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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs
News announcement13 June 20163 min read

Joint Initiative on Standardisation: responding to a changing marketplace

Standards are all around us, they affect all our lives even if we are often unaware of them. Standards set requirements for specific items, materials, components, systems and services, or describe a method or procedure. They facilitate international trade by ensuring compatibility and the interoperability of components, products and services. Although they are voluntary and market driven, when used they have shown to reduce costs for business and consumers, enhance performance, and improve safety.

Standards are key for innovation and progress in the Single Market, and are essential to supporting European competitiveness, jobs and growth. They also allow Europe to maintain its leadership in technical development and global trade as the European hub for global standardisation.

A new approach to meet new challenges

The European standardisation system (ESS) needs to adapt to meet the challenges of a changing economy, the increasing importance of services, and digital innovations. In line with the Commission's 2015 Single Market Strategy and the EU standardisation package adopted on 1 June 2016, the Joint Initiative on Standardisation sets out a shared vision for European standardisation. Its aim is to speed up and better prioritise standard setting across the board.

Standards must be timely, market-driven and produced in an inclusive way that supports EU policies and Europe's leadership in international standardisation.

To meet the current economic challenges and further contribute to creating jobs and growth, the Joint Initiative sets out concrete actions to further drive innovation, raise awareness of the importance of standards, and improve the representation of European SMEs' interests internationally. This will deliver a modern, dynamic ESS for businesses, consumers and society at large.

Working together

The Joint Initiative consists of a shared vision that supports the 10 Juncker Commission priorities, as well as specific actions to be delivered by 2019.

In line with the EU's Better Regulation policy, the Joint Initiative has been prepared in a collaborative, open, highly inclusive and transparent manner that reconciles both bottom-up and top-down needs and expectations.

The initiative is driven by stakeholders (EU and EFTA Member States, standardisation organisations and bodies, European industry and industry associations, SMEs, and societal stakeholders), with the European Commission playing a mainly coordinating role and building consensus - bringing together the expertise of all parties involved.

Improving market access and SME growth

Most European standards are market driven and initiated by business. The ESS has a unique feature: around 20% of European standards are harmonised, meaning they provide a presumption of conformity with the legal requirements of the relevant EU legislation (e.g. the Toys Directive).

Involving SMEs in standard setting is key to ensuring that product development is not stymied by incompatible standards. Standards help define the market and are a way for SMEs to bridge the gap and allow them to compete with large companies on an equal footing.

Standards can also help to open up new markets both within and outside the EU. The Joint Initiative aims to improve Europe's export potential by promoting the European regulatory model in third countries. This will also support the interests of European SMEs in international standardisation processes.

A joint vision on standardisation

Signatories to the initiative have agreed on a joint vision on standardisation based on mutually-agreed underlying principles. To get the process for improving the ESS underway, a Steering Group is drafting a set of actions, accompanied by pilot projects, based on three cluster domains identified as priorities:

  1. Awareness, Education and Understanding about the European Standardisation System i.e. increasing the relevant use of standards and participation in the process at all levels
  2. Coordination, Cooperation, Transparency and Inclusiveness, i.e. ensuring adequate, high-quality, user-friendly and timely European standards
  3. Competitiveness and International dimension, i.e. standards supporting European competitiveness in the global markets.

All actions will address provisions under the Joint Initiative, as expressed in the Single Market Strategy of 2015: prioritisation, modernisation and the appropriate speed for timely standards. Finally, the Joint Initiative on Standardisation is not legally binding and should not be construed in any way as replacing or interpreting the existing legal framework.


Publication date
13 June 2016