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Members of the European Parliament Scrutinise the Construction Products Regulation

Fire Safe Europe

24 Jan 2020

On January 22, 2020, the European Parliament Committee for Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) held a debate about the Construction Products Regulation (CPR).

The debate started off with a speech from the European Commission Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, which oversees the CPR.

Why the CPR is special

The European Commission emphasised the specificities of the CPR, namely the fact that whilst the CPR regulates products, EU Member States have the exclusive competence for building construction. This means that even though the CPR aims to allow construction products that are legally placed in the market of one EU Member State to be marketed in another Member States, products with a CE marking cannot automatically be used. Indeed, whether or not their use will be allowed and for what purpose depends on national building regulations.

As a result of this specificity, the CPR does not follow a common approach to harmonisation: CE marking sets harmonised rules on how to assess the performance of products, not on products conformity. Additionally, harmonised standards under CPR are compulsory.

The European Commission initially developed the CPR to remedy difficulties encountered under the previous Construction Products Directive (CPD). The CPR was adopted in 2011; however, as early as 2016, an implementation report identified room for improvement to solve implementation issues, notably around standardisation.

An impressive evaluation

Following this, the European Commission launched a wide consultation process, and, as of November 2016, there were indications that this could lead to a revision.

Back in 2017, the IMCO Committee held a hearing on the topic of the CPR, which highlighted that the CPR did not function properly and put into question whether the CPR’s objective was still relevant, and if so, how it could be made to functions properly.

With these questions in mind, the European Commission launched an external study in 2017, a supporting study on the European Organisation for Technical Assessment (EOTA) tasks, several consultations, interviews, online surveys, company phone survey and a public consultation. A technical platform for the CPR review was launched and held five technical meetings.

The result of this massive effort to evaluate the CPR has been presented in the evaluation report on EOTA and in the Commission Staff Working Document on the evaluation of the CPR.

The task at hand

According to the European Commission, the main finding is that there are systemic challenges with the CPR, namely on the following points:

  1. Insufficient delivery and quality of the harmonised standards, which is especially problematic as these mandatory standards are at the core of the system. This has led to a few court cases. Of the 218 standards and amendment proposed under the CPR, only 76 have been accepted, 140+ have been rejected by the European Commission for non-compliance with the EU laws. Of the 76 standards accepted, 64 are amendments to standards which existed under the prior CPD, meaning that only 12 standards have truly been created under CPR.

  2. Ineffective and uneven market surveillance, which is a problem that is encountered in other EU regulations, is particularly acute in the case of the CPR.

  3. Simplification measured envisaged in the CPR deliver below expectations.

  4. The relative success of EOTA alternative route seems to be a consequence of the inefficiencies of the harmonisation process, rather than a tool to enable innovation.

  5. There is a need to consider aspects which were not really included in the CPR: sustainability, circular economy, the safety of construction products, adaptation to innovation such as digitalisation.

The 2019 Finnish presidency of the EU initiated a round of discussions among EU Member States, who are conscious of difficulties and not opposed to a revision. However, what a revision should address is not unanimous.

However, there is a view that the CPR should better integrate the circular economy principles.

The next steps

Overall, the European Commission concluded that “the legitimate regulatory needs of Member States are not presently met presently by the CPR” and investing in revision is needed. Discussions to make the current system work better is being considered with Member States. The goal would be to unlock the harmonisation of construction products by setting grid criteria and clear prioritisation for the development and adoption of appropriate standards. Stakeholders will be consulted later on in the validation stage

The European Commission feels that it is necessary to test and consider any modifications further before submitting a proposal to the European Parliament. They stated that they are still not closing any doors: there are different options, from repairing the existing system, focusing it on testing methods or technical language, to enhancing the regulation with product requirements based on a new legislative model.

To assess potential future options, in case it is decided to revise the CPR, the European Commission launched a new supporting study in July 2019, which should conclude in July 2020. This includes a new survey among industry and a new consultation with stakeholders and Member States. The European Commission emphasised the need to discuss with all stakeholders involved, including the European Parliament.

MEPs take a closer look at the CPR

After this intervention by the European Commission, MEPs took the floor. MEP Petra De Sutter, the Chair of the IMCO Committee, announced that the European Parliament has decided to scrutinise the matter and to draft its own CPR implementation report.

MEP Alessandra Basso raised the issue of potential market distortion if some countries adopt different measures. The European Commission responded that this is a consequence of the diversity of national regulations: some countries have abandoned their national construction products regulations and replaced it with the CPR, whereas others use the CPR as a complement to their national legislation. The issue of additional requirements to harmonised standards has led the European Commission to court. The European Commission emphasised that in some case, the additional requirements could be construed as protectionism, but other times it is simply that the Member States want to guarantee better safety, but legally speaking, adding requirements in not authorised under EU law. This is one aspect that the European Commission wants to solve.

MEP Andreas Schwab argued for more harmonisation in the construction sector. He specifically raised the idea to create a more harmonised system of national laws to fight against fires or earthquakes. The European Commission responded that they are in favour of more harmonisation and are willing to take additional initiatives: they cited as an example the creation of the Fire Information Exchange Platform to facilitate dialogue between Member States.

MEP Morten Løkkegaard and MEP Pierre Karleskind were critical of the European Commission’s position on the EOTA alternative route. As stated in this European Commission report, “EOTA offers manufacturers an alternative route for obtaining the CE marking for construction products not covered, or not fully covered, by harmonised European standards developed by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN). For those construction products, manufacturers can request a European Technical Assessment (ETA), which will form the basis for issuing the declaration of performance and affixing the CE marking”. MEPs emphasised that this route is important and should be kept, even if it does not foster innovation as much as the European Commission initially anticipated. In fact, “the CPR does not single out innovative products as a special focus for ETAs, rather it is a route for all products not covered by standards, no matter the reason”, said MEP Løkkegaard. The European Commission remarked that they had not yet made a decision regarding this and acknowledged that the EOTA route provides a faster solution and has been the object of massive investments. However, over 6000 ETAs have been issued under the EOTA route, versus millions of certificates under the certification route, which for the Commission denotes of the actual importance of this route.

Additionally, MEP Karleskind asked for further clarifications on what the integration in the circular economy and EU Green Deal would entail, and how the Commission would address the impact of construction on the use of raw materials. The European Commission highlighted that the common technical language would provide additional information on the sustainability performance of products, and several initiatives have been taken, such as a protocol for demolition waste. This protocol encourages better conception and design to improve the recovery of raw materials.

MEP Maria Grapini emphasised the importance of including consumers in the consultation process, notably for aspects related to safety.

MEP Maria Manuel Leitão Marques expressed concerns over the difficulty for SMEs to access the CPR if it is too complex and technical. The European Commission responded that one of the reasons why it was difficult to simplify the CPR for SMEs is that we should not reduce the safety level of a product simply because an SME produces it.

The Chair concluded the meeting by stating that the European Parliament will continue to work on this very important piece of legislation.

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