Brussels, 22 Jan 2004
A network of three EU Member States and three future Member States is making an important contribution to the enlargement of the Union in the field of measurements and testing (M&T) - a key area for the elimination of trade barriers.
Central to the INCOLAB project is the creation of 'institutional triangles' involving national regulatory authorities, industry and scientific laboratories in each of the participating countries - Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands. These triangles will then focus on implementing technical directives, as well as the more challenging task of building up solid infrastructures and expertise.
Although the project only began in January 2003, institutional triangles have already been created, project coordinator Janko Drnovsek from Slovenia's Ljubljana University told CORDIS News. The triangles are 'a very crucial part of the project', he said.
Although the M&T sector is weaker in the network's non-EU countries than in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, a lack of partnership and communication between M&T laboratories, regulatory and administrative bodies, and industry is visible in all countries, said Professor Drnovsek. 'A solid national metrology system is the only guarantee that technical directives can be fully implemented - it is the pillar for a good infrastructure,' he added.
While Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Bulgaria are set to gain from the expertise of the EU M&T community, Professor Drnovsek is adamant that the more advanced countries will also benefit from their involvement in the network. 'Member States will see that absorption power and the level of expertise among candidate Member States is very high. They will see that the situation at home is also not ideal. One should not underestimate what is going on in candidate Member States,' he said.
The Low-voltage Directive, on which the network is focusing, is of particular importance for INCOLAB's non-EU members. The directive deals with safety issues relating to electrical equipment, an industry which is relatively well developed within Central and Eastern Europe. The sector will suffer, however, if a lack of metrological expertise, required for product testing, is allowed to become a barrier to trade, and a constraint on competitiveness.
The progress made within the network has, though, already afforded recognition outside of the electrical industries, and has been the catalyst for activities in other areas, including the medical devices industry, which faces similar problems.
Professor Drnovsek feels that his project is making an important contribution to the enlargement of the EU. Cooperation within the network is leading to the implementation of the Low-voltage Directive, as well as the strengthening of the M&T infrastructure, in a number of future EU Member States, enabling them to compete on a level playing field with countries inside the Union. The INCOLAB participants are also at completely different stages with regard to their adoption of the Community 'acquis', but are working together with a common objective in mind.