European Standardisation Bodies

Standards are developed and defined through a transparent, open, technically coherent process of sharing knowledge and building consensus among technical experts nominated by interested parties and other stakeholders - including businesses, consumers and environmental groups, among others. European standards are developed through one of the three European Standards Organisations (ESOs) [7] which are officially recognised as providers of European standards: 

The European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) brings together the National Standardization Bodies of 33 European countries. It provides a platform for the development of European Standards and other technical documents on various types of products, materials, services, and processes. These include air and space, chemicals, construction and more. 

The European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) is responsible for standardisation in the electro-technical engineering field. Voluntary standards prepared by CENELEC help facilitate trade between countries, access new markets, cut compliance costs, and support the development of the EU Single Market. CENELEC also creates market access at international level through its close collaboration with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). 

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) produces globally-applicable standards for information and communications technology(ICT). These standards also include fixed, mobile, radio, converged, broadcast, and internet technologies. ETSI's purpose is to produce and maintain the technical standards required by its members. In the case of ETSI, industry can get involved directly in the process of standards development. However, industry can only access CEN and CENELEC through the National Standards Bodies (NSBs).

Although ESOs deal with different fields of activity, CEN, CENELEC, and ETSI cooperate in a number of areas of common interest, such as the machinery sector or information and communication technologies (ICTs). They also share common policies on issues where there is mutual agreement. Specifically, CEN and CENELEC develop standards in relation to various transport modes (road, rail and maritime), and relating to horizontal topics such as interoperability, intermodal transport and intelligent transport systems (ITS).

Standards are voluntary which means that there is no automatic legal obligation to apply them. However, laws and regulations may refer to standards and even make compliance with them compulsory. An EN (European Standard) “carries with it the obligation to be implemented at national level by being given the status of a national standard and by withdrawal of any conflicting national standard". Therefore, a European Standard (EN) automatically becomes a national standard in each of the 33 CEN-CENELEC member countries.

Proposals for the introduction of a new standard can be submitted by any interested party (i.e. as part of European projects, through trade federations, etc.) to the relevant ESO. Usually, most standardization work is proposed through the National Standards Bodies. Harmonised standards are created following a request from the European Commission to one of the ESOs for the application of Union harmonisation legislation (EC Mandates). Manufacturers, other economic operators, or conformity assessment bodies can use harmonised standards to demonstrate that products, services, or processes comply with relevant EU legislation. The references of harmonised standards must be published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).