Agreement likely on new European system
By Ophélie Spanneut | Tuesday 29 May 2012
Comitology procedures in the field of standardisation will be the focus of informal talks by Parliament, Council and Commission, on 30 May. The aim of this three-way meeting, the third and probably the last according to stakeholders, is to find a common ground on the institutions’ last difference of views: rules under which a party may object to a harmonised standard or technical specification.
The draft regulation being discussed changes a number of directives with the aim of speeding up, simplifying and modernising the European standardisation process.
Council and Parliament want to be able to object to the adoption of a harmonised standard if it does not meet essential safety requirements as defined in the source legislation. The Commission points out that the member states already have the possibility to object during drafting of the mandate. During the phase of drawing up a mandate for submission to the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), the Commission must first consult stakeholders, including member states. Similarly, when the annual work programme is presented, the 27 have the opportunity to express their disagreement to the Commission. The purpose of this consultation is to prevent stalemates and speed up the process by clearing the ground as much as possible before the work begins.
The Council also wishes to be in a position to turn down any new request for recognition of technical specifications in the area of information and communication technologies (ICT) through implementing measures. The Commission sees this as excess bureaucracy that would slow down the process. In the sector of information and communication technologies, many standards that ensure interoperability are not developed by official European standardisation bodies but by global fora and consortia (eg World Wide Web Consortium for internet standards) because of a lack of highly specialised expertise. The idea behind the draft regulation is to benefit from such ICT standards developed in other bodies by authorising their use as references in public procurement. They would be considered technical specifications.
The question of SME participation at national level was settled during the second three-way meeting. Under the agreement worked out by the institutions, national standardisation bodies must promote the involvement of small and medium-sized enterprises. Examples of best practice are proposed in the regulation to this effect (free participation by SMEs in meetings, advantageous pricing policy for access to standards, etc). The EP report by Lara Comi (EPP, Italy) was more ambitious, making these practices mandatory, but member states rejected these constraints on their national standardisation model.
The institutions are optimistic about reaching a first reading agreement, on 30 May.