Action plan for harmonised standards made behind closed doors

European harmonised standards are developed by the European standardisation organisations (ESOs). When the reference number of the standard is published in the EU Official Journal regulators recognise these standards to provide presumption of conformity with legislation.

The publication of key standards have been delayed in the last years causing uncertainties for the market. This is due to many shortcomings in the referencing process, including on the side of the Commission. In cooperation with the ESOs, the European Commission has just launched an action plan to speed up the citation of harmonised standards that have been in the pipeline for some years, and improve the future citation process.

ECOS welcomes this joint commitment of the European Commission and the European standardisation organisations to address existing shortcomings in the citation system. We are also pleased to see that the European Commission will take over the management of the work of the New Approach Consultants (NAC), whose role is to check the compliance of the harmonised standards with the Commission’s standardisation request and the requirements of the corresponding Union legislation.

However, we deplore that this important action plan was not discussed in greater openness, notably with the involvement of Member States, and the four stakeholder organisations ECOS, ANEC, ETUC and SBS – also known as the Annex III organisations in Regulation 1025/2012.

Neglecting the inclusion of the Annex III organisations makes it near impossible for us to assess whether the plan to speed up the citation of so many standards will result in the publication of standards that do not meet the legal requirements. Also, it remains unclear whether future assessment and publication processes will be made in full transparency, and not just exclusively between the Commission and the ESOs.

ECOS calls on the European Commission to take caution in their actions in the future to avoid jeopordising the still fragile confidence of civil society in the standardisation system.