The EFTA States put great importance on a well-functioning Single Market underpinned by good quality European standards developed in a timely manner. With the Icelandic signing, all EFTA states have now committed to the Joint Initiative on Standardisation. Managing Director Gudrún Rögnvaldardóttir also signed the Initiative on behalf of Icelandic Standards.
The Joint Initiative on Standardisation in the Single Market Strategy
In October 2015, the European Commission adopted the Single Market Strategy in order to modernise, revive and improve the functioning of the Single Market. A key action included modernising the European Standardisation System.
Producing timely and market-driven standards in an inclusive way and consolidating Europe’s leadership in international standardisation will help to overcome some of the current economic challenges and further contribute to the creation of jobs and growth. In this context, the European Commission proposed to update the existing public-private partnership between the Commission/EFTA and the European Standardisation Organisations (ESOs) and standardisation stakeholders through the development of a high-level political consensus document entitled the “Joint Initiative on Standardisation”.
During the first half of 2016, an editorial committee, consisting of the Commission, the EFTA Secretariat, the three ESOs (CEN, CENELEC and ETSI), Member States, national standardisation bodies and various stakeholder organisations and business representatives, worked on developing this document through consensus. EFTA participated actively in these meetings and was the Secretariat to the editorial committee. The Joint Initiative was finalised and signed in Amsterdam in June 2016 under the Dutch Presidency of the European Union. It consists of political principles and commitments supporting the Junker Commission priorities, as well as concrete actions to be delivered by 2019.
The main emphasis in 2017 is on the 15 actions being developed under the Joint Initiative. These focus on issues such as how standards can better support innovation, how collaboration among the various actors that develop standards can be improved, raising awareness of the important role that standards play and international aspects of standardisation. EFTA is monitoring the work of the actions and the EFTA Secretariat participates in a Steering Committee that oversees their implementation.
From left: Anna Constable (Officer, EFTA), Margrethe Gams Steine Asserson (Senior Officer, EFTA), Hein Bollens (Deputy Head of Unit DG GROW), Joaquim Nunes de Almeida (Director, DG Grow), Ambassador Bergdís Ellertsdóttir, Gudrún Rögnvaldardóttir (Managing Director, Icelandic Standards).
EFTA’s role in the European Standardisation System
European standardisation has contributed significantly to the development of the Single Market, removing technical barriers to trade and thereby facilitating cross-border trade. The majority of European standards are market driven and initiated by business but the European Commission can also, in line with the Standardisation Regulation, request the ESOs to develop a European standard in support of harmonised EU legislation. So-called harmonised standards represent around 20% of European standards and manufacturers can use these to demonstrate that products, services or processes comply with the applicable EU legislation. Much of this EU legislation is also applicable in the EFTA States, either through the EEA Agreement in the cases of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein or through bilateral agreements with the EU in the case of Switzerland.
The EFTA States participate in the European standardisation activities through their national standardisation bodies (Liechtenstein via the Swiss standardisation system).
Standardisation policy falls under the responsibility of the EFTA Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade, in which the four EFTA States discuss and exchange views on policy developments. Through close cooperation and dialogue with the Commission and the European standardisation community, the EFTA States and the EFTA Secretariat play an active part in standardisation work at European level. A key aspect of this cooperation is the parallel financing by the European Commission and EFTA of standards-related work carried out by the ESOs. EFTA also co-funds the work of organisations representing small and medium-sized enterprises, and consumer, environmental and societal interests in standardisation.