October 26, 2011
What have the Internal Market and the London riots got in common?
There are many examples of lack of law enforcement – the most recent shocking events around the city of London ‘riots’ saw everyday citizens turn to breaking the law, because they could. Of course it is illegal to loot – the law says so – however, the quantity of people turning to breaking the law on that occasion outweighed the resources available to prevent it from happening.
So what has this got to do with the Internal Market and in particular, engineering?
With more than half of its intra-European trade covered by EU legislation, the Internal Market of goods can be regarded as largely advanced. It has a regulatory framework aimed at fostering technical harmonisation and removing national regulatory barriers. But is the Internal Market for engineering effective? To be effective, the regulatory framework needs to be respected and enforced. Market surveillance plays a crucial role ensuring that products circulating on the market comply with regulatory requirements.
So, is the Internal Market, an existing or a respected set of rules and requirements?
Firstly, market surveillance creates and safeguards the necessary trust in the Internal Market – trust from customers in the products they buy and use and equally trust from manufacturers in the legal framework in which they are competing. Secondly, market surveillance is a pillar of the New Legislative Framework, which facilitates the functioning of the internal market for goods and strengthens/modernises the conditions for placing a wide range of industrial products on the EU market. (The Monti report  highlights this). Finally, contrary to the policies of many other countries/regions , the EU has adopted a general policy of openness towards third countries’ competitors, with market surveillance ensuring (on paper at least), a level-playing field.
All too often, the Internal Market is associated with consumer goods. But it is ‘Capital Goods’ that are really bearing the brunt of what is essentially a lack of market surveillance. Actual market surveillance actions are also rather more ‘re’active (ie following an accident) than ‘pro’active. There must be a duty of care for employees whom engage with capital goods whilst following their profession. Yet the employers have also been tricked. The flood of ‘counterfeit’ goods or those that do not conform to existing legislation is putting workers consumers and businesses in danger. This is unacceptable.
How can the EU therefore claim the internal market is complete and how has such a situation arisen?
Primarily, a lack of resources prevents a thorough job being done in the member states which are competent in this area. In addition, the lack of pan-European coordination tends to exacerbate the situation and allows criminal elements to find and easily explore the loopholes. A secondary negative connotation is that market surveillance is not really ‘sexy’ enough to be regarded as ‘serious’ by politicians.
What can be done?
A targeted & coordinated approach to tackle the issue is required – this will require some political jostling in many member states in order to overcome lack of resources. Indeed Orgalime, the European engineering industries association, has voiced for a long time now for many actions that could carried out to make market surveillance more effective in the EU. Among the actions, there should be a better co-ordination of EU market surveillance authorities, a better co-ordination with other authorities involved (custom) and a better use of existing industry platform to identify those products which do not meet the EU legislation requirement. If market surveillance continues to be paid lip service, the internal market legislation will be just an empty shell and people (family, friend, neighbour) will get hurt.
 Monti Report http://ec.europa.eu/bepa/pdf/monti_report_final_10_05_2010_en.pdf