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‘The European standardisation regimes are dangerous and inefficient’. Discuss

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Introduction

'The European standardisation regimes are dangerous and inefficient'. Discuss To involve oneself in a thorough discussion of European standardisation one has to allow an escape into a brief history of the system which has insofar taken two separate forms with distinctly separate aims. The Europeanisation of standards has been used as a means to different ends: the first as a means to remove the obstacles to trade represented by divergent national standards, and the second as a way of relieving political decision-making from technical and cumbersome detail. This essay requires a qualitative evaluation of the regime as it stands, but for this to be achieved one may have to explore the reasons behind its initial and much-publicised failure and consequent 1992 're-packaging' requirement. Standardisation is now established as a legitimate alternative to Community legislation1 suggesting already that it secured its raison d'etre as a mere accessory instrument for the implementation of Community law. What would have to be considered is whether this should in fact be its designated role. By 1985, most observers appeared willing to accept Jacques Pelkmans's verdict that the old harmonisation approach was a disaster,2 prompting a conclusion that the most applauded next-step would involve not only a new procedure but also a new vision for the role standardisation was going to take in the European context. Thus for a current valuation, one is left with the following points for consideration: has the new approach been successful in eliminating the weaknesses inherent to the old-style harmonisation? Further, how successful has it been in securing its latterly formulated aims? This essay shall argue that there is some way to go before European standardisation regimes embody all the desired accountability, representation, formal and functional efficiency; nevertheless it shall become apparent in ...read more.

Middle

If standards are not efficient in themselves, the fact that they are set at European level will not add much in terms of effectiveness. Standards, especially food standards, are necessary to help prevent the consumer from being misled. Often simple labelling is not enough, especially if one looks at the statistics: approximately only 20% of purchasers will ever look at the labelling.19 Furthermore they can ensure that the expectation of the buyer as to quality is not frustrated. Consumers have, to a certain degree, certain expectations as to the quality of products in circulation, and they want the government to ensure that their expectations are not frustrated. In other words by setting standards at the European level, the EU is providing that certain amount of paternalism expected by the public - a far cry from establishing a 'dangerous' regime as suggested by the title laid for discussion. Moreover, standards could be said to be intrinsically efficient because they save time and money by facilitating consumer choice and by promoting fair trading.20 It is perhaps a shame that the ECJ has assumed that adequate labelling can be as effective as standards in assuring all the above. Given that the majority of consumers apparently do not read labels,21 how does the ECJ know for example that German consumers will not be mislead by the traditional champagne-type bottles which a French importer used for marketing of partially fermented grape juice having an alcoholic strength below 3 per cent.?22 As von Heydebrand remarks, mutual recognition can lead to a discrimination against manufacturers situated in the importing state; if that member state does not timely adjust the standard the domestic manufacturers may suffer from serious disadvantage and will lose an opportunity to secure market shares. ...read more.

Conclusion

Otherwise the producer of 'soya meat' may gain an unfair advantage vis-�-vis the producers of pure meat from the possible confusion of the consumer as to the composition of the product, since soya is much cheaper to produce than meat. Example taken from Hans Christoph von Heydebrand, 'Free Movement of Foodstuffs, Consumer Protection and Food Standards in the EC: Has the Court of Justice got it Wrong? 21 Supra, n.19. 22 Case 179/85 Commission v Germany [1986] 23 Jeanne-Mey Sun and Jaques Pelkmans, 'Regulatory Competition in the Single Market' 24 This is defined as: 'any product which, under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use, including duration, does not present any risk or only minimum risk compatible with the product's use, considered as acceptable and consistent with a high level of protection for the safety and health of persons.' Article 2 (b). 25 The Questionnaire procedure, the TC procedure and the Unique acceptance procedure. 26 One should not however forget the pressure from consumer programmes such as Watchdog, which act as a more practical voice for the consumer. 27 That is not to say that environmental issues are not considered. Standards have to pass an environmental impact assessment. The Community has also gone some way in developing 'green marks' indicating environmentally sound products, as well as subsidiary marks for irradiated foods and other products consumers might be leery of. 28 Single Market Scoreboard (SEC (2000) 879, May 2000) p.20 29 Case C-443/98 Unilever v Central Food [2000] 30 This only partially worked as an incentive, but the CIA v Signalsson judgement improved this. Harm Schepel, 'The European Community: Market Integration and Private Transnationalism' 31 Krislov, 'How nations choose standards and how standards change nations' 32 Supra, n. 32. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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