This includes manufacturing, transit, sale, consumption, and general safety.
But how did the policy evolve through time, and what are the differences between individual Member States?
On October 11, 2005, the European Commission unveiled a proposal for a European directive to harmonize international commerce in fireworks and their safety following a 2003 consultation.
On a European level, the idea divided fireworks into four groups: it stated that Category 4 was only intended for professional use. In addition, member states had the right to restrict the sale of fireworks in Category 2 and Category 3 to the general public.
As a result, the Pyrotechnic Articles Directive was conceived in 2007. It was intended to be incorporated into state legislation by January 2010, to be applied to fireworks of categories 1, 2, and 3 by July 2010, and to all other pyrotechnic items by July 2013. A new Pyrotechnic Articles Directive was approved on June 2013, and the member states had until July 2017, to transpose it into national law.
Since 2010, the European Union has mandated the safety testing of fireworks and the application of pyrotechnics. Businesses are permitted to test their goods in one member state before importing and selling them in another.
European Union Fireworks Standards Changes
It is understood that EN 15947, CE certification, and fireworks directives make up most of the European Union’s import control system for fireworks and firecrackers.
EN15947 is a fireworks safety standard formulated in compliance with the Fireworks Directive. Following the applicable EU laws, the CE certification for imported fireworks is only possible if they satisfy EN15947 requirements. CE testing in the EU has been more rigorous since 2013.
In compliance with the EU legislation, fireworks are divided into four categories:
Category F1 refers to fireworks with a very low potential for harm (such as sparklers) and those used in enclosed areas, including outside of residential buildings;
Category F2 fireworks are low-risk devices meant for usage in a contained area outside of residential buildings;
Category F3 fireworks are meant to be used outside of residential buildings in a roomy open area and represent an average level of risk;
Category F4 fireworks are extremely dangerous and are only meant to be used by those with specialised understanding; they are restricted to professionals throughout the EU.
The Directive specifies the following minimum ages:
Category 1: 12 years old
Category 2: 16 years old
Category 3: 18 years old
Individual member states are free to forbid consumers from purchasing and owning fireworks or employing pyrotechnics in other categories. Amateurs cannot purchase fireworks or employ pyrotechnics in category F3 in Belgium, Germany, or Denmark, and they cannot buy either category F3 or F2 in the Republic of Ireland. Additionally, the age for category F2 fireworks has been raised from 16 to 18 in Germany and France.
Member state regulations
All member states must adhere to the criteria set by the EU on fireworks. However, each state is free to enact restrictions regarding fireworks and pyrotechnics within its borders.
The sale of category F3 fireworks to amateurs has been illegal in Belgium since July 2017. For category F1, the non-professional customer must be at least 12 years old, and for category F2, they must be at least 16 years old. The vendor must confirm the customer’s age. The Gemeentedecreet (Municipal Decree) in Flanders allows the 308 towns of the Flemish Region the power to impose restrictions on where fireworks may be ignited or to demand a licence to do so.
On December 31 and January 1, amateurs over 18 are permitted to purchase and ignite Category F2 fireworks. Each German town can set a time limit. It is against the law to sell fireworks from categories F3 and F4 to end users. Pyrotechnics are not permitted close to churches, medical facilities, nursing homes, or structures with thatched or wooden roofs. Professional fireworks displays are held in all major German cities.
Since 2009, it has been illegal for Finns under 18 to purchase fireworks. Safety glasses are also necessary when using pyrotechnics. Fireworks are authorised during the evening and night of December 31, New Year’s Eve. On the final weekend of August, it is permitted to use fireworks in some municipalities in Western Finland without a fire station’s authorization. They may be used all year round with authorization from the fire station.
In the Netherlands, the use of fireworks is governed by The Vuurwerkbesluit (“Fireworks Decree”). This 1993 law has undergone numerous amendments to make the regulations governing the production, testing, transportation, storage, trade, sale, consumption, and general safety of fireworks stricter and consistent with those in other EU nations.
Most fireworks are only allowed to be used by professionals for most of the year. However, on New Year’s Eve, there is an exception that allows civilians to use fireworks without specific training or authorization. Since the Enschede fireworks incident in 2000 and the accident-filled New Year’s Eves of 2007 and 2008, public debate on stricter regulation or outright banning of consumer pyrotechnics has been ongoing.
Republic of Ireland
In the Republic of Ireland, only category F1 fireworks, such as sparklers, are available for purchase, possession, and amateur use. Ireland now ranks among the strictest nations in the world when it comes to the use of consumer pyrotechnics.
The Explosives Act of 1875, the first law prohibiting the purchase of fireworks by regular people, was enacted when the entire island was still a part of the United Kingdom. The policy was subsequently amended, and new laws were established to make it stricter. For instance, the law was changed in 2006 to prohibit amateurs from using pyrotechnics because the 1875 Act did not include a clause on the possession of fireworks.
Without a licence, pyrotechnics and the selling, purchasing, and possession of fireworks from categories F2 through F4 is now punishable by a fine or potential jail time. Such heavier fireworks may only be ignited by pyrotechnicians.
Sweden enacted stricter regulations on the usage of pyrotechnics and the sale of fireworks at the start of the 21st century. Firecrackers were banned in 2002, and larger rockets were prohibited in 2014. From June 1, 2019, skyrockets must be launched using “control sticks”. Anyone purchasing or lighting a skyrocket must complete a specific training programme set up by the municipalities to obtain a permit. The new laws were expected to encounter issues with the illegal import and online sale of fireworks.
A 2015 legislation makes it illegal to launch rockets weighing more than 10 kilograms of fireworks at once without a license. There are no other restrictions governing the use of pyrotechnics. Devices under ten kilograms are not considered to be fireworks, and no report or authorization is required for these. For fireworks that weigh more than ten kilograms, a fire brigade and a licence are required. The maximum penalty for non-compliance is 500,000 crowns or one million crowns for a corporation. In practice, however, such alerts are scarce, and nobody bothers to count the actual rakes being fired.