International standardization initiatives and the national delegation principle

China vs. EU

Technical standards are ubiquitous and shape our daily lives. We benefit from the fact that standards create basic safety and interoperability. But standards also serve to facilitate market access. Common, international standards are conducive to global trade. However, conflicting standards make access to other markets more difficult.

The EU has so far enjoyed a certain supremacy in the field of standardization. China is countering this leading role of the EU with its own national standardization strategy, which is designed for the long term (Chinese Standards 2035). The EU's response is just four months away. It remains to be seen who will become the "standard-taker" in the future and who will emerge as the "standard-setter". In addition to the EU and China, the USA, as the technological market dominator, is also interested in distinguishing itself as a "standard-setter" (United States Standards Strategy). 

 

The standardization strategy in China

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council publish the "Framework for the Development of National Standardization" in October 2021. By 2025, China wants to bring about a shift in the origin of standards. Away from the government, toward standardization driven equally by the government and the market..

Standardization work in China is currently driven primarily by industry and (foreign) trade. In the future, standardization work is to focus on the economy and society as a whole. However, in addition to increasing the development of standards to become greener and more sustainable, China also wants to achieve greater co-determination in technology areas, which will encourage "the conduct of standardization research in artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information, biotechnology and other fields."

China already provides the chair or secretariat in several international technical committees - such as the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) - for example, the Brain-computer Interfaces Committee (ISO/IEC JTC43).

 

The standardization strategy in the EU

The EU strategy for standardization is also green and it is digital! A strategy is important, because everything starts with a plan, so as not to wander mindlessly.

In the international standardization organizations such as ISO and IEC, the member states of the European Union could also effectively incorporate common EU interests through the "one country - one vote" principle. In reality, however, things look different: On the one hand, industrial companies in the EU are struggling with a shortage of skilled workers, and on the other hand, human resources are being diverted away from standardization work for cost reasons. Chinese companies, on the other hand, are increasingly sending more personnel to participate in standardization work. This also influences the content of standards in the interests of Chinese companies.

The EU could install incentive systems that establish long-term development goals in the companies. However, the visibility in the companies is getting shorter and shorter. The EU would also have the opportunity to throw money at the problem and subsidize standardization work, similar to the way the U.S. massively subsidizes standardization activities with public money.

However, the EU has decided that it wants to coordinate better and is now creating (yet another) new institution for this purpose: the "EU excellence hub on standards".

 

The European Standards Organizations

In the EU, we have three standardization organizations (ESOs):

  1. ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute)
  2. CEN (European Committee for Standardisation)
  3. CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation)

None of these ESOs is a member of ISO and IEC. Thus, additional national standardization participation at the international level is required. 
 

The national delegation principle

In the EU, according to (EU) No 1025/2012, only the three ESOs (ETSI, CEN, CENELEC) are allowed to develop standards at the request of the EU Commission. Since the 1980s, the regulatory systems of the three ESOs have evolved away from each other in different directions. At that time, the system was mainly focused on European Union stakeholders.

At CEN andCENELEC , the Executive Board (Technical Board) controls the Technical Committees (TCs). The Board here consists of a President, Vice-President(s) and a permanent delegate from each National Committee.

At ETSI, things are different: of the more than 900 members from a total of 60 countries, 15 alone come from China and 68 from the USA. ETSI currently represents only about 2% of the European harmonized standards. But these are precisely the insanely important standards in the field of communications and information technology (ICT) that are developed jointly with the global technology consortia (such as 3GPP).

  • Radio spectrum requirements for technologies such as WLAN, Bluetooth, cellular, ...
  • Cyber Security
  • ...

As part of the EU strategy for standardization, there is now a proposal for a technical addition to the standardization regulation (EU 1025/2012, which stipulates that national standards organizations must be represented to a certain extent in the development of standards on behalf of the Commission and have decision-making power to ensure sufficient controls. After all, the aim is to ensure consistency with EU legislation and policy.

ETSI comments on the proposed rule as follows, highlighting its global success:

"Since its inception in 1988, ETSI has succeeded well in focusing on meeting EU regulatory requirements by providing European standards on the one hand, and serving the needs of the European and global market with highly relevant and widely used global standards produced in Europe on the other. ETSI plays a leading role as a European partner in the 3GPP and oneM2M global partnership projects."


Currently more congestion than progress

Away from this, we are currently in a situation in the EU where we can only expect new harmonized standards to be published in the Official Journal at a sluggish pace. So-called HAS consultants evaluate new and updated standards before they can develop a presumption of conformity. Unfortunately, there was no contract for Ernst & Young (EY) between 04.02.2022 to 01.08.2022, which stopped all activities. Hopefully, with the new contract in place, work on HAS assessments will now continue expeditiously.  
 

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