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Europe as a global standard-setter: The strategic importance of European standardisation

Standardisation & standards / DISCUSSION PAPER
Malcolm Harbour , Johan Bjerkem

Date: 15/10/2020
As Europe aims for greater strategic autonomy and resilience in a post-COVID-19 world, it must be a rule-maker and not a rule-taker of international rules and standards. 

Every European standard adopted at the international level brings a competitive advantage to European businesses. The geopolitics of new technologies and advanced manufacturing require Europe to ensure the efficient and effective functioning of its standardisation system. And as the pace of digitalisation accelerates, European standards are essential to ensuring that Europe’s digital space remains safe, secure and cyber-proof.

European standards are also crucial to Europe’s market power and are a pillar of its Single Market. They are fundamental if Europe is to reach the objectives it has set for itself through its European Green Deal, Digital Strategy and New Industrial Strategy. Standards are an indispensable tool for raising product safety and environmental performance. They can drive innovation, competitiveness, sustainability and consumer protection.

But while the EU legal framework and partnership structures have many world-leading qualities, the adoption of EU standards has been in decline since 2018. The slow approval of harmonised standards is weakening the coherence of the Single Market. It is also sapping the competitiveness of the EU’s digital players, where speed to market is critical. The problems holding back a competitive system must be resolved urgently. A new trusted partnership between the EU, industry and the European Standardisation Organisations should be developed. It must determine clear objectives for the timely delivery of standards, reform governance and strengthen the inclusive public-private partnership that is the engine room of standards-making.

Read the full paper here.
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