Standards are technical specifications defining requirements for products, production processes, services or test-methods. These specifications are voluntary. They are developed by industry and market actors following some basic principles such as consensus, openness, transparency and non-discrimination. Standards ensure interoperability and safety, reduce costs and facilitate companies' integration in the value chain and trade.
European Standards are under the responsibility of the European Standardisation Organisations (CEN, CENELEC, ETSI) and can be used to support EU legislation and policies.
What the Commission is doing
Standardisation is a powerful and strategic tool for improving the efficiency of European policies. The Commission pays special attention to standardisation because standards can influence most areas of public concern such as the competitiveness of industry, the functioning of the single market, the protection of the environment and of human health, not to forget the enhancement of innovation.
- As of 1984 the Commission, together with EFTA, and the European Standardisation Organisations engaged in a public-private partnership for their efficient cooperation, 'General Guidelines for the Cooperation between CEN, CENELEC and ETSI and the European Commission and the European Free Trade Association'.
- Standardisation supports the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and respective Commission flagship initiatives - see Communication, 'A strategic vision for European standards: Moving forward to enhance and accelerate the sustainable growth of the European economy by 2020'. Actions to make standardisation fit for these new challenges are proposed.
- Regulation (EU) 1025/2012 on European standardisation strengthens the institutional framework for standardisation and its use by the Commission. See the Single Market Act and the New Legislative Framework for marketing products.
- Conclusions of the European Council (March 2014) recognise the importance of European and international standards for the Commission's ambitious trade and investment negotiations.
- The Joint Initiative on Standardisation sets out an innovative way of achieving priorities through an open public-private co-operation.
- Commission guidance on standardisation in services (June 2016) sets out measures that will help prioritise and incentivise the development of voluntary European service standards (including helping to identify areas where European service standards are not needed or are lower priority), reduce obstacles stemming from national standards and certification schemes, and improve information to service providers.
Patents and standards
Standardisation based on patent-protected technologies is a key contributor to industrial innovation and competitiveness. The European Commission supports the improvement of the framework governing the inclusion of patent-protected technologies into standards and the facilitation of the licensing process for these technologies.