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EU Clears Way to Use Consortium Standards

The Standards Blog - Andy Updegrove - While the decade long debate in the European Union over the definition of “open standards” has been well-publicized, it may come as a surprise to some that EU member nations are required to utilize a second standards filter in public procurement as well. 


That filter relates to whether a standard has been developed by a “formal” standard setting organization (SSO).  In other words, by either an EU SSO, such as CEN/CENELEC or ETSI, or by one of the global “Big Is” (ISO, IEC or ITU).  If it doesn’t, then it’s supposed to be off limits - until now.

That filter has roots in a sixty year standards-based quest to benefit European trade, both within the EU and internationally. Historically, this goal was met by seeking to develop EU-wide standards that member states would be required to adopt, thereby replacing the national standards they had long used to keep the goods of neighboring nations out of their own markets. At the same time, these standards would be designed to facilitate EU goods internationally.

Of course, in an era of multinational companies and increasingly global trade, the concept of “European standards” makes even less sense in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector then it does generally.  And with the rise of consortia, even standards developed by the Big Is (where every EU nation has its own vote, comprising quite a large voting block) are diminishing in importance, since the majority of the standards in ICT are now created within consortia and not by the old-line, mainstream SSOs.