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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Free movement in harmonised and non-harmonised sectors

Many products on the EU market are subject to harmonised rules that protect consumers, public health, and environment. Harmonised rules preclude the adoption of possibly divergent national rules and ensure the free circulation of products within the EU. Some sectors are still governed by national provisions however. The principle of free movement of goods ensures that these provisions do not lead to the creation of unjustified barriers to trade. 

Harmonised sectors

Harmonised sectors are subject to common rules across the EU. They provide a clear and predictable legal framework for businesses. If manufacturers follow these rules, they can sell their products freely in the market.

  • In the majority of sectors (e.g. electronic and electric equipment, machinery, lifts, medical devices), EU legislation is limited to essential health, safety, and environmental protection requirements. To demonstrate compliance with these requirements, manufacturers may voluntarily use standards or other technical specifications.
  • In other sectors (e.g. automotive, chemicals), legislation provides detailed requirements obliging certain types of products to have the same technical specifications.
  • The Directorate-General for Environment manages the EU harmonisation legislation that provides for the free movement of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment.

Non-harmonised sectors

Non-harmonised sectors are not subject to common EU rules and may come under the national rules. These sectors should still benefit from Treaty provisions governing free movement of goods according to Arts. 34-36 TFEU. National rules on these products are subject to a notification procedure that ensures they do not create undue barriers to trade.

To ensure the free movement of goods in non-harmonised sectors, the principal of mutual recognition, the 2015/1535 notification procedure, and the application of Arts. 34-36 TFEU are essential.

For further information you may consult the Commission’s Guidance on Articles 34-36 TFEU and the Guidance on the principle of mutual recognition.