Strengthening the European Single Market and its industrial base is one of the priorities of the Juncker Commission. The Construction Products Regulation (CPR, Regulation (EU) No 305/2011), which has only been fully applied since July 2013, is at the very core of the single market for construction products and the most important regulation for manufacturers.
Only regulatory certainty in a well-functioning European Single Market enables them to provide their high-quality products at reasonable prices on the European market and to contribute to affordable housing.
Even small-and-medium-sized manufacturers of construction chemical products have to operate in a European dimension. That is why, barrier-free cross-border trade within the single market is so essential.
In a recent survey of Deutsche Bauchemie, all responding companies declared an annual export share in their annual turnover 2016 of more than 10%. Over 60% of the manufacturers had an export share of more than 30% and over one-third declared an export share of more than 50%. 1
As a contribution to the debate on the added-value of a European Single Market for construction products, it has to be stressed that the same construction products are often manufactured at different sites in Europe. A harmonised approach towards testing and bringing construction products on the market reduces the development and manufacturing costs even for products that do not cross borders.
The discussions on the ECJ ruling C-100/13 and other recent rulings are important for the promotion of a common understanding of the existing legal framework and for improving the CPR implementation.
Whereas Member States are responsible for safety, health, environmental and energy requirements applicable to construction works, it is up to the EU to provide the legal framework for the European single market for construction products. Respecting this division of power the CPR-focus on the marketing conditions of products and on the promotion of a common technical language was a complex political compromise.
The ongoing stakeholder dialogue has shown that there are still different views on basic concepts:
For instance, there is an ongoing discussion on the extent of the harmonised sphere: The Commission has come to the conclusion that harmonised standards cover all essential characteristics and are exhaustive. Several Member States are of the opinion that the harmonised sphere can be derived from harmonised standards and harmonised standards do not cover per se all essential characteristics. Therefore, it would be possible for Member States to regulate the way the performance of construction products is expressed in relation to those essential characteristics that are not covered by the harmonised standard.
From our point of view, the common goal should be to constantly extend the harmonised sphere by establishing a large set of harmonised standards in order to improve the European Single Market for the benefit of all Europeans. Considering the efforts made and costs borne by all stakeholders (in particular the manufacturers and the product-users) in adjusting to the CPR-system¸ all parties have the obligation to reach a common understanding of the basic concepts of the CPR and focus on improving the implementation of the existing system:
The backlog of non-cited standards (e.g. EN 1504-5) is creating unacceptable problems for the sector. Deutsche Bauchemie highly supports action 5 of the Joint Initiative on Standardisation and the Commission’s action plan to decrease the stock of non-cited harmonised standards.
Clarifying the role of the actors involved and exploring the use of a simplified procedure for amending existing standardisation mandates are important steps to tackle the existing implementation challenges. Enhancing the process of introducing new classes and threshold levels into harmonised standards and collaborative efforts to ensure their timely revision and citation is the right way forward.
CEN-consultants (New Approach Consultants) and the Commission staff will play a decisive role in realising the solutions found. The responsible Commission units have to be provided with additional resources. Moreover, all stakeholders involved in the standardisation process have to receive guidance and to be trained on the formal procedures.
With common efforts these problems could be overcome without changing the legal framework and questioning our common market that is one of the core assets of the European Union.
A repeal (Option III) or a fundamental CPR revision (Options II.B or II.C) would lead to new trade barriers and harm the construction sector (Option III).
Proposing amendments to the CPR text (Option II.A) would restart a complex political and legislative process with unknown consequences for other parts of the CPR and the single market for construction products. It has to be kept in mind that even small changes to the CPR text could translate into high adjustment and implementation costs for the construction sector and harm the goal of providing affordable housing for all Europeans.
Therefore, instead of calling the current legal framework into question and launching a time-consuming and complex legislative process that might even fail to provide a clearer legal framework, the work should first focus on the clarification of the current legal situation and an improved implementation.
If the Commission should decide to propose a change to the CPR, this legislative proposal should only focus on the challenges mentioned in the Commission implementation report (COM (2016) 445) and thereby keep the adaption costs for the sector as low as possible (Option II.A). In that case, the substantial overlaps between the information required in the Declaration of Performance and in the CE marking, which generates additional administrative and financial burden, should be tackled by changing Article 9(2). But it has to be pointed out, that the Commission implementation report suggests a non-legislative solution: A flexible – but coherent – interpretation of this article could lead to a burden relief.
We all should strive – within the existing framework – for the commonly agreed goal of a broad harmonised sphere.
Deutsche Bauchemie e.V.
Frankfurt/Brussels, November 2017
1October 2017- Deutsche Bauchemie: internal member survey: 27 responding companies