Article | Last updated: 25/03/2021
According to the EU principle of mutual recognition, all products that are lawfully marketed in one EEA Member State may also be sold in all the other Member States without having to be harmonized with national technical regulations. The principle of mutual recognition ensures market access for products that are not subject to EU harmonisation.
The principle of mutual recognition ensures market access for products that are not subject to EU harmonisation. Find information on when and how this applies.
When and how the principle of mutual recognition applies
The mutual recognition principle ensures market access for goods that are not, or are only partly subject to EU harmonisation legislation. It guarantees that any good lawfully sold in one EEA State can be sold in another. As a starting point this applies even if the good does not comply with the technical rules of the other Member State. There may be some exceptions where public safety, health or the environment are concerned.
It follows from the principle that a product which complies with the requirements in one EEA State where it is legally marketed, can be marketed in any other EEA state. EEA states can only make exceptions from this principle in administrative decisions, based on justified and proportionate national technical rules, to prohibit, modify or withdraw that specific product from the market.
A Member State's refusal of mutual recognition must be justified and strictly necessary for the protection of legitimate overriding reasons in the public interest. Such interests may be public safety, health or the environment. In that case, the Member State of destination must demonstrate that the measures is the least trade-restrictive able to achieve the relevant overriding reason in the public interest.
The principle follows from the EEA agreement as well as relevant case law. To make the principle of mutual recognition fully operational, the European Parliament and the Council have adopted the new Regulation (EU) 2019/515 on mutual recognition. See further below.
A range of legal remedies may be available in case of a dispute regarding mutual recognition of goods.
What if the product is subject to EEA Harmonisation?
Where product requirements are harmonised throughout the EEA, the principle of mutual recognition does not apply. A product must comply with the harmonised requirements before it is marketed in an EEA State.
Find an overview of product requirements in general on firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to obtain mutual recognition
The starting point is that a product that is lawfully marketed in one EEA state may be marketed in all the other EEA states and complying with the requirements in one EEA state is thus sufficient. However, some national requirements may, as exceptions from the principle of mutual recognition, be justified by overriding reasons in the public interest. EEA states that have such national requirements in place may require that you comply with national assessment procedures if a competent national authority wants to assess your product's compatibility with national requirements. You may make the goods available on the market during the assessment procedure, unless the national authority has made a temporary suspension of the market access and duly notified you about the suspension.
If you are in doubt about national technical rules, ask the Product Contact Points in the respective EEA State. Find a link to the list of every Product Contact Point at the bottom of the page.
Submit a voluntary declaration as evidence
To ease the process, you may choose to fill out a voluntary mutual recognition declaration and make it available to the authorities, for example by uploading it on your webpage. When this declaration is filled out correctly (as showed in the annex of Regulation (EU) 2019/515), the authority cannot require more information during the assessment procedure about whether the product has been legally marketed in another Member State. If the economic operator does not use the declaration, the authority can ask for the necessary information.
As the declaration shall follow the specific structure showed in the annex of Regulation (EU) 2019/515, we recommend that the form is used. We recommend filling it out in English, but it may be filled out in another official EU language. Further information is provided by the European Commision.
Raise issues through SOLVIT
If you encounter issues with the process, try using the problem-solving procedure in SOLVIT to find a solution.
The regulation on mutual recognition
Regulation 2019/515 on mutual recognition defines the rights and obligations of national authorities that intend to make a decision that may restrict certain non-harmonised products' free movement in one Member State, when the products have already been lawfully marketed in other Member States. In particular, the regulation:
- lays down the rules and procedures to be followed by the national competent authorities in assessment of goods, including a minimum deadline, and requirements for the reasons in an administrative decision;
- makes clear that economic operators may make the product available on the market during the assessment procedure, unless the national authority has made a temporary suspension of the market access and notified the economic operator;
- provides that economic operators may evidence the lawful marketing of a product in another member state in a voluntary declaration of mutual recognition. Read further on ec. europa.eu.
- strengthens the access to remedy an unlawful administrative decision through the problem-solving procedure in SOLVIT; and
- provides for the establishment of Product Contact Points in all ember States.
Guidance documents on mutual recognition
If you want to know more, we recommend that you start by reading the guidance document for the application of the Mutual Recognition Regulation (EU) 2019/515.
- Further guidance in applying the principle in practice is available in the training material for authorities which exemplifies the application of the principle of mutual recognition to food supplements.
- You can also learn more about the scope of application by reading the guidance document on the concept of ‘lawfully marketed’, which has been continued from the old regulation (EU) 764/2008.
More information on the guidance documents can be obtained from the Commission's DG GROW, Mutual Recognition: email@example.com
Further, Norwegian Authorities have developed guidelines for the application of the former Regulation (EC) 764/2008 on Mutual recognition:
Guidelines for the application of the former Regulation 764/2008 on Mutual recognition.
Remedies in case of a dispute regarding goods
A range of legal remedies may be available in case of a dispute regarding mutual recognition of goods. These include informal resolution though SOLVIT and formal recourse within the administration as well in the courts.
In case of dispute between a Norwegian authority and an economic operator, following an administrative decision by the authority, the economic operator will have some or all of the following remedies available:
Try to solve the case through SOLVIT
SOLVIT is an online problemsolving network, where all EU/EEA Member States work together to solve, without initiating legal proceedings, problems caused by the misapplication of EU/EEA law by public authorities. There exists a SOLVIT centre in every EU/EEA Member State. Using the SOLVIT network is free of charge.
- If you encounter barriers to the free movement of goods in the EU, you may try to solve the issues through the SOLVIT-network.
- If you want to complain about an administrative decision on mutual recognition specifically, a special SOLVIT-procedure is set in place, where the Commission is committed to give an opinion within 45 days if the SOLVIT centres can’t agree on the solution. This follows from the new regulation on mutual recognition (EU) 2019/515.
The relevant authority will advise you about the available adminsistrative appeal procedures. Genereally appeals are sent to the authority that has made the decition the appeal seeks to change. The authority will forward the appeal to the authority that handles the appeal.
For more information on the Norwegian rules for public administration see an unofficial English translations of the Public Administration Act (pdf) (legal effect can solely be given to the original Norwegian legal texts)