In October, Talkstandards.com hosted an open forum focused towards issues related to interoperability within European standardization and framed against the backdrop of the current EU activities. In addition to a series of expert keynote contributions (summarized below – please follow the links to access the articles in full) two exclusive interviews were conducted. The event can be found her: www.talkstandards.com/reforming-eu-standardization.
Posts Tagged ‘IMCO’
All forum discussion will take place on this page!
This event (Thurs October 14th – 3pm GMT / 8am Pacific / 11am Eastern / 5pm CET / 11pm Beijing) is set to discuss mobile payment and transfer services.
Earlier this month, the European Parliament’s Internal Market Committee adopted the IMCO report on standardization [ftp://ftp.cen.eu/PUB/ImcoReport.pdf] that will – once approved by the Plenary – set the scene for the future legislation on standardization from Brussels that will improve the European standardization system and update the legislative framework for the development and use of standards.
This report is a useful structure for the debate going forward because it achieves the impossible – it is reasonably ambitious, picks up on a variety of stakeholder interest and demands, and yet does not overreach in its objectives. It has the best of the standard system at heart, wants to build on the existing system, addresses the few needed more fundamental changes and recognizes the complexities without overcomplicating the approach. Europe’s standardization system is special because of its internal market function. National standards bodies and ESOs work hand in hand to help achieve harmonization across Europe through non-legislative norm setting that reflects the national perspectives and maintains the national votes, while providing ease of reference for European legislation. What is useful for goods should of course also by useful for services.
Stakeholders such as consumers that are affected by standards need to play a more prominent role, and the IMCO report rightly points to increased societal stakeholder and SME participation as one of the ways in which the European standardization system should improve.
Standards come in many different forms and serve different purposes – some are closer to the archetypical health and safety standard, while others help enable products and services to work better together. In particular for the latter, one crucial element of the IMCO report is the recognition of the role of consortia, that develop many of the specifications that are important for industry. Many of the hundreds of market-relevant consortia that are active in the market-place of standard-setting are based outside of Europe and are in any event only loosely – if at all – connected to the European standardization system. The report recognizes that as an important concern that needs to feature in the updating of the system, as well as the legal framework for the use of standards.
As far as the development of standards is concerned, the role of the European legislator is largely (with few exeptions) limited to the role of European standards bodies and national standards bodies. Hence, the report rightly looks – with regard to consortia activity – to improved cooperation between the ‘formal’ standards bodies and the wide and varied consortia landscape, where few but not many industry consortia facilitate stakeholder participation or run a public review. When it comes to the use of standards, e.g. in the form of references to specifications in legislation and public procurement, the European policy remit is broader and hence the report addresses proposals to update the legal framework to set the rules for the (established) practice of referencing consortia deliverables to bring in the most market-relevant standards where necessary and appropriate.
While much of the debate around standards within the Commission has been forked looking at the elephant from different sides, the IMCO report draws the different work streams together without losing their distinct achievement. It also seems to be less focused on the relationship between the US and Europe and take a more global approach – which would be a welcome development in view of the important role of stakeholders, governments, markets and industry elsewhere, such as in India and China. That is a sound approach to European competitiveness, that bodes well for the upcoming round of legislation.
This month’s discussion asks whether the standards marketplace is delivering too little interoperability. Classical economic theory would say, with a nod to Leibniz, that the market is delivering exactly the amount of interoperability that its forces require at equilibrium. If users and stakeholders demand it, standards bodies will deliver and cooperate — probably exactly to that extent.
Interview with Malcolm Harbour, Chairman of the EU Internal Market and Consumer Protection CommitteeThursday, October 14th, 2010
This exclusive interview with Malcolm Harbour, Member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands, UK. and Chairman of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, was conducted for Talkstandards.com via email during October 2010 in relation to the Open Forum “Reforming EU Standardization“.