policy monitor

European Commission - The EU Strategy on standardisation

The EU Commission proposes its standardisation strategy. The strategy focuses on solving standardisation urgencies, good governance in standardisation organisations as well as global standard setting and education.

What: policy-orienting document

Impactscore: 3

For who: standardisation organisations, sector organisations, companies

URL: https://ec.europa.eu/docsroom/documents/48598


The EU Commission has published its strategy on Standardisation in the EU single market. Standardisation has benefited both companies and consumers by creating a level-playing field in the single market for businesses and raising consumer confidence. In an increasingly competitive global context for standard-setting, the EU Commission now wishes to make European standardisation more agile, flexible and focused on anticipating standardisation needs. This must ensure that the EU can deliver standards in a timely manner and gain a “first mover” advantage through standardisation.

Policy measures for critical areas and for the green and digital economy

The EU Commission considers international standard-setting as essential for European competitiveness and for its ambitions for a green and digital economy. The Commission identified key areas with “standardisation urgencies” for the EU’s strategic dependencies. This includes areas such as the COVID-19 vaccine and medicine production; the recycling of critical raw materials; the roll-out of the clean hydrogen value chain; chip certification for security, authenticity and reliability; and data sharing and re-use standards.

The Commission will take the following measures to address these and future urgencies and needs:

  • launch standardisation requests for these areas and call on European Standardisation Organization (ESOs) to prioritize work in these areas;
  • create a High-Level Forum for Member States, ESOs and national standardisation bodies, industry, civil society and academia to coordinate and advise on future standardisation efforts as well as work with existing expert groups;
  • review existing standards with the High-Level Forum to identify necessary revisions and new standards to meet European Green Deal and Digital objectives, and support the Single Market;
  • establish an EU excellence hub on standards to coordinate existing expertise in the Commission, EU agencies and Joint Undertakings. The hub will collaborate with Member States on future standardisation needs and will be steered by a Chief Standardisation officer;
  • work with ESOs on solutions to speed up the development of standards by improving consistency of new standards with EU law and reducing time between the adoption of the harmonized standard and delivery to the Commission

Good governance principles in EU standard-setting

The EU Commission finds that ESOs increasingly have to incorporate core EU democratic values and interests in their standard-setting for EU standardisation requests. However, the current decision-making process of these ESOs allows for an uneven voting power awarded to corporate actors. The EU Commission proposes amending Regulation no. 1025/2012 to ensure that:

  • delegates of national standardisation bodies of the EU and EEA members (which should have a balanced representation) are the ones with decision-making power when ESOs handle standardisation requests from the Commission;
  • SMEs have access to free draft standards, to the activities of national standardisation bodies and to special rates for standards.

ESOs may make proposals to modernize their governance, address their uneven and non-transparent representation of industrial interests, and increase other actors’ participation by the end of 2022. If these proposals are insufficient, the Commission will consider revising Regulation no. 1025/2012 itself to modernize the governance.

The Commission will also start a peer review between EU member states and national standardisation bodies to exchange good practices and make achieve better inclusiveness (e.g. of civil society and SME’s). Finally, The Commission will work on an approach for when and under which conditions it will use power to adopt common specifications under certain legislation. This includes, for example, when standards are late or if the process is blocked.

The EU as a global standard setter

The EU wishes to shape international standards according to its values and interests but faces strong competition in this field. The EU Commission therefore promotes a more strategic approach in international standardisation through international organizations (ITU, ISO, IEC,…) and in other fora.

Lack of coordination between EU member states, industries and standardisation bodies has led to other regions taking the lead in standard-setting. To improve coordination, the EU excellence hub on standards will monitor relevant international standardisation activities and the High-Level Forum will promote coordination on a political level. The Commission particularly highlights the importance of leading in internet standardisation, ecodesign and sustainable products, and space traffic.

EU member states are prompted to include civil society, SMEs, trade unions and consumers in international standard-setting. The EU commission also promotes cooperation with like-minded trade agreement partners in international standardisation (e.g. the US, Japan, Korea) and support the funding of standardisation projects in African countries.

Innovation fostering timely standards

The Commission proposes that the European R&I base (including e.g. Horizon Europe) must be exploited more to find and transfer research relevant for new standards. The Commission will launch the “Standardisation Booster” for Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe researchers, a platform for beneficiaries to test the relevance of their results for standardisation. The Commission will also develop a Code of Practice for researchers on standardisation to facilitate standardisation activities and raise strategic awareness of standards among researchers and innovators. The Commission finally pushes for standards to move to machine-readable formats and for ESOs to integrate open source solutions in their activities.

Need for education and skill in standardisation

The EU Commission will promote the organisation of Standardisation University Days to increase awareness about standardisation among academics and students. It will also use the existing EU Academy as a forum for the exchange and stimulation of developing teaching modules around standardisation. The Commission will finally explore the possibility of a dedicated research network in standards in the scope of its Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) actions. This increase in awareness and education is needed to address the effects of the upcoming generation change, the need for new skills to deal with technological challenges and the general lack of awareness around standardisation.

The future of standards

The Commission will publish an annual dashboard on planned, current and completed standardisation activities for more transparency in the European standardisation system and will support the EU’s role as a global frontrunner in the development of standards using the above strategy.