An EU directive is a regulatory document, stating what requirements apply to different areas. For example, the Low Voltage Directive (LVD) covers almost all electrical products. A directive contains information on what essential requirements a product needs to comply with, e.g. "your product may not give electrical shocks when used". However, it doesn't state how to do this, that's why many use harmonised standards.
Identifying the applicable directives for your product is the most important step in the entire CE marking process. All the subsequent steps build on the EU directives that have been identified to apply to the product Usually, a product will need to comply with more than one directive.
In addition to directives regarding the CE marking, there are several other directives a manufacturer may need to consider. These often concern environmental and sustainability issues; for example WEEE, REACH, the Batteries Directive, and the Packaging Directive.
Essential requirements in directives
These are what demands the directive puts on you and your product. For example, the Low Voltage Directive contains an essential requirement stating "persons and domestic animals are adequately protected against the danger of physical injury or other harm which might be caused by direct or indirect contact", but it doesn't state how to do this. Again, this is where harmonised standards come into play.
To determine which directives apply to your product, start by considering the following questions:
Who will use the product?
Under what conditions will the product be installed/used?
Is the product intended for home or industrial/agricultural use?
For which EU countries is the product intended? Some countries still have certain national stipulations (not for the CE mark though)
If unsure which directive applies to your product, you can, for free, use our CE marking application to automatically find the applicable directives for your product.