EU Afghanistan Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development - European Scrutiny Contents


2 Annual Work Programme for European Standardisation in 2016

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and Culture, Media and Sport Committee
Document detailsCommission Communication on the annual Union work programme for European standardisation for 2016
Legal base
DepartmentBusiness, Innovation and Skills
Document Numbers(37452), 5186/16 + ADD 1, COM(15) 686

Summary and Committee's conclusions

2.1 Each year, the Commission must publish an annual work programme that identifies EU strategic priorities for European standardisation and the standards it will ask the European standardisation organisations (ESOs) to develop in support of new or existing legislation and policies. Standards are voluntary, market-led and developed on the basis of consensus; businesses do not need to comply with them, but adherence to such standards may demonstrate compliance with existing or new legislation.

2.2 The Minister for Universities and Science at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr Joseph Johnson) is broadly content with the strategic priorities set out in the work programme for 2016, noting the importance of development of standards in new and emerging technologies, the ICT and services sectors, and to enhance the digital agenda. He also supports increased transparency in the standardisation framework.

2.3 The Committee considers that transparency and inclusiveness in the European standards setting process is vital and should comply with wider better regulation principles more generally.

2.4 We note that in 2015 the Minister's predecessor (Mr David Willetts) underlined the importance of coordinating the Commission's annual work programme on standardisation with its ongoing work on regulatory fitness (REFIT) with a view to improving the overall business environment. The Minister reiterates this intent this year, but does not indicate what progress the Government has made in integrating standardisation in the Better Regulation framework since 2015. We ask him to do so.

2.5 We further note that the forthcoming 'Joint Initiative on Standards Modernisation' (Joint Initiative), one of the actions proposed in the Commission's Single Market Strategy of October 2015, is expected to play an important role in modernising the standards setting process and improving implementation of the Regulation. We therefore ask the Minister for an initial assessment of what is likely to be covered in the Joint Initiative (expected later this year) and what impact, if any, it may have on this year's and subsequent annual work programmes.

2.6 We hold this Communication under scrutiny pending the information requested above, and draw it to the attention of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

Full details of the documents: Commission Communication on The annual Union work programme for European standardisation for 2016: (37452), 5186/16 + ADD 1, COM(15) 686.

Background

2.7 The Commission and the Government consider that standardisation plays an important role in: creating a well-functioning EU Single Market and a Digital Single Market, as standards can boost market-based competition (for example by ensuring the interoperability of complementary products and services) as well as support better regulation; and in international trade and the opening-up of markets.

2.8 There are three European standardisation organisations (ESOs): CEN (the European Committee for Standardisation); CENELEC (the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation); and ETSI (the European Telecommunications Standards Institute).

2.9 ESOs operate as independent organisations and develop voluntary standards setting out technical or quality requirements for certain products, production processes or services, often at the request of industry, other interested parties (such as consumer organisations) or national standards bodies (the British Standards Institution). Standards are therefore based on voluntary cooperation between industry, public authorities and other interested parties and developed on the basis of consensus.

2.10 The Commission may ask the ESOs to develop a harmonised standard which may be used by industry to demonstrate compliance with product safety or other requirements set out in EU legislation. As they are voluntary, businesses remain free to use alternative solutions if they wish.

EUROPEAN STANDARDISATION LEGAL FRAMEWORK

2.11 The EU adopted Regulation (EU) No. 1025/2012 (the Regulation) in October 2012 (with effect from 1 January 2013),[9] which was intended to update and simplify the European standardisation system by making it more responsive to changes in the global economy, reducing the time taken to develop new European standards, ensuring that SMEs and other societal stakeholders are involved in the standardisation process, and broadening the use of information and communications technology (ICT) standards developed outside the formal European or international standardisation system in order to enhance interoperability.

2.12 The Regulation was eventually cleared by the Committee, following assurances from the then Minister of State for Universities and Science (Mr David Willetts) that the Government had met its negotiating objectives, including that there would be no diminution of Member States' influence in the European standardisation process, and that the time taken to develop new European standards would be reduced, without diminishing their quality and responsiveness to changes in the global market.

THE 2016 ANNUAL WORK PROGRAMME

2.13 Article 8 of the Regulation requires the Commission to adopt an annual work programme, which sets out the EU's strategic priorities for European standardisation and the standards the Commission will ask the European standardisation organisations (ESOs) to develop in support of new or existing legislation and policies.

2.14 The 2016 work programme:

·  provides an overview of the implementation of the Regulation, which references the Commission's Joint Initiative on Standardisation (see below for more detail);

·  sets out specific priority areas in which the Commission considers that European standards are needed; and

·  considers and updates a number of topics considered in previous work programmes, including the inclusiveness of standard setting, international cooperation in standardisation, and the linkages between intellectual property rights and standardisation.

SINGLE MARKET STRATEGY — JOINT INITIATIVE ON MODERNISATION OF STANDARDS

2.15 One of the actions of the Single Market Strategy of October 2015 is the 'modernisation of the standardisation system'. The Commission is expected to propose a 'Joint Initiative on Standardisation' between the Commission and the European standardisation community, intended to help in the effective implementation of the Regulation, in the first half of 2016.

The Minister's Explanatory Memorandum of 26 January 2016

2.16 The Minister supports the use of standards to ensure the functioning of the internal market, enhance labour productivity, and contribute to the Europe 2020 objectives for jobs and growth.

2.17 He welcomes the 2016 annual work programme, noting the importance of development of standards in new technologies, the ICT and services sectors, and to enhance the digital agenda. He considers that any changes to the intellectual property framework would need to be examined further and tested with stakeholders.

2.18 The Minister stresses that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will continue to consult other relevant Government Departments and the Devolved Administrations to ensure that standards are not introduced unnecessarily or impose disproportionate burdens (particularly on SMEs), and to identify particular areas in which the development of European standards should be given greater prominence.

2.19 He also states that the Government supports increased transparency in the standardisation framework and that it will encourage the Commission to coordinate its annual work programme with ongoing work on regulatory fitness (REFIT) (which deals with legislation rather than standardisation), with a view to improving the overall business environment.

2.20 The Minister also notes the consensus building framework in standards setting:

    "Standards requested as a result of the work plan will be developed by the European Standards Organisations in committees formed from national experts from each member state. These represent a national position built from a consensus created at the individual National Standards Bodies (BSI in the UK's case). These national committees are formed of subject experts from a very broad range of stakeholders — business (through trade associations), consumers, government and others — to ensure that a broad and convincing consensus is reached."

2.21 He finally considers that an impact assessment of this Communication is not needed given the voluntary and market-led nature of the standards setting process:,

    "As the purpose of this Communication is to set out the broad areas in which the European Standards Organisations might be asked to develop standards, an Impact Assessment by the Government is not needed. European standards are market-led and voluntary in nature and it would therefore not be possible either to identify or to quantify which standards might be mandated and adopted by business. There is therefore no direct impact on business of this proposal."

Previous Committee Reports

None.


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