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Updated: 2016-08-04 15:49

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The principle of mutual recognition

The mutual recognition principle guarantees free movement of goods and services without the need to harmonise Member States' national legislation. Goods which are lawfully produced in one Member State cannot be banned from sale in another Member State, even if they are produced according to technical or quality specifications that are different from those applied to its own products. The only exception allowed - overriding general interest such as health, consumer or environment protection - is subject to strict conditions.

The mutual recognition principle, not to be mistaken for mutual recognition agreements, is the main driver for facilitating market access in other Member States.

How should it work in practice?

To make the mutual recognition principle fully operational, the European Parliament and the Council adopted Regulation (EC) No 764/2008.

It defines the rights and obligations of, on the one hand, national authorities and, on the other, businesses wishing to sell products lawfully marketed in another Member State, when the competent authorities intend to impose restrictive measures on the product or type of product. In particular, the Regulation concentrates on the burden of proof by setting out the procedural requirements for denying mutual recognition.

The Product Contact Points and the Product List

The Regulation also reduces the risk that products will not get access to the market of the Member State of destination by establishing one or several "Product Contact Points" in each Member State (Art. 9(2)). A list with the contact details of these product contact points is made available through the European Commission's website.

Additionally, Article 12(4) of the Regulation specifies that the "Commission shall draw up, publish and regularly update an indicative and non-exhaustive list of products which are not subject to Community harmonisation legislation". This list must also accessible through a website open to economic operators and the Product Contact Points.