Documents considered by the Committee on 7 September 2016 Contents

11Modernising the European Standardisation System

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

(a)–(c) cleared from scrutiny; drawn to the attention of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee

Document details

(a) Communication on European Standards for the 21st Century; (b) Communication on the annual union work programme for European Standardisation for 2017;
(c) Report on the implementation of Regulation (EU) No. 1025/2012 from 2013 to 2015

Legal base

Department

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Document Numbers

(a) (37836), 9969/19, COM(16) 358 + ADD 1;

(b) (37835), 9966/16, COM(16) 357 + ADD 1;

(c) (37861), 10193/16, COM(16) 212 + ADD 1

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

11.1Effective standards, whether specifying ‘standard’ paper sizes (such as A3, A4 or A5) or technical standards for cloud computing, can help promote innovation, ensure interoperability between different devices and services, reduce costs and enable companies to access markets and increase their competitiveness.

11.2In June, the Commission published a strategy for modernising the European Standardisation System (ESS), aimed at helping ensure EU standards keep pace with an increasingly globalised, digitalised, and service based economy (the standardisation package).

11.3As part of the standardisation package, the Commission will set up a Joint Initiative on Standardisation (JIS) between the Commission and European standardisation stakeholders, intended to improve the effectiveness, inclusiveness and timeliness of European standard setting by the end of 2019. The Commission also provides guidance on promoting European service standards, improving levels of information available to service providers and removing obstacles poised by national standards and certification schemes. A targeted review of national rules is due to be launched in 2017.

11.4The then Minister of State for Universities and Science (Joseph Johnson) notes the Government’s general support for standards, including in ICT and services, as a way to boost growth and support economic recovery.

11.5The Committee reiterates that it takes a strong interest in the transparency, inclusiveness and effectiveness of the European standards setting process and its outcomes. We note that the Government is broadly content with the proposed package, which is non-legislative, and that standards are non-binding and voluntary. We clear the documents from scrutiny, but ask the Minister to consider the extent to which the UK may wish to participate in the ESS after withdrawal from the EU in future updates on the implementation of the standardisation package. We draw the Minister’s response and our conclusions to the attention of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee.

Full details of the documents

(a) Commission Communication on European Standards for the 21st Century: (37836), 9969/19, + ADD 1, COM(16) 358; (b) Commission Communication on the annual union work programme for European Standardisation for 2017: (37835), 9966/16, + ADD 1 COM(16) 357; (c) Commission Report on the implementation of the Regulation (EU) No. 1025/2012 from 2013 to 2015: (37861), 10193/16, + ADD 1 COM(16) 212.

Background

EU standard setting process

11.6The Commission can request and authorise European standardisation organisations (ESOs) to develop harmonised standards, which may be used by industry to demonstrate compliance with product safety or other requirements set out in EU legislation.

11.7There are three ESOs: CEN (the European Committee for Standardisation); CENELEC (the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation); and ETSI (the European Telecommunications Standards Institute). They operate as independent organisations and develop voluntary standards, setting out technical or quality requirements for certain products, production processes or services.

11.8As standards are voluntary and market-led, businesses do not need to comply with them and remain free to use alternative solutions if they wish, but adherence to such standards may demonstrate compliance with existing or new legislation.

Annual work programme on standardisation

11.9Article 8 of the Regulation on European standardisation56 (which came into effect on 1 January 2013) (the Regulation) requires the Commission to publish an annual work programme that identifies EU strategic priorities for European standardisation and the standards it will ask the ESOs to develop in support of new or existing legislation and policies. One of the priority areas identified in the 2016 AUWP was ICT standardisation.57

The Standardisation package documents of June 2017

11.10The modernisation of the European Standardisation System (ESS) was announced in the Single Market Strategy of October 2015. The standardisation package consists of the documents set out below, along with the Communication on ICT standardisation priorities for the Digital Single Market of April 2016 (which is the subject of a separate Report chapter).

The Communication on European Standards for the 21st Century

11.11The Commission sets out the role of standards for innovation, trade, growth and in the Single Market. It outlines the Joint Initiative on Standardisation (JIS)—a framework for bringing together European and national standardisation organisations, industry, consumer bodies, trade unions, environmental organisations, Member States and the Commission to improve the speed and prioritisation of standards development. It aims to better align standard setting priorities with European services, digital and research and innovation agendas, linking up non-ICT and ICT standards policies. It also aims to promote the use of European standards at an international level. Member States will be invited to sign the Joint Initiative during the Slovakian Presidency.

11.12The accompanying Commission Staff Working Document on tapping the potential of European service standards notes that while services account for 70% of the EU economy, service standards only account for around 2% of all European standards. Examples of services standards include terminology on hotels and other tourism accommodation. The Commission considers the fragmentation of standards (for example arising from different national service standards and certification) a barrier to the cross-border provision of services and proposes to prioritise and promote the targeted development of voluntary European service standards to facilitate the cross-border provision of services as part of its wider Single Market strategy. It proposes a system of monitoring national service standards that would highlight any duplications in national standards and could be used to prioritise service standardisation.

2017 Annual Union Work Programme

11.13The 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 proposed 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. The Commission recommends a renewed focus on the services sector. It concludes that standards for the Digital Single Market and service standards are ‘strategic’ priorities and lists areas where standardisation requests might arise next year.

The report on the functioning of Regulation 1025/2012

11.14The report is positive about the impact of the Regulation on the ESS, noting that it has increased the transparency and inclusiveness of the ESS, contributed to a better functioning internal market and led to a revision of the rules for EU financial support for ESOs.

The Government’s Explanatory Memorandum of 20 June 2016

11.15The Minister supports the use of effective standards, including in strategic priorities such as ICT and services, to help promote innovation, the functioning of the Single Market and the Europe 2020 goal of creating growth and jobs in a smart, sustainable and inclusive way. He notes that “studies have shown the use of standards can add between 0.3% and 1% to GDP and make a significant contribution to improvements in labour productivity”.

11.16The Minister highlights that the standardisation package does not include legislative proposals, and notes the “intention to increase awareness of the use of standards and align work with other initiatives”.

11.17On timing, the Minister notes that there was an “initial signing ceremony” of the JIS by standards bodies on 13 June and expects the overall package to be discussed at a Council during the new [Slovakian] Presidency.

Previous Committee Reports

None.


56 Regulation on European standardisation.

57 See Report chapter for further detail.




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12 September 2016