CEN and CENELEC are putting in place a new system under which all of their national members will be regularly assessed, in order to ensure that they comply with a set of specific membership criteria. The new system will also enable members to learn from each other by sharing examples of good practice.
The members of CEN and CENELEC are the National Standards Bodies (CEN members) and the National Committees responsible for electrotechnical standardization (CENELEC members) in 33 European countries. Before an organization can be accepted as a full member of CEN and/or CENELEC, it has to show that it fulfills a series of conditions, known as membership criteria.
In recent years, discussions have taken place within CEN and CENELEC regarding the feasibility of introducing "a voluntary peer assessment process to encourage continuous improvement and exchange of good practice". These discussions were initiated in response to a request that was made by the European Council in 2008. In 2009, the CEN and CENELEC Boards decided to set up a CEN-CENELEC Working Group on Membership Criteria with the task of defining "the list of criteria that all CEN-CENELEC national Members, present and future, will have to respect at all times". This Working Group prepared a set of criteria, based on the membership criteria that were previously used by CEN and CENELEC.
The membership criteria of CEN and CENELEC include all of the principles that are laid down in the WTO (World Trade Organization) Code of Good Practice for the Preparation, Adoption and Application of Standards (Annex 3 of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, 1995). In fact, one can say that the CEN and CENELEC criteria go beyond the WTO requirements. The new common membership criteria were finalized in 2011, and adopted by the General Assemblies of CEN and CENELEC. These criteria are set out in 'CEN-CENELEC Guide 20: Guide on membership criteria of CEN and CENELEC' (see box for a summary of the six main criteria).
Following the adoption of common membership criteria, CEN and CENELEC began work on developing a common system for assessing whether their members comply with these criteria. This system was adopted by the General Assemblies of CEN and CENELEC in November 2012, and is described in 'CEN-CENELEC Guide 22: Guide on the organizational structure and processes for the assessment of the membership criteria of CEN and CENELEC'. Under the new system, each member of CEN and/or CENELEC will undergo a regular assessment (once every 3 or 4 years) to check that they comply with all of the membership criteria. The assessment process will be overseen by a Membership Relations and Monitoring Committee (MRMC), which is chaired by David Dossett, a former President of CENELEC. Each member can choose between a so called "peer assessment", carried out by assessors appointed by the MRMC, or alternatively a self-assessment - which must be integrated with an audit of compliance with the international standard EN ISO 9001 (Quality Management Systems - Requirements), carried out by a recognized certification body.
During the first round of assessments (2013-2015), members may also choose a third option of a self-assessment carried out by internal assessors in accordance with an agreed template, even if it is not integrated with an EN ISO 9001 audit. However, this option will no longer be available to members during the second round of assessments (starting in 2016). All of the members of CEN and CENELEC will be required to submit their reports for approval by the MRMC, according to an agreed timetable. If the MRMC considers that a particular member has not been able to show that it fully complies with all of the membership criteria, then the member concerned will be asked to take specific steps in order to rectify the situation. The new system will also provide a framework for the exchange of good practices and mutual learning among the members of CEN and CENELEC. The MRMC will identify examples of good practice and these examples will then be used as a basis for providing advice to members on how they can improve their structures, systems and procedures.
The introduction by CEN and CENELEC of a new system for assessing members' compliance with their common membership criteria coincides with the entry into force of the new EU Regulation on European Standardization (1025/2012). CEN and CENELEC are confident that their new system, based on a voluntary approach of self-imposed requirements, will help to maintain confidence in the European Standardization System, whilst also inspiring continuous improvement.
Criteria to be fulfilled by all national CEN and CENELEC members
Here we present a simplified summary of the six main criteria set out in CEN-CENELEC Guide 20 on membership criteria of CEN and CENELEC (Edition 2, 2012-06). The full text of this guide can be found on the CEN-CENELEC website.
CEN-CENELEC Guide 20 (on membership criteria of CEN and CENELEC) and Guide 22 (on the organizational structure and processes for the assessment of the membership criteria of CEN and CENELEC) are both available on the CEN-CENELEC website.
In order to ensure that all interested parties are able to participate in standardization activities, sufficient and updated information should be made available (on members' websites), and there must be adequate time and opportunities for written comments.
2. Openness and Development
Any person or entity with an interest in a specific standardization activity should be able to participate in the development of a standard. Measures must be taken to promote and facilitate the participation of weaker economic and societal stakeholders.
3. Impartiality and Consensus
The national members of CEN and CENELEC must provide an impartial and neutral platform for actors to reach agreement by consensus, after taking all relevant opinions into account. This principle should be enshrined in all structures, processes and procedures.
4. Effectiveness and Relevance
Standardization activities should take due account of relevant regulations (legislation) and market needs, as well as scientific and technological developments. Standards should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.
The national members of CEN and CENELEC must take care to avoid any duplication or overlap between standardization activities at national level, and those being undertaken at European and/or international level.
6. Viability and Stability
The national members of CEN and CENELEC must ensure that they have the resources and infrastructure that are necessary to fulfill their mandates and contribute to European standardization activities. The protection of copyright is also important.