Minimum standards

Minimum standards

The EU can harmonise laws and standards from the member states in two different ways:

-         as minimum standards through minimum harmonisation where member states can increase the protection for consumers or

-         as identical rules. One also talk about total harmonisation or maximum harmonisation. 

The general rule for harmonisation is Article 114 TFEU for total or maximum harmonisation. There then is a derogation in Article 114.4-10 with strict conditions for higher standards in some member states.

When the EU decides on health, safety, environment, consumer protection and social standards the Commission must propose minimum rules. However, these rules then have to respect the principles in the treaties.

The difference between the two forms of harmonisation may then be minimal. The EU Court will always minimise the effects of derogations.

The only safe guarantee for minimum standards is to include a specific legal base in the directive or regulation allowing member states to set higher standards than decided by the common rules.


See also Harmonisation and Environmental clause