It also announces next steps on the Joint Initiative on Standardisation (JIS), which aims to reinforce the partnership between the European institutions and the standardisation community.
From the size of A4 paper to GSM technology, standards reduce costs, promote innovation, ensure interoperability between different devices and services, and help companies to access markets. Largely voluntary and industry-driven, European standards need to keep pace with the changing economy, the increasing importance of services, and the digital revolution. Today the European Commission has adopted a Communication, announced in the Single Market Strategy, to ensure that Europe remains a global hub for standardisation.
Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: "If we want the European market to have the first-mover advantage, we need to speed up and better prioritise standard setting across the board. With today's standardisation package, we are helping raise competitiveness, power innovation and create a predictable and stable investment framework in the EU."
Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, added: "The Joint Initiative on Standardisation brings together public and private organisations in a collaborative, transparent and agile dialogue process to ensure the timely development of state-of-the-art standards in support of fast changing market needs and public policies."
Often seen as a merely technical issue, standards are important economic drivers. Today's Communication presents a vision for a single and coherent EU standardisation policy which features higher on the political agenda, and where the priorities are regularly discussed with the European Parliament and the Member States.
Today's package includes a Commission decision providing the framework for the Joint Initiative on Standardisation (JIS), which will be formally launched by all partners on 13 June in Amsterdam under the Dutch Presidency of the EU. The JIS will bring together European and national standardisation organisations and bodies, industry, SMEs, consumer associations, trade unions, environmental organisations, Member States and the Commission. These partners will commit to modernising, prioritising, and speeding up the timely delivery of standards by the end of 2019. The JIS will better align standard setting priorities with research and innovation impetus, with support from the EU research and innovation programme Horizon 2020. The JIS will also promote the use of European standards at international level.
The proposal for a 2017 work programme for European standardisation identifies the services and ICT sectors as priority areas for future standard-setting, given their cross-cutting role in the economy. In April 2016, the Commission already proposed concrete measures to speed up the ICT standard setting process by focusing on five priority areas: 5G, cloud computing, internet of things, data technologies and cybersecurity. Now, the Commission recommends a renewed focus on the services sector.
While services account for 70% of the EU economy, service standards only account for around 2% of all European standards. The fragmentation of standards acts as a barrier to the cross-border provision of services. Complementing other initiatives under the Single Market Strategy to facilitate the cross-border provision of services, the Commission proposes to prioritise and promote the targeted development of voluntary European service standards. Examples of services standards include terminology on hotels and other tourism accommodation.
Standards are technical specifications for products, production processes, services or test-methods. Standards facilitate the interoperability of economic operators in the value chain. For example, the standards on paper sizes (A3, A4, A5) facilitate the interaction between consumers, paper and envelope manufacturers, printing houses and photocopier makers. A standard provides technical certainty, a pre-condition for economic operators to invest. For some products, such as airbags or surgical masks, standards also guarantee high quality and safety.
Standard setting in Europe is largely industry driven. While standards are developed by a standards organisation, the market may also simply adopt the technical specifications developed by one company or by professional organisations.
The modernisation of the standardisation system was announced in the Single Market Strategy and complements the Communication on ICT standardisation Priorities for the Digital Single Market adopted in April 2016.