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Summaries of EU Legislation

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The role of standardisation in Europe

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The role of standardisation in Europe

Along with the principle of mutual recognition, standardisation plays a central role in the proper functioning of the internal market. Harmonised European standards help ensure the free movement of goods within the internal market and allow enterprises in the European Union (EU) to become more competitive. These standards likewise help protect the health and safety of European consumers and also contribute to environmental protection.


Council Resolution of 28 October 1999 on the role of standardisation in Europe [Official Journal C 141 of 19.05.2000].


The Council acknowledges that a strong standardisation system has been developed in Europe, particularly through the " new approach ". This has also been testified by the Commission's report on the efficiency and accountability of European standardisation under the new approach (1998). It has contributed in a significant way to the smooth functioning of the single market, especially the free movement of goods and services. The system has also contributed to protecting health and safety, making industry more competitive and fostering international exchanges.

Principles of standardisation

Standardisation is a voluntary, consensus-driven activity carried out by all interested parties. The Council encourages the European standards bodies to develop new policies to adapt to market needs by:

  • diversifying the products and services offered to interested parties;
  • developing a graduated system of products other than formal standards, for example elaboration procedures and consultation processes.

The Commission is called upon to examine how a Community framework of principles could be developed with regard to the use of specifications that do not have the status of formal standards. The Commission should also examine whether differences between standardisation in the field of information and communications technology and standardisation in other sectors give rise to problems.


The Council welcomes the measures taken by the applicant countries to create the necessary standardisation infrastructures to allow for full and effective participation in European standardisation.

Role of public authorities

Given the impact of European standardisation on society, the public authorities have a legitimate interest in this field. In this context, the Council requests public authorities to acknowledge the strategic importance of European standardisation and to maintain a stable and transparent legal, political and financial framework in which standardisation can further evolve. The Council also invites the Commission to examine whether the new approach principles could be applied to other sectors as a means of improving and simplifying legislation. The Council also calls upon the Commission, the public authorities and the European standards bodies to adopt procedures to resolve problems in applying the safeguard clause.


European standards bodies are called upon to constantly update their strategies for increasing the efficiency of the standardisation process, so that the standards delivered meet the requirements of the market (including those of small and medium-sized enterprises). The Commission is called upon to carry out studies on the overall impact of standardisation and to contribute to establishing a system for benchmarking the performances of European standards bodies.

The Council has noted with concern the delays in some sectors, and calls upon all concerned to develop the standards needed to facilitate the free movement of goods in these sectors.


The Council considers that the costs of elaborating standards should in principle be borne by the interested parties themselves. It nonetheless confirms its intention to provide targeted Community financial support to European standardisation.

International standardisation

The Council confirms the importance of the World Trade Organisation's Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (WTO-TBT Agreement). The Council calls upon Europe's trading partners to give their commitment to international standardisation, to introduce standards-receptive regulatory models and to promote coherence between national and international standards.

When standards are drawn up at the international level, the Council considers that interested parties such as workers', consumers', and environmental interest groups should be fully involved.

The Commission is called upon to develop, in consultation with the Member States, guidelines for a European standardisation policy in an international context.


Council Conclusions of 21 and 22 December 2004 concerning the Commission Communication of 18 October 2004 to the European Parliament and the Council on the role of European standardisation in the framework of European policies and legislation [COM(2004) 674 final - Not published in the Official Journal]. Following the Commission Communication on the role of European standardisation in European policies and legislation, the Council, in December 2004, adopted conclusions in which it:

  • recognises that European standardisation can help implement the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy and contribute towards sustainable development;
  • recognises the need to continue to make progress on the introduction of new technologies and the proper functioning of the internal market for services;
  • considers that European standardisation can play an important role in strengthening the competitiveness of European enterprises, in innovation and in broadening the knowledge base of the economy.

Council conclusions of 1 March 2002 on standardisation [Official Journal C 66 of 15.03.2002]. The Council conclusions of 2002 take note of the Commission's 2001 report. The Council reiterates the importance that public authorities acknowledge the strategic importance of standardisation. It also notes with satisfaction the progress made by the candidate countries and their national standards bodies.

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on actions taken following the resolutions on European standardisation adopted by the Council and the European Parliament in 1999 [COM(2001) 527 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Council Resolution of 18 June 1992 concerning the role of European standardisation in the European economy [Official Journal C 173 of 09.07.1992].

Council Resolution of 7 May 1985 on a new approach to technical harmonisation and standards. [Official Journal C 136 of 04.06.1985].

Last updated: 08.12.2005