07 Oct 2021

Tackling non-tariff and non-tax barriers in the Single Market

A strong and harmonised Single Market is key to foster the investments and innovation needed to drive the circular economy. Unfortunately, we continue to observe a growing trend of diverging national legislations and Member States going ahead of the curve on legislation that has just been adopted.

Concerns for the Single Market have been voiced by the European Parliament’s Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, in the draft report on Tackling non-tariff and non-tax barriers in the Single Market. The draft report, due to be adopted in the IMCO Committee in November, focuses on the importance of the Single Market. It stresses that the achievement of the objectives in the Green Deal is based on the effective functioning of the Single Market and describes the latter as a key enabler of market efficiency and innovation and a tool for modernising European economies. The report puts part of the responsibility of this growing fragmentation on overlooked non-tariff barriers that undermine the EU’s industrial strategy goals and identifies barriers to the free movements of goods and services: inconsistent implementation of EU rules, administrative burden, gold-plating and lack of harmonised standards. The draft report calls on the Commission and Member States to consistently assess whether national rules hinder the internal market and if they are necessary, proportional and justified.

EUROPEN supports the report’s emphasis on the importance to safeguard as far as possible the free movement of goods and urges for concrete action to unlock the full potential of the EU Single Market and to support intra-EU trade and economic recovery. EUROPEN also believes that insufficient compliance by Member States with the notification procedure under the TRIS Directive needs to be addressed. Member States must systematically notify their draft national legislation to the Commission and remove eventual incompatibilities with the Single Market principles. It is also crucial that the Commission duly screens, via the TRIS consultation procedure, the Single Market implications of any national measures to ensure that they do not introduce restrictions to the free movement goods, which would be disproportionate and/or could cause unfair EU market distortions.


Single Market concerns have grown in relation to recent national measures linked to packaging labelling, such as:

  • The French Triman Decree: notified through TRIS on 30 June 2020 and eventually published on 29 June 2021, the Decree mandates the inclusion of the “Triman” symbol in the labelling of any product placed on the market for household use and subject to the principles of EPR, excluding household glass drinks packaging. By forcing economic operators to affix the Triman symbol to their products, the instructions or the packaging, the measure is imposing different labelling requirements on products from other Member States, which entails additional packaging costs and restricts the marketing of those products.
  • The Italian Decree 116/2020: the Decree, which has not been notified to the European Commission through TRIS, made it mandatory, from 26 September 2020, 1) to provide consumers with information about the final destinations of the packaging ‘appropriately in accordance with the procedures laid down in the applicable UNI technical standards’, and 2) to label all packaging with the material identification markings (alphanumerical code). Sorting instructions are not harmonised across the EU, such obligations at national level create a barrier to the free movement of goods. The requirements are for the moment suspended until the end of the year.
  • The Portuguese draft Decree-Law (fifth amendment) amending Decree-Law No 152-D/2017, if adopted, would set an obligation to use the alphanumerical codes of Decision 97/129/EC and to include sorting instructions, in particular the colour of the recycling bin. The text also puts forward a ban of the “Tidy man” logo (below) on recyclable packaging. Portugal notified the European Commission of its draft Decree through the TRIS notification system on 23 February 2021, it is for the moment unclear if Portugal will go ahead and adopt the draft Decree, and in what form. These requirements would require specific packaging for the Portuguese market, therefore creating a barrier to the free movement of goods. Sorting instructions and colour codes of bins are not harmonised across the EU, this information could be confusing for consumers in other Member States.


Draft IMCO report on tackling non-tariff and non-tax barriers in the single market:

  • October 2021: Compromised amendments to be considered.
  • 8 November 2021: The report should be adopted in the IMCO Committee on 8 November and is expected to go to Plenary in December.