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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Technical harmonisation

Technical harmonisation of motor vehicles allows car manufacturers to access as large of a market as possible. Harmonisation in the EU is based on the Whole Vehicle Type-Approval System (EU WVTA) and enables manufacturers to benefit from the EU Single Market. Worldwide technical harmonisation under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) offers easy access to global markets. The European Commission is responsible for EU legislation on motor vehicles, providing rules for safety and environmental protection, as well as the conditions under which vehicles can be put on the EU market.

What the Commission does

  • harmonisation process - through its active participation in the harmonisation process, the EU ensures coherence between its regulatory activities and those of UNECE;
  • bilateral contacts - the Commission maintains bilateral contacts with authorities in China, Japan, South Korea, and the USA to seek common solutions to regulatory issues.

The EU Whole Vehicle Type-Approval System (WVTA)

Technical harmonisation in the EU is based on the Whole Vehicle Type-Approval System (WVTA). Under the WVTA, a manufacturer can obtain certification for a vehicle type in one EU country and then market it EU-wide without the need for further tests. This system significantly contributes to the completion of single market in automotive products. More on EU technical harmonisation.

The UNECE regulations

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) legislation aims to establish a global market for vehicles while ensuring a high level of environmental protection and safety. Common technical requirements, like those under the UNECE, reduce development costs and prevent the duplication of administrative procedures. They are also an important tool to avoid technical barriers to the trade of automotive products. More on international technical harmonisation.

Fitness check

The effectiveness of the legal framework for the type-approval of automotive products was screened in 2013 through a fitness check. This check examined:

  • barriers to meeting the simplification and smart regulation objectives;
  • issues that could improve compliance and enforcement;
  • coherence of the legislation in place.

The fitness check confirmed that the main goals of harmonisation, effective operation of the internal market, and fair competition have been achieved. The legislation has:

  • largely eliminated national differences in relation to type-approval;
  • played a positive role in promoting access to global markets through the use of UNECE Regulations.

The main shortcoming identified by the fitness check was that non-compliant and unsafe automotive products were still encountered on the internal market. The major overhaul of the EU type-approval framework for motor vehicles addressed this and was adopted on 30 May 2018.