A standard (French: norme, German: Norm) is a publication that provides rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, for common and repeated use. Standards are created by bringing together all interested parties including manufacturers, users, consumers and regulators of a particular material, product, process or service. Everyone benefits from standardisation through increased product safety and quality as well as lower transaction costs and prices.
A European Standard (EN) is a standard that has been adopted by one of the three recognized European Standardisation Organisations (ESOs): CEN, CENELEC or ETSI. It is produced by all interested parties through a transparent, open and consensus based process.
European Standards are a key component of the Single European Market. Although rather technical and often unknown to the public and media, they represent one of the most important issues for businesses. Often perceived as boring and not particularly relevant to some organisations, they are actually crucial in facilitating trade and hence have high visibility among manufacturers inside and outside Europe. A standard represents a model specification, a technical solution against which a market can trade. It codifies best practice and is usually state of the art.
In essence, European Standards relate to products, services or systems. Today, however, standards are no longer created solely for technical reasons but have also become platforms to enable greater social inclusiveness and engagement with technology, as well as convergence and interoperability within growing markets across industries.
Developing a European Standard
The development of an EN is governed by the principles of consensus, openness, transparency, national commitment and technical coherence (more information is given in the BOSS - Business Operation Support System - Production processes) and follows several steps:
Proposal to develop an EN:
Any interested party can introduce a proposal for new work in CEN. Most standardisation work is proposed through the National Standards Bodies.
Acceptance of the proposal:
Once a project to develop an EN is accepted by the relevant CEN Technical Body, or by the CEN Technical Board (in case the proposal is related to a new field of standardisation activity), the member countries shall put all national activity within the scope of the project on hold. This means that they do not initiate new projects, nor revise existing standards at national level. This obligation is called 'standstill' and allows efforts to be focused on the development of the EN.
The EN is developed by experts within a Technical Body.
CEN Enquiry – Public comment at national level
Once the draft of an EN is prepared, it is released for public comment, a process known in CEN as the 'CEN Enquiry'. During this public commenting stage, everyone who has an interest (e.g. manufacturers, public authorities, consumers, etc.) may comment on the draft. These views are collated by the CEN national members and analysed by the CEN Technical Body.
Adoption by weighted vote
Taking into account the comments resulting from the CEN Enquiry, a final version is drafted, which is then submitted to the CEN national members for a weighted formal vote.
After its publication, a European Standard must be given the status of national standard in all CEN member countries, which also have the obligation to withdraw any national standards that would conflict with it. This guarantees that a manufacturer has easier access to the market of all these European countries when applying European Standards and applies whether the manufacturer is based in the CEN territory or not.
To ensure that a European Standard is still current, it is reviewed at least within five years from its publication.
This review results in the confirmation, modification, revision or withdrawal of the EN.
The concept of Harmonised Standards
The European Standards Organisations (ESOs) CEN, CENELEC and ETSI are involved in a successful partnership with the European Commission and the European Free Trade Association. The ESOs support European legislation in helping the implementation of the European Commission directives, particularly those developed under the New Approach.
To support its policies and legislation, the European Commission requests the ESOs to develop and adopt European Standards, by means of 'standardisation mandates'. Those European Standards developed in response to a mandate are called 'Harmonised Standards'. A list of Harmonized Standards supporting EU Directives and Regulations is available in a dedicated area on the European Commission website.
Amendment to an EN
An amendment is a supplementary document to a European Standard that was already circulated to the CEN national members for national implementation, which shall be read in conjunction with that EN and which alters technical provisions thereof.
Corrigendum to an EN
The removal of printing, linguistic, editorial errors from the text of a European Standard shall be handled by the CEN-CENELEC Management Centre (CCMC) through the issue of a corrigendum to all CEN national members, with a request for immediate action as necessary at national level.
Such a corrigendum is generally not submitted to any approval procedure prior to its publication.
European Standards are drafted in a global perspective. CEN has signed the 'Vienna Agreement' with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), through which European and international standards can be developed in parallel. About 30 % of the ENs in the CEN collection are identical to ISO standards. These EN ISO standards have the dual benefits of automatic and identical implementation in all CEN Member countries, and global applicability.