New procedures came into effect recently for enquiries and formal voting in CEN-CENELEC. They are modelled on those adopted by ISO in 2014. These changes once again aim to reduce the time taken to produce standards and are in line with the framework set in January 2009 for producing European standards in three years.
Certain procedures applicable to key stages of the standardization process have accordingly been simplified to achieve publication no longer in 36 but 27 months.
This reduction mainly takes the form of a reduction in the length of enquiry periods or their elimination by default. From now on the time that can be devoted to prepare the draft, after its inclusion in the work programme, is 8 months (although with the possibility of extending it to 12 months). The public enquiry, for its part, is shortened and will last no longer 5 but 3 months. Finally, another significant change is that the formal voting stage, which was previously compulsory, becomes optional.
While the stated purpose is to reduce the time taken to produce standards, it is possible that these changes may have major repercussions on the strategies adopted when participating in European standardization work. For example, it is well known that to reach a firm consensus in a European working group, a development time far greater than 8 months is very often needed. It is very likely that some standardization groups will work beforehand to propose including in the standardization programme a project that is already consensual… despite the risk that the enquiry to decide on inclusion in the programme may be negative. Participants should also be extremely vigilant in monitoring the handling of the technical comments expressed during the public enquiry, especially in the event of disagreement on a draft, because from now on the draft may be published directly if the necessary approval criteria are reached at the 3-month enquiry stage.
Finally, the production of a standard implies that all the stakeholders have the opportunity – and the time – to express comments on a draft during the public enquiry. A 3-month enquiry period on the European level therefore seems very short and raises questions regarding the ability of CEN and CENELEC to publish harmonized standards of good quality in a record time.