European Standardization 

A key instrument for the Single Market

Standards are documents that set out specifications and other technical information with regard to various kinds of products, materials, services and processes.

Standards provide a basis for mutual understanding among individuals, businesses, public authorities and other kinds of organizations. They facilitate communication, commerce, measurement and manufacturing.

European Standards bring benefits to businesses and consumers in terms of reducing costs, enhancing performance and improving safety. They also help to ensure the compatibility of different components, products and services.

European Standards can be used to enhance safety and performance, improve energy efficiency, and protect consumers, workers and the environment. They complement European and national policies, and make it easier for businesses and other actors to respect relevant legislation.

European Standardization is a key instrument for consolidating the Single Market and facilitating cross-border trade – within Europe and also with the rest of the world. It is a valuable tool for strengthening the competitiveness of European companies, thereby creating the conditions for economic growth.

One European Standard replaces 34 national standards

The Members of CEN are the National Standardization Bodies of 34 European countries – including all the member states of the European Union (EU) and other countries that are part of the European Single Market.  

CEN works with its Members to develop and define European Standards in response to specific needs that have been identified by businesses and other users of standards. 

European standards are developed by teams of experts who have particular knowledge of the specific sector or topic that is being addressed. The members of Technical Committees as well as sub-committees and working groups are nominated by the national standardization organizations.

Each National Standardization Body that is part of the CEN system is obliged to adopt each European Standard as a national standard and make it available to customers in their country. They also have to withdraw any existing national standard that conflicts with the new European Standard. Therefore, one European Standard (EN) becomes the national standard in all 34 countries covered by CEN Members.

Moreover, many European Standards are also adopted as identical national standards by CEN Affiliates, which are the National Standards Bodies of 17 neighbouring countries, and by National Standardization Bodies in other countries around the world.

European Standards are voluntary

The European Standards published by CEN are developed by experts, established by consensus and adopted by the Members of CEN. It is important to note that the use of standards is voluntary, and so there is no legal obligation to apply them.

A tool to comply with European legislation

Around 30% of the European Standards published by CEN have been developed in response to specific requests (standardization mandates) issued by the European Commission. Many of these standards are known as 'harmonized standards'. They enable businesses to ensure that their products or services comply with essential requirements that have been set out in European legislation (EU Directives). In such cases, we can say that the standard provides 'presumption of conformity' with the essential requirements of the relevant legislation.