The European standardisation process is not perfect, but it works even in the difficult sector of construction products in respect of which it is characteristics dictated by the structure to be built which are to be mandated and standardised. 376 standards and more than 200 ETAs were finalised starting with the harmonised cement standard ENi 197.
Procedures in CEN are, it is true, cumbersome and slow and EOTA has its own problems. But is the way forward to revolutionise the whole system and start anew or is it to improve the existing process through incremental steps?
These are the questions raised by a report from the Expert Panel for the Review of the European Standardization System (EXPRESS), aptly named the Express Report, of which CEMBUREAU has seen a version dated February 2010. Since then, at the end of March, the European Commission has circulated a questionnaire to seek stakeholders’ views.
The report is the conclusion of the work of the EXPRESS panel, which was appointed to examine how the strengths of the European Standardisation System (ESS) could be enhanced to meet new challenges. In addition, the panel looked at issues relating to coordination between the various existing standardisation bodies, both formally recognised bodies (such as CEN) and other such as fora and consortia. The report outlines a number of key recommendations, namely:
The report by itself does not come as a surprise. It is the role of experts to take a bird’s eye view of the matter and to apply their brains to identify all possible paths leading to reform. What is more preoccupying is the European Commission’s announced intent to proceed with surprising speed with a legislative overhaul of the system. Legislation is indeed announced for 2010 and it looks like a complete overhaul of European Standardisation may be expected.
What is the underlying Commission’s philosophy? A number of key points do emerge: more power to the European Commission and a stronger European control with, correspondingly, less autonomy and independence to national standardisation bodies; the role of CEN is also questioned and the setting up of a new European organisation is in the air; a greater role is to be given to civil society and therefore a lesser role to industry; finally facilitating the task for SMEs is a clear preoccupation... all worthy goals no doubt, but one essential truth has to be borne in mind: the role of the industries that do manufacture standardised products is irreplaceable in the standardisation process.
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