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:
- Whenever a new assessment process starts the Commission announces this publicly on a website.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.