What is, and what does the CE marking on a product mean?

Guest entry by Piotr R. Gajos, a Product Assessment Specialist at RiskCE

I’d like to thank my colleagues from ExamineChina.com for inviting me to post a few entries on the “CE marking” topic. I liked the idea even more because of the mystery this topic still poses for a lot of people, which in the case of importing goods from China, can put a company at risk of huge expenses and troubles with an unwanted product.

I’ve been dealing with the topic of the EU “New Approach Directives” concerning CE marking and other issues for ten years, once by working in the Norwegian unit Det Norske Veritas, which deals with product and management systems certifications, and currently as a Product Assessment Specialist in the RiskCE consulting office.

CE mark

EU’s “New Approach to Technical Harmonization and Standards” was designed with the use of legislation implemented by the European Parliament and Council. Naturally, the best-known legislations concerning CE marking are the following directives:

  • Machinery Directive MD 2006/42/EC,
  • Toy Safety Directive TOYS 2009/48/EC,
  • Medical Device Directive MDD 93/42/EEC
  • etc.

Initially, there 21 directives were designed to apply to different branches. We’ve got about 26 directives concerning CE marking and another dozen directives concerning products, although they don’t allow placing the CE mark – e.g., the WEEE 2012/19/UE Directive, regulating the disposal of electrical and electronic equipment.

However, the New Approach system wouldn’t be able to function without Council Resolution 85/C 137/01 from 1985 and the Council Decision 93/456/EEC from 1993 – which introduced the modules of conformity assessment and established the rules for using the CE marking. Through this retrospection, I wanted to show you that the EU’s New Approach system is yet quite young and has been working only since 1993!


To sum up, the EU’s New Approach system has been working for just twenty years. Because of that, the directives and regulations concerning the products are still going through changes and corrections. Admittedly, all of the EU Member States have implemented the regulations in their laws, but Departments of Market Supervision are still being created and reorganized, and the “quality” of their work varies among different countries. The norms for many products haven’t yet been created, which makes it harder for producers to prove that their products meet European standards.

Following this theoretical introduction, I’m going to provide you with some more practical information about CE marking and product conformity assessment in my next few entries.