ensure high levels of safety, environmental protection, energy efficiency, and theft protection. Both agreements help eliminate existing technical barriers to trade and prevent the creation of new ones. The involvement of the EU enables easy access to non-EU markets for manufacturers.

1958 agreement

The 1958 agreement on the technical harmonisation of vehicles was introduced by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). The agreement provides the legal and administrative context for establishing international UN regulations with uniform

  • performance oriented test provisions
  • administrative procedures for granting type approvals
  • conformity of production
  • mutual recognition of the type approvals granted by contracting parties

The EU became a contracting party to this agreement on 24 March 1998. The 1958 Agreement currently has 64 contracting parties and 164 UN Regulations annexed to it.

In recent years, the European Union decided to replace as many EU directives as possible with the 1958 agreement UN regulations and to make direct reference to these UN regulations in EU legislation. On 14 September 2017, revision 3 of the 1958 agreement entered into force.

The UN regulations, which are applicable under EU law, must be translated into all official EU languages and published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Status table of the translations (2 MB).

The 'parallel' 1998 agreement

The 1998 agreement applies in parallel to the 1958 agreement. Its purpose is to further enhance the process of international harmonisation through the development of global technical regulations (GTR). The main difference is that the parallel agreement does not provide for the mutual recognition of approvals granted on the basis of global technical regulations.

The 1998 agreement currently has 38 contracting parties and 23 UN GTRs that have been established in the UN global registry.

Council Decisions 2013/454/EU and 2013/456/EU amend the decisions governing the 2 agreements after the Lisbon treaty entered into force.

Progress report and status report

The Commission issues an annual working paper on major automotive-related regulatory developments and activities at the world forum for harmonisation of vehicle regulations. In addition, the Commission publishes an annual status report on EU accession to UNECE Regulations in vehicle approval.

Supporting information