EU standards must allow for technological innovation, state new guidelines

April 22, 2003

Brussels, 18 Apr 2003

The European Commission, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the three European standards organisations have agreed upon a new set of guidelines defining cooperation between the separate entities and declared that standards must be based on scientific research.

It was decided to update previous agreements on account of evolution in the standards sector. Changes have included the establishment of a third European standards organisation - ETSI - the European institute for telecommunications standardisation, alongside CEN (European committee for standardisation) and Cenelec (European committee for electrotechnical standardisation); and the graduation of standardisation from the national level to European and international level.

The guidelines state that 'standards should [...] allow for technological innovation and competition [and] therefore they should be based on sound scientific research, be updated regularly, and be performance-based where possible.'

One of the common policy objectives outlined in the guidelines is for standards to constitute a tool for the advancement of European competitiveness and to allow for technological innovation. 'European standards provide a common yet flexible technical environment across the single market and constitute accepted references for quality, certification, and regulatory compliance; they encourage cooperation and the exchange of expertise and provide entrepreneurs with an opportunity to exploit economies of scale,' read the guidelines.

Under the guidelines, the European standards organisations expect the Commission and EFTA to request the advice of the organisations on the needs for pre-normative research and development relating to standards. They are also expected to stimulate the exploitation of Community and/or EFTA funded pre-normative research into European standards.

The standards organisations also ask the Commission to encourage those participating in EU funded projects to feed back their results into the European standards organisations.

In return, the Commission and EFTA expect the standards organisations to fulfil a number of obligations, including keeping their publications up to date in line with technological evolution and carrying out their tasks with the highest efficiency and quality, including the use of modern methods and technologies for the elaboration and distribution of their work.

The guidelines

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