The European Commission announces its policy for harmonized standards

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On 22 November 2018 the European Commission published a call for Member States to renew their political commitment to the Single Market. This call goes hand-in-hand with several initiatives, including the paper on “Harmonized standards: Increasing transparency and legal security for a completely functional Single Market”.

In this paper the Commission reiterates the importance of the standards to ensure interoperability, facilitate the introduction of innovations and bolster consumer confidence in goods and services placed on the market. It also reaffirms its attachment to the New Approach, a flexible system based on a consensus of all the players.

And yet this system is experiencing problems. In some sectors, the citing of standards in the Official Journal of the European Union (which confers on them the status of harmonized standards giving a presumption of conformity with the essential requirements of the regulations) is behind schedule and faces significant obstacles.

The Commission’s objective is therefore to better monitor and evaluate development of the harmonized standards, with regard to both technical aspects of the standards and the inclusive and transparent nature of the standardization process itself. Four initiatives are planned:

  • Eliminating as soon as possible the backlog of standards whose citing in the OJEU is blocked.
  • Reviewing internal processes to standardize procedures for citing in the OJEU based on existing good practices.
  • Producing a guide to the practical aspects of implementation of Regulation 1025/2012 on standardization, which will contain, in particular: precise details regarding the new standardization application format; clarifications regarding the breakdown of roles between the Commission and the HAS (formerly “New Approach”) consultants; and recommendations to improve the consistency and speed of procedures for evaluation of harmonized standards in all sectors.
  • Continually strengthening the system of HAS consultants; this initiative will also include measures to reinforce the links between the Commission’s departments in charge of the harmonization legislation and the technical committees responsible for producing the harmonized standards.

These measures should make it possible to rationalize and increase the transparency of a process which may have seemed to be at a standstill in recent years, especially in key sectors such as construction and medical devices.

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