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Basics - harmonised standards, directives and laws in the EU

What is the relationship between standards, directives and laws?

Standards puzzle

The European Union is experiencing ever closer union. This leads to increasing harmonisation of laws, regulations and provisions in engineering. Initially, the EU formulates general safety objectives via directives.These safety objectives require precise specification. The actual provision is made via standards.


EU directives do not come into effect until countries within the EU incorporate them into domestic law. In each EU country, a law or provision refers to the relevant EU directive and thus elevates it to the status of domestic law.

Standard met, requirement met – harmonised standards

Standards alone have no legal relevance. They acquire relevance only until they are published in the Official Journal of the EU or are referenced in domestic laws and provisions.. Publication of these harmonised standards triggers "presumption of conformity". Users applying the standard can therefore assume that they are acting in compliance with the law and directives. The burden of proof has therefore been reversed in the event of a claim. If a harmonised standard refers to a standard that has not been harmonised, the latter can obtain a status comparable to that of harmonisation.


Standards, directives and laws in the EU

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