The eagerly awaited EU Standardization Strategy was published on 2 February 2022.
During the development phase of the EU Standardization Strategy, the European Commission called on the stakeholders to communicate their wishes for the future of standardization. KAN was among those participating in this process, and made a detailed submission. Four documents have been published as part of the EU Standardization Strategy. The most significant of these is the Communication from the Commission on the subject.
The measure with the highest profile within the EU Standardization Strategy is the planned creation of two new institutions. The High-Level Forum brings together Member States, the European and national standards organizations, industry, civil society and the research community. Its purpose is to assist in setting priorities for the annual work programme for European standardization activity and to make recommendations to the European Commission concerning standardization issues. It is also intended to coordinate European standardization interests and represent them vis-à-vis third parties.
The purpose of the EU excellence hub on standards is to pool expertise and enable it to be exploited. The hub’s core tasks will be anticipating the need for standardization, supporting standardization work in areas of priority, and monitoring international standardization activities. A Chief Standardization Officer is to be appointed who will head the hub and align standardization activities with the EU’s policy objectives and strategic interests. The post is a political office comparable to that of a secretary of state.
One of the concerns raised by KAN is that the titles of harmonized standards should be published more swiftly in the Official Journal of the EU. This step is essential in order for standards to give rise to the presumption of conformity. By applying these harmonized standards, manufacturers can be confident that they have met the relevant requirements of the underlying EU directive or regulation. At present, listing of harmonized standards in the Official Journal takes far too long. The delay in publication of the harmonized standard’s status gives rise to legal uncertainty. The European Commission notes that the situation has already improved, but aims to reduce the interval between adoption and publication even further.
The Standardization Strategy also makes provision for the European Standards Organizations (ESOs) to develop harmonized standards and present them to the Commission more quickly following acceptance of the standardization mandate. Solutions and targets for swifter development and adoption of standards are to be drawn up in conjunction with the ESOs, i.e. CEN, CENELEC and ETSI. The strategy lacks more specific measures, however.
A further objective is for the ESOs’ governance to be modernized. These measures are aimed in particular at eliminating certain arrangements at ETSI that lead to multinational companies’ representation being neither proportional nor transparent, including in terms of voting rights. One provision of the proposed amendment to the Standardization Regulation is that only the delegates of the national standards organizations should enjoy the basic decision-making powers. In addition, the ESOs should make proposals for how small and medium-sized enterprises, civil society and users can be involved more effectively.
Services are increasingly being standardized at international level, and this was therefore explicitly addressed in KAN’s submission. Services are linked much more closely than products to the respective regional, cultural and socio-economic context. Potential exists for conflict with national regulatory powers, for example in the area of the safety and health of workers at work, the shaping of working conditions or the organization of work. The focus of harmonized service standards should therefore lie on the quality of the service; requirements concerning occupational safety and health, working conditions or the organization of work should be strictly avoided.
The Standardization Strategy does not however address structural aspects of the standardization of services. Rather, the focus lies on advancing standardization in general in the area of services, which currently account for only 2% of European standards. In the advanced manufacturing sector, in particular, service standards are to be developed in greater numbers, for example for supply chain management or predictive maintenance in networked manufacturing. The construction sector is also to benefit from more service standards: in this case, the focus lies on architecture and engineering, and on energy-efficient construction.
Standards are increasingly being developed directly at ISO, a trend that is exerting considerable influence on European standardization activity. KAN considers it important that a high level of safety be maintained. It is therefore essential for standardization to continue to be consensus-based and follow democratic principles. This includes ensuring adequate participation by all stakeholders in occupational safety and health.
The EU Standardization Strategy also recognizes these challenges. At present, countries such as China are much more strongly involved in international standardization activity. The EU must be vocal in this arena. Fundamental values such as democratic processes and pluralism in standardization will otherwise be at risk, and the goals of a digital and green economy may not be met. The aim is to establish a strategic approach by the EU and the Member States, one purpose of which is to safeguard the EU’s position as a pioneer in key technologies.