The development of European standards and the withdrawal of conflicting national standards has played a leading role in the achievement of a European Single Market for goods. Standardisation is a market-based tool in which industry and other stakeholders produce standards in order to agree on technical specifications for health, safety and the environment and to achieve interoperability.
Through Regulation (EU) No 1025/2012, the three European Standardisation Organisations (CEN, CENELEC and ETSI) are recognised as organisations that may receive a request to produce European harmonised standards in support of sectoral harmonised product legislation or for specific policy purposes. The Regulation also opens up for standardisation requests (formerly known as mandates) in the area of services and facilitates the participation of specific stakeholder representation in the development in European standards (the so-called Annex III Organisations).
The four EFTA countries have a long-standing policy of contributing financially to European Standardisation through the EFTA Council/Secretariat. This financial contribution is normally done in parallel with the European Commission.
There are three means by which the EFTA countries are linked to European Standardisation:
1. All the EFTA countries participate in the European standardisation activities through their national standardisation bodies (Liechtenstein via the Swiss standardisation system).
2. Through the EFTA Secretariat and the EFTA Council, EFTA has supported standardisation work along with the European Commission since the Luxembourg Declaration was signed in 1984. The basis for this support has since been laid down in the General Guidelines for Co-operation between EFTA, the European Commission and the European Standardisation Organisations. These guidelines have been followed, in parallel, by Framework Partnership Agreements on technical and financial support, signed separately with each of the European Standardisation Organisations.
3. European standardisation plays a crucial role in the development of the European Single Market/EEA. Under the New Approach/New Legislative Framework, standards have provided technical solutions for presumption of conformity with legal requirements under European legislation. In this regard, three of the EFTA countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, via their membership in the EEA, adopt such European legislation. Switzerland has, through its bilateral agreements with the EU, transposed these principles and most of the New Approach/NLF directives/regulations into national legislation.
Annex II, Chapter XIX of the EEA Agreement provides the legal basis for standardisation within the EEA. Regulation 1025/2012 is of particular importance.
New standardisation requests are approved by the Working Group on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), in which Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway participate. All financial and policy issues are handled by the EFTA Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Committee). This Committee, in which all four EFTA countries participate, reports to the EFTA Council. Contractual and financial issues are decided by the EFTA Council. The annual EFTA budget for financial support to European standardisation amounts to approximately €1 million. This support is provided in the form of annual operating grants to CEN, CENELEC and ETSI, and the Annex III organisations ANEC, SBS, ETUC and ECOS, and also in the form of direct contributions to the execution of mandates and other standardisation working programmes and to specific projects.
The EFTA countries, together with the European Commission and the three European Standardisation Organisations, are a partner in two international projects with Seconded European Standardisation Experts, one in China (SESEC) and one in India (SESEI). EFTA is represented by the EFTA Secretariat as a member of the Steering Committee of these projects.
EFTA has also been a partner in building up a database between European standardisation and Chinese standardisation called the China-Europe Standards Information Platform (CESIP). On this platform the Chinese and European partners share information on the applicable standards in specific product sectors. The objective is to facilitate industry and especially SME access to the respective markets and to comply with the applicable technical regulation.
EFTA also participated in the Joint Initiative on Standardisation, an action resulting from the European Commission’s Single Market Strategy. The Joint Initiative aimed to modernise the European Standardisation System and improve the existing public-private partnership between the Commission/EFTA and the European Standardisation Organisations and stakeholders.
About European Standardisation:
European Standardisation plays a key role in facilitating the free movement of goods and services in Europe. Its main objectives are:
· to eliminate technical barriers to trade by providing a source of common reference for trade;
· to provide a common and transparent reference for public procurement;
· to offer recognised references for quality, certification, and regulatory compliance;
· to promote European technical integration via the harmonisation of national and European legislation;
· to encourage technical cooperation and the exchange of expertise;
· to advance European competitiveness by providing a common, yet flexible, technical environment across the Single Market;
· to provide a flexible mechanism for consensus-building on identified issues in Europe (the level of consensus necessary to meet the needs of the parties concerned will vary according to the industrial sector, the relationship to the regulatory environment and factors such as product safety and the potential for harm to the environment);
· to promote European interests in the global economy and create conditions for access to world markets; and,
· to provide a means of reference for assistance and technical co-operation with third countries.
For more information, see also:
DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) - European Standards
European Standards Organisations:
· CEN – general standardisation, in all sectors except electrical, electronic equipment and telecommunications
· CENELEC – standardisation in the electrical and electronic equipment sector
· ETSI – standardisation in the telecommunications sector
EU/EFTA co-funded stakeholders in European standardisation (Annex III organisations):
· ANEC – represents consumer interests
· ECOS – represents environmental interests
· SBS – represents the interests of small and medium-sized enterprises
· ETUC – represents workers’ interests
International projects where EFTA is a partner: