EU firms will get swifter access to standard solutions to technical problems, enabling them to cut production costs, help spread best practice, boost competitiveness and drive growth under a new deal, endorsed by MEPs on Tuesday, to modernise the development process for EU standards.
The new regulation aims in particular to enhance the use of standards in the service sector and speed up the development process for information and technology (ITC) standards, to encourage the rapid spread of best practice and innovation.
"Parliament has simplified the whole system administratively and financially, at the same time ensuring a high level of transparency", said Parliament's rapporteur Lara Comi (EPP, IT), in the debate on Monday.
Parliament's key win in the negotiations was to ensure that small firms and representatives of consumers, environmental or civil society bodies will be consulted throughout the development process, to ensure that the views of users, particularly those with special needs such as disabled or elderly people, are taken into account and that products meet their needs.
Clear rules on co-operation
The new regulation lays down rules on cooperation among the various players in the standardisation system at national and EU levels (i.e. national and European standardisation bodies and the European Commission), so as to ensure a clear division of responsibilities, avoid administrative snags and prevent the emergence of incompatible or contradictory standards.
Thanks to the new rules, European standards will also be better plugged into the international standardisation system, thus boosting European firms' global competitiveness.
Standards are voluntary guidelines for manufacturers that provide technical or qualitative specifications for a vast range of goods or services, from electronic device chargers to language courses, to ensure that they meet minimum requirements, e.g. for safety or interoperability, and at the same time make it easier for consumers to compare products.
According to the European Commission, standards contribute with more than €35 billion annually to European growth (2009 figures).
The regulation modernising the EU Standardisation system is the first of the Single Market Act legislative proposals to be passed by Parliament (639 votes in favour, 18 against and 17 abstentions).
The new rules enter into force on 1 January 2013 and will apply directly in all member states.
Procedure: co-decision (Ordinary Legislative Procedure), 1st reading agreement