Thursday, 29 September 2011

EU legal package on standardisation: some aspects discussed in depth (III): How to ensure openness and transparency for assessing fora/consortia standards – including on the national level

As the debate on the EU legal package on standardisation starts in the Council and in the European Parliament I hear voices – especially from one member state – that the assessment of fora/consortia standards against the criteria listed in Annex II of the draft Regulation should include a Public Enquiry in the process. And apparently even a further criterion along these lines is proposed. The main argument I hear for that is that SMEs and other national stakeholders should have an opportunity to follow the process and raise concerns when needed.

Well, I fully support the intention to have openness and transparency of the process of assessing fora/consortia specifications against the criteria. But to require a Public Enquiry and mean with it the a formal process as it is practiced in the development of European Standards / European Norms is not an appropriate proposal. This is full-fledged process for the development of harmonised standards and for reviewing the technical content of a draft European Standard / European Norm and make proposals for technical changes.

Asking for a Public Enquiry for the assessment of globally used and well-established fora/consortia standards would mean, for instance, to ask that the WLAN standard 802.11 from IEEE or TCP/IP from IETF or http or html etc. are submitted into a process that asks for technical comments. That would not meet the purpose which is to assess whether these fora/consortia standards were developed in open processes. And let's be clear: the process of Public Enquiry is not followed for a large number of standardisation deliverables from the ESOs, either, namely all those that are not European Standards / European Norms.

Yet, to say it again, I totally support the need for openness and transparency of the process. So how could that be done? Here are some considerations:
  1. Whenever a new assessment process starts the Commission announces this publicly on a website.
  2. This website is mirrored on a national level, e.g. by the National Standards Bodies which act as a “one stop shop” for national stakeholders, e.g. SMEs merely operating on a national level.
  3. Subscription is possible both for the EU website as well as for the national mirroring website so that people get an automatic notification whenever a new assessment process starts. And this subscription should be available for anybody, not just members of the National Standards Bodies.
  4. Everybody gets some time – e.g. something between four or six weeks – to provide comments when people believe that the specification under assessment does not comply with the criteria (NB: these are not technical comments!). These comments need to be considered by the parties executing the assessment and providing advice to the Commission.
  5. The assessment statement is made public.
I believe these are straight forward proposals regarding the implementation of the process which is proposed in Article 9 of the draft Regulation. And perhaps we can call this a public enquiry procedure in some way. It contains a national notification – or better: a general notification process – which is similar to what is practised today in the notification process for EU standards development. I have subscribed and get regular mails whenever a notification by a national body is made.

So let's clarify a bit about processes and terminology. What the draft Regulation proposes is a new process for including global, well-established and widely implemented ICT fora/consortia standards into the European standardisation system and making them available for direct referencing in public procurement and EU policies. Public Enquiry is a process that is practiced for the development of harmonised European Standards / European Norms. This process does not fit the purpose. What is needed is some form of National Notification ensuring openness and transparency. This needs to be combined with a process for comments on whether the criteria are met and for ensuring that all comments are taken adequately into account. In combination with the ICT multi-stakeholder advisory platform where all stakeholders including the European Standards Organisations (ESOs), SMEs, Consumers, Member States are present, will provide the necessary checks and balances for the new process.

No comments: