European standardization system threatened
Upcoming dates European Parliament: October, vote on the initiative report in Plenary
European Commission, DG Enterprise: Contributions to the Public Consultation on European Standards
Selected results of the public consultation
To whom does standardization belong?
Standardization is a strategic instrument for representatives from industry and society as a whole. As German businesses and organizations fund a large portion of the cost of standards work, standardization thus "belongs" to these stakeholders who develop solutions to recurring problems. These same stakeholders also use standardization to regulate themselves, either by meeting statutory requirements or in direct cooperation with the regulating bodies. The extremely successful public-private partnership currently in existence (through the EU's "New Approach") places this strategic instrument in the hands of the responsible actors while at the same time providing scope for action within the regulatory context.
Now it is time for these interest groups to make sure they do not lose this effective instrument. It is evident that the European Commission is considering changing the "ownership" of standardization by taking standardization out of the hands of its stakeholders. How else can one explain the fact that the current financing of standards work is being called into question, or that the elimination of the national mirror committees and the founding of a central agency is under consideration?
The European Commission is preparing a "Standardization Package" addressing the future development of the European standardization system, which will involve a revision of Directive 98/34/EC and Council Decisions 85/97/EEC and 1673/2006/EC.
Prior to the development of this "Package", the Commission's Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry set up the Expert Panel for the Review of the European Standardisation System (EXPRESS), which has now published its Final report. The Panel's work was based on several studies initiated by the Commission. DIN welcomes the publication of this report as well as the recommendations made therein. This also applies to the Council Conclusion on standardisation and innovation of September 2008.
However, we are alarmed by the fact that –- disregarding the above-mentioned studies, reports and decisions –- the DG Enterprise has developed its own various options for the future of the European standardization system that would destroy this very system.
The European standards organizations and their national members, such as DIN, are aware of the current challenges facing standardization and know where improvements are needed, for instance as regards the access of SMEs to standards and standardization. These organizations have programmes with concrete measures for meeting these challenges (see, for example, the Update to the German Standardization Strategy and CEN/CENELEC's Follow-up actions).
It is important that all measures are taken within the context of the existing, well-functioning standardization system!
European Standards (mandated as well as harmonized) should not be made available free of charge. This would pose a serious threat to the privately-supported standardization system. Standardization should not be paid for by the taxpayers, but by the standards users. This is demanded by the standards users themselves (German). The financing of standardization through the sales of standards distributes the costs among all those who directly benefit from them.
According to a survey that is part of an impact assessment study (Draft Final Report) commissioned by the EC, 129 organizations and interest groups from across Europe are of the unanimous opinion that a change in the current financing model would have serious disadvantages.
The national delegation principle is an indispensable foundation of European standardization. Europe's strong position in international standardization can only be maintained through the preservation of this principle. And only with national platforms for standards work is it possible to ensure the involvement in standardization of SMEs, organizations for consumer protection and environmental protection, and other interest groups, to work in the national languages, and to guarantee practical, understandable standards content.