More and more standards are developed at the international level by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Committee (IEC). This trend has been especially noticeable over recent years. International standards are implemented as national standards, either at European level (via CEN and CENELEC), or directly. But the international standards elaborated by ISO and IEC do not take account of the European regulatory framework on standardisation (Regulation 1025/2012). Practically, this means that the European societal stakeholders have no enhanced position in the international standard-setting activity. They merely sit around the table like any other stakeholder.
In some specific cases, access to ISO documents – necessary to influence the content of ISO standards – has been slow or problematic, preventing any active influence in the international standard-setting process. Moreover, international meetings take place all over the world, demanding a significant investment in order to take part. Only global organisations can mobilise such resources. As such, influencing the content of ISO standards is ‘challenging’.
To address this (emerging) issue, the Commission hosted a first dialogue with ISO, IEC and the so-called Annex III organisations representing European societal stakeholders (i.e. workers and trade unions (ETUC), consumers (ANEC), environmental groups (ECOS), SMEs (SBS)) and CEN and CENELEC. During the first meeting, ISO and IEC provided details on their standardisation processes and explained how ISO and IEC work.
The Commission made a clear statement to ISO and IEC inviting them to improve their standard-setting processes to take better account of the specific issue of inclusiveness in Regulation (EU) 1025/2012. The Commission added that this is important as many international standards become European standards, in the context of European regulatory frameworks, which need to be assessed against the criteria of Regulation (EU) 1025/2012, including inclusiveness aspects.
This first meeting resulted in an enhanced awareness among the ISO and IEC central secretariats of Regulation 1025/2012. ISO and IEC are expected to make their processes more inclusive, so that the European regulator can continue to rely on international standards.