Setting standards for Europe's recovery

Standardisation could be the catalyst for the EU’s digital and green transition, writes Elena Santiago Cid.
Elena Santiago Cid | Photo credit: CEN and CENELEC

By Elena Santiago Cid

Elena Santiago Cid is director general of CEN and CENELEC

10 Sep 2020

The COVID-19 outbreak has wreaked unprecedented havoc across Europe. For us to recover, a collective effort is needed to provide innovative, long-term solutions - such as the EU Recovery Plan.

In this context, European Standards (ENs) have already proven to be an effective tool for powering Europe’s recovery. In response to a request from the European Commission, CEN and CENELEC, two of the official European standardisation organisations, took the unprecedented step of making freely available a series of European standards for medical devices, ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE).

These standards, previously developed with the expertise of European industry experts, including contributions from users and consumers, have helped facilitate the work of the many companies that converted their production lines to deliver urgently needed equipment.

Our Single Standard Model implies that all national members of CEN and CENELEC identically adopt European standards and withdraw conflicting ones. To avoid a fragmented response across Europe, CEN developed a free guideline on community masks, CWA 17553:2020.

The effectiveness of our standardisation response during this emergency is proof of the strength and agility of the European Standardization System (ESS), and of its ability to reinforce Europe’s resilience.

A well-established public-private partnership, based on trust, consensus, transparency and a single standard model, allowed our network of National Members to respond rapidly to the pandemic. In recent months, together with the Commission, we have worked on actionable solutions that allow manufacturers to use the right standards at the right time in their production processes.

But more needs to be done: a well-functioning ESS is a prerequisite for a well-functioning Single Market and a resilient and sustainable recovery process. For this to happen, one of the most crucial steps is to ensure the correct application of the New Legislative Framework (NLF), with the timely citation of harmonised standards (hENs) in the Official Journal of the EU.

As technical as it might sound, this issue has very practical implications in creating clear rules for European industry, boosting certainty, innovation and its global competitiveness. For this reason, we are calling for a strong NLF, with trust on European standards, to be at the core of the EU Strategy for Standardisation the Commission is preparing for the end of this year.

“We are calling for a strong NLF, with trust on European standards, to be at the core of the EU Strategy for Standardisation”

As the COVID-19 crisis has shown, CEN and CENELEC are committed to providing sustainable standardisation solutions to power the European recovery. Standardisation can provide a strategic lever and be the catalyst for the EU’s digital and green transition, supporting the market, enabling market transformation and building trust from consumers.

With the help of the EU institutions, we are willing to revitalise the ESS and the application of the NLF to allow for timely, effective, voluntary and market-driven European Standards to the benefit of us all.

Read the most recent articles written by Elena Santiago Cid - Standards build trust in the Single Market