On 2 February, the European Commission presented its new Standardisation Strategy outlining the approach to standards within the Single Market as well as globally. The publication of this strategy is part of the race to gain global leadership in setting technology and industry standards in emerging sectors such as digital, energy and transport.
The Strategy represents one of the ten areas to be strengthened to achieve the concept of EU "strategic autonomy" and aims to address the most pressing standard-making problems the European Union is facing, including:
- Delays in the approval of new European standards;
- Need for more inclusiveness for environmental and other societal voices and interests;
- More transparency and legal certainty for European standards with the role of the European Commission in the process better defined.
The proposal is supported by an amendment of the current Standardisation Regulation in order to establish 1500 new standards to address the increasing international competition, especially from China.
The initiative is particularly aimed at speeding up and making more efficient standardisation in emerging areas, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, cybersecurity, digital currencies, new means of transport and energy storage. In addition, the Strategy aims to address the "standardisation urgency" that the EU suffers from, in those areas that will prove crucial for the future, such as recycling of raw materials, the battery sector and hydrogen production, in order to avoid dependence on other countries.
The text warns that "the EU's global competitiveness and strategic autonomy are at risk" along with "the EU's ability to promote its values", because other global players have followed a "much more strategic approach" in standard setting and placed allies in the relevant organisations.
As part of its strategy, Brussels will set up an “EU excellence hub on standards” to identify priorities and will appoint a Chief Standardisation Officer to steer the work of the hubs and ensure overall oversight and coordination of the various standardisation activities. It will also set up coordination structures with the 27 member states, allied countries, and Africa. The latter is not a casual choice, as China has been approaching several African governments to sponsor its internet standards.
The European Commission's plan also includes a proposal to amend European rules to restore power to National Standardisation Bodies. These bodies will work together with the excellence hub to monitor, share information, coordinate, and strengthen the European approach to international standardisation.