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New approach to European standardization

The European Commission, has recently adopted a report on "Efficiency and Accountability in European Standardization under the New Approach", following a request from the Internal Market Council of November 1997. The New Approach was formulated to deal with problems related t...

The European Commission, has recently adopted a report on "Efficiency and Accountability in European Standardization under the New Approach", following a request from the Internal Market Council of November 1997. The New Approach was formulated to deal with problems related to standardization, particularly in the context of the Single Market. Essentially, it deals with large families of products and horizontal risks, and defines essential requirements that products must meet, but leaves manufacturers with flexibility when choosing the technical means to meet these requirements. This aims to improve efficiency, therefore encouraging wider participation in standardization, in order to ensure a system which delivers timely, high-quality standards for effective use on the market. The report is divided into the following sections: - The specific features of the New Approach in relation to standardization: addressing the need for accountability, the role of national standards bodies and the use of publicly available specifications, in order to ensure transparency in the procedure; - The search for efficiency, providing a timetable for a standards elaboration procedure; - Proposals for improving the efficiency of the European Standardization System: addressing the current management of the process, the role of public authorities, the issue of a single European Standardization body, raising awareness and financial support for standardization. The overall conclusion drawn by the Commission is that the basic concepts of the New Approach and of European standardization have proved their validity in the context of the Single Market. Progress has been made on management and transparency issues, however, these are essentially issues for the European standards bodies (CEN, CENELEC, ETSI). Regular reviews of standardization will be held, with the aim of continuing to improve the efficiency and transparency of the procedure. Encouraging a more widespread use of standards is, however, essentially a task for public authorities, who could create incentives for their use and ensure standards are developed in an efficient way.