The European Union (EU) developed "New Approach" Directives to streamline product approvals for a broad range of goods in order to facilitate trade within the EU single internal market. The "Old Approach" Directives contained a high degree of technical detail. EU member states introduced national standards or regulations at a faster pace than the European Commission could finalize these "Old Approach" Directives. These national specifications often proved to be trade barriers.
New Approach Directives are limited to essential health and safety requirements for sectors such as machinery, electrical products, or medical devices. They do not cover specific products such as motor vehicles, cosmetics, or chemicals, which are still covered under the Old Approach Directives. The main difference between the New and Old Approach Directives is that under the New Approach, the technical details outlining the minimum requirements a product must meet are usually not found in the directive itself. The New Approach Directives are more general.
Technical details on how to meet these minimum health and safety requirements are left to the following three groups: 1) Manufacturers who self-certify products by meeting the requirements of the applicable directives, in some cases by using appropriate European standards; 2) the three regional European standards organizations (CEN, CENELEC and ETSI), which now develop Europe-wide standards covering product sectors falling under the New Approach Directives; and, 3) government-appointed product certification bodies (called notified bodies), which provide testing and product approvals.
Under the New Approach, the European Commission gives mandates to the European standards organizations to develop technical standards that meet the essential health and safety requirements of CE Marking directives. The New Approach Directives are designed to facilitate product certification, to maintain a high level of consumer and workplace safety, and to expand intra-European trade.