Standardisation process on the way to modernisation

On 21 March the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) committee of the European Parliament voted on a report by Lara Comi MEP (EPP, IT) on the European Commission’s proposal for a regulation on standardisation. The report was approved with 36 votes in favour and 2 abstentions. CEPI welcomes the modernisation of the European standardisation process and greater clarity as to the creation of standards.

The European Commission published in June of last year a proposal for a regulation on standardisation in order to modernise the European standardisation process. This includes voluntary standards for services to be developed according to mandates issued by the European Commission.

MEPs stressed the need for more participation in the creation of standards by SMEs and organisations representing consumers. They also want to see a clear division of powers, so that national standardisation organisations must withdraw any existing and conflicting national standards when a standard is developed at EU level.

A lot of concern has been expressed about the inclusion of standards for services in the proposal. MEPs also stressed that Member States remain free to decide on the development of standards in areas such as social services and public health. The committee will decide at the end of April when to open formal negotiations with the Council with a vote in a plenary session of the Parliament expected in May.

In March the Commission published its annual standardisation programme for 2012. This identifies priorities for Commission standardisation requests (mandates). With regard to services in 2012, the Commission intends to give the European Standardisation Organisations a combined mandate for programming and subsequent development of horizontal services standards. These types of standards cover issues common to many service sectors and typically focus on how a service is provided. The work on the horizontal services standards at EU level would set out the basis for future work in services standardisation.

CEPI follows the work with interest and expresses specific support to an in depth reflection pertaining to standardization in the services sector. Until recently, standardization referred to products only. Experience in the services sector is limited and calls for a learning process.

Standardization is also a most sensitive issue for many professionals and it calls for diverging and partly extreme positions. CEPI advocates careful upstream reflection and discussion between stakeholders with the aim to avoid hasty, excessive and unilateral decisions that may unreasonably hinder proper functioning of professionals in the market.