Consumers and small businesses must be enabled to play a bigger part in developing EU goods and services standards, so as to build in protection for public interests such as product safety, environmental sustainability, social inclusion and innovation, Internal Market MEPs said on Wednesday, in a vote on a draft regulation to modernise the European standardisation process.
"This regulation is a valid tool for social and business players: we have strengthened the rules that allow the participation of organisations representing the social interests of consumers - with due care for disabled people - unions, environmental organisations and for SMEs", said Parliament's rapporteur Lara Comi (EPP, IT), whose report on the draft regulation was approved with 36 votes in favour and 2 abstentions.
The draft regulation aims to modernise the process whereby EU standards are developed. Companies may choose to work to these standards, which are voluntary, to ensure that their goods meet legal requirements. Using common standards also reduces sales costs and helps to ensure that the EU single market works smoothly. It benefits consumers too, by ensuring that products are compatible and interoperable, and improving quality and safety.
Involving small firms and consumers
MEPs stress the need to step up SME participation in the standardisation process, especially at national level, where they can be more effective and will not encounter language barriers. National standardisation bodies should also ease SMEs' access to standards by publishing abstracts on their web sites, providing free access to draft standards or offering standards at special SME rates, they add.
Organisations representing consumers, including people with disabilities or special needs, and environmental and social stakeholders, should also be enabled to take part in the development process, albeit without voting rights, MEPs say.
Clear division of powers
To ensure consistency and avoid conflicts among standards, national standardisation organisations must withdraw any existing and conflicting national standards when a standard is developed at EU level.
However, MEPs also stress that Member States remain free to decide on the development of standards in areas such as social services and public health. This decision arose in response to a general concern among S&D and Green MEPs to include services in the scope of the regulation.
The committee will decide at the end of April when to open formal negotiations with the Council.
In the Chair: Committee Chair Malcolm Harbour (ECR, UK)