Monday, October 25, 2004

Standardisation as policy

The European Commission has issued another document, this time a Communication, “on the role of standardisation to support European legislation and policies”. Its purpose is to take standardization that already exists as an agreement between various bodies and turn it into a legislative and regulatory structure, with an aim of trying to spread it beyond the borders of the European Union in the fullness of time.

How else is one to interpret the words:

“Today’s main challenges are efficiency in the traditional standardisation processes, international standardisation, the use of "new deliverables" and the maintenance of a strong standardisation infrastructure in Europe representing our interests also world-wide.”
In fact, it might be a good idea to quote the whole of the introductory paragraph of the document. It will give a good idea of how the European Commission views such ideas as economic development and competition. They are all to be defined and circumscribed by the regulators. Once again, we have to point out, that this is a process that will carry on regardless of the idenity of individual commissioners.

“Standardisation is a voluntary process based on consensus amongst different economic actors (industry, SMEs, consumers, workers, public authorities, etc) . It is carried out by independent standards bodies, acting at national, European and international level. Originally conceived as an instrument by and for economic operators, standardisation has been used increasingly by authorities. Also the Community has made, since the mid-eighties, an increasing use of standards in its policies: first in the fields of technical harmonisation, ICT and public procurement, later also in areas such as environment, transport, energy, competitiveness, consumer protection, etc.”
The idea that somehow, behind it all there is even a glimmering of an understanding of how markets work is dangerously wrong.

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