Free movement of goods

One of the prerequisites for the functioning of the European Union Products is the fact that any products, placed lawfully to the market in one of the member states, can be freely sold and used in all the other member states.

The principle for the free movement of goods in the internal market of the European Union involves the removal of all the trade barriers between the member states. This also includes tariff-based restrictions or different custom duties and restrictions on quantities imported or exported.

As a general rule, goods that have once been lawfully placed in the internal market of the European Union can move freely in the market.

Free movement of goods

Mutual recognition of claims

The principle for mutual recognition is the corner stone to the free movement of goods within the European Unions.

According to this principles, the European Union member states must allow products or services that are lawfully marketed in another member states to enter their respective market, even though the requirements established for such products and services are different in the destination country concerned.

In the European Commission, the General Directorate for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs is the body involved in mutual recognition in the areas that have not been harmonised.

Mutual recognition extends to the products that are:

  • In free circulation in another member state
  • Produced in the European Economic Area (the EU and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway)

The following products are excluded:

  • Fully harmonised under the European Union law
  • Products imported from third countries that have not been in free circulation in another member state

Exemptions, if justified for reasons specified below, are allowed:

  • Considering moral, public order or security aspects
  • To protect the life and health of people, animals or plants
  • To protect national wealth of artistic, historical or archaeological value or industrial and trade property

Notification of technical standards

Market participants and the member states must be notified of devised barriers to trade.

The European Commission, the member states and entrepreneurs can then respond better to planned standards, which once established, may interfere with the interests of the member states for the purposes of free movement of goods.

Anyone can join the European Commission’s mailing list. The members of such a list will be sent summaries of new draft acts in their areas of interests. The European Union process for the notification of new technical requirements is laid down with directive 98/34/EC.

In Estonia, the functions of the notifying authority are fulfilled by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications; those interested in notification can contact the el.teavitamine [at] e-mail address to obtain information. Estonian entrepreneurs may also contact the contact points of the other member states to obtain the required information.

The WTO notification requirement

When a technical standard specified in a draft act has considerable influence on international trade, the notification procedure, established by the World Trade Organisation in its agreement on technical barriers to trade, must also be observed. The member state concerned will then send a notification to the WTO; the following correspondence will take place via the European Commission.


Last updated: 17 September 2019