11 October 2021

EU sees standards as one of the 10 priority areas to strengthen its global leadership

By Ivo Cabral

Standard-setting has been identified by the European Commission as one of the 10 key strategic areas for the EU to ensure its ‘freedom and capacity to act’ in the decades to come. This is a clear sign of the crucial role standards-setting plays in geopolitics, and hence in our transition to an environmentally sustainable world.

The selection of ten areas is part of the Commission’s 2021 Strategic Foresight Report – a forward-looking exercise which aims to ‘put the EU in the best position to achieve their long-term policy objectives and play a strategic role’ in the global order.

In particular, the Commission’s report pointed out that ‘climate change and other environmental challenges’ are a key global megatrend that will continue to affect the EU in the coming decades, and finds that ‘ensuring first-mover global position in standard-setting’ will be one of the 10 key strategic areas to watch in realising the EU’s geostrategic objectives.

‘The EU is in competition for first mover advantage in standard-setting’, the report says. ‘This is particularly relevant in emerging technologies (and related products and services), such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, quantum, cyber security, sensitive and specialised data (e.g. in the fields of health and space), digital currencies and chemicals. Other priority fields include green technologies such as hydrogen, energy storage, offshore wind and sustainable transport’.

The report goes on to say that the acceptance of EU standards at the international level is crucial for the EU to have an influence in the global order and leadership on climate change, sustainability and protection of consumers, among others. Authors also highlight active regulatory cooperation as a priority action for the EU to take a leading role in international norm setting organisations, such as ISO.

The 2021 Commission’s Foresight Report confirms the importance that standards play in international trade, and therefore in the transition to a climate-neutral world.

The full list of key geostrategic areas identified by the 2021 Commission’s Foresight Report include the following:

  1. Ensuring sustainable and resilient health and food systems
  2. Securing decarbonised and affordable energy
  3. Strengthening capacity in data management, artificial intelligence and cutting-edge technologies
  4. Securing and diversifying supply of critical raw materials
  5. Ensuring first-mover global position in standard-setting
  6. Building a resilience and future-proof economics and financial systems
  7. Developing and retaining skills and talent matching EU ambitions
  8. Strengthening security and defence capacities and access to space
  9. Working with global partners to promote peace, security and prosperity for all
  10. Strengthening the resilience of institutions.

Full European Commission report available here: https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/strategic-planning/strategic-foresight/2021-strategic-foresight-report_en

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