Produced in partnership with Professor Alexander Türk of King’s College London

The following Public Law practice note produced in partnership with Professor Alexander Türk of King’s College London provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Harmonisation
  • Definition
  • Negative and positive harmonisation
  • Different approaches to positive harmonisation—mutual recognition and minimum harmonisation
  • Mutual recognition
  • Minimum harmonisation and reverse discrimination
  • Exhaustive harmonisation
  • Technical harmonisation
  • Optional harmonisation



Harmonisation, also known as standardisation or approximation, refers to the determination of EU-wide legally binding standards to be met in all Member States.

The creation of an internal market, which has been one of the main objectives of the EU, requires the harmonisation of some rules concerning inter-State trade. Removing national measures that create obstacles for free trade is one way of harmonising standards. To that end, EU law prohibits the Member States from adopting acts restricting the free movement of goods, services, persons and capital. Removing barriers (deregulation), on the other hand, is not enough for the functioning of the EU Internal Market. The realisation of the Internal Market also requires the development of common standards which apply across the Internal Market (re-regulation).

Negative and positive harmonisation

Negative harmonisation refers to the removal of national restrictions to trade between Member States. Examples outlined in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) include prohibitions on:

  1. restrictions on the imports of goods from other Member States (Article 34 TFEU)

  2. restrictions on exports (Article 35 TFEU)

  3. restrictions on:

    1. free movement of services (Article 56 TFEU)

    2. freedom of establishment (Article 49 TFEU)

    3. free movement of persons (Article 45 TFEU)

    4. free movement of capital (Article 63 TFEU)

  4. customs duties (Article 30 TFEU)

  5. discriminatory taxation (Article 110 TFEU)

The introduction of a common EU-wide standard, on the other hand, is

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