What's New in the EU: Less red tape for construction products

A new proposal aims to remove regulatory and technical obstacles to the free circulation of construction products in the European Economic Area.

The regulatory framework in which enterprises work is a key factor for competitiveness, growth and employment. Ensuring that the regulatory environment is kept simple and of high quality is said to be an essential objective of the enterprise policy of the European Union. In this framework, and in order to improve the internal market for construction products, the European Commission proposed this week to replace the Construction Product Directive (89/106/EEC). The new proposal aims to remove all remaining regulatory and technical obstacles to the free circulation of construction products in the European Economic Area. With 15 percent of European Union manufacturing added value, but only 5% of intra-community trade, the construction sector is less open than other sectors of manufactured goods. There are more than 40 certified construction products, including doors, thermal insulating products, cement, roofing and bricks. The proposal aims at introducing a "common technical language" for expressing the performance of all these products, thus simplifying and clarifying the present situation. A clarification of procedures leading to CE marking (certification and testing of products for the European market) is introduced as well, to reduce costs for manufacturers, while ensuring that the declaration of performance accompanying the product is accurate and reliable. Specific measures are also introduced to make life easier for micro-enterprises. The proposal could facilitate free movement of goods by creating a common technical language for manufacturers to express the performances/characteristics of the products they place on the European market. This common technical language, mainly harmonized standards and European Technical Assessments replace the corresponding national technical specifications and increase market transparency to the benefit of users, such as designers, builders, contractors and other actors. In particular, architects should find it easier to obtain reliable information about the performance of the products they intend to use, facilitating their responsibility to ensure the safety of the construction works as required by respective national rules. Public administrations of Member States will also be able to make it easier for them to carry out their various tasks related to construction. The stated aim of the proposal is to ensure reliable and accurate information on the performance of construction products by increasing the credibility of standards, but also by introducing new and stricter criteria for notified bodies and by strengthening market surveillance. The proposal contains precise rules for determining the obligations of all economic operators. Notably, the situations when a manufacturer shall make a declaration of performance have been clearly defined. This is hoped to offer manufacturers a choice of declaring the performance of their products beyond the minimum requirements in place. The use and the specific meaning of CE marking for construction products will be determined clearly. This marking attests that the information accompanying the product has been obtained in accordance with the proposed regulation and therefore must be considered accurate and reliable. In some specific situations, the procedures leading to CE marking will be simplified to significantly reduce the costs incurred to manufacturers. In particular, this applies to micro-enterprises (less than 10-member staffs) and for individual products, when significant safety concerns are not implied. For the same purpose, also the use of stable previous test results or other existing data on the products will be allowed, instead of demanding the repeated testing of such products. For innovative products, simplified and streamlined procedures will be introduced as well. The standardization processes under the proposed regulation could also contribute to the new developments toward sustainable industrial policy by providing harmonized tools for its implementation; for example, in the areas of energy efficiency or sustainable construction. The European Commission said the proposal was to be seen as complementary to other EU actions to enhance sustainable development. The construction sector as a whole represents more than 10% of the GDP within the EU. Being the biggest industrial employer in Europe, it involves more than 15 million employees and 2.7 million enterprises. Within this, construction products account for more than 5 million employees and contribute more than 3% of the EU's GDP. [email protected] Ari Syrquin is the head of GSCB Law Firm's International Department.