Thursday, 13 April 2017

RED – red light because of the Radio Equipment Directive, unless...


Let this be my Easter egg for you... Hoping that if we search for eggs we will find the right surprise for a way out of what has become a dead end situation.
What is the problem: The new Radio Equipment Directive (RED), successor of the R&TTE, was approved by the European Parliament and the Council with a transition time ending mid of June this year. That means all radio equipment which is brought to the European market needs to prove compliance with this RED by June – or should not be allowed to be sold in Europe (i.e. should not be entitled for getting the CE mark).
For being compliant a large number of European Standards (>200) have to be reworked and updated, listed in the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU) and implemented.
Now, due to normal procedural matters on all sides the elapse time for industry to work on these standards (work taking place in ETSI), for the public enquiry process before final approval is given (following the rules of WTO/TBT) and for the European Commission to cross-check and list and publish the standards in the OJEU has become more and more tight. Perhaps this could have been anticipated as the Directive was finalised, but, well, it wasn't. No one to blame for that... Finger pointing never helps to solve a problem anyway.
Status as of today is: at best less than half of the European Standards needed will be listed in the OJEU by June. This means a threat to many products and technologies because demonstrating compliance with the requirements laid down in the RED is not possible. The New Approach cannot be applied. Notified Bodies who could provide third party testing don't have the European Standards available, either, and thus have no grounds for doing the testing. As a consequence there is high uncertainty, if not fear, with many industry players about their ability to continue bringing their products and technologies to the European market after mid June. Especially SMEs are concerned about their bare existence.
So what's the way out? A number of work-arounds and process optimisations have been discussed and applied already. They have helped to accelerate the processes, but it is clear today that they cannot help to solve the issue. Nine mothers cannot give birth to a baby in 1 month.
Some governments – apparently spearheaded by Italy and Germany – proposed to go for a concerted action for extending the transition time by 1 to 2 years. National governments have wrote to the Commission proposing such a way out.
In practice this would mean that the Commission prepares a legal act to open up just and only the respective paragraph in the RED that deals with the transition time and change the date. Of course, preparation and probing talks with both the European Parliament and the Council are required to get consensus on such a procedure. But if all institutions would agree such a change could be done in about 8 to 12 weeks.
So far the Commission has been reluctant to go for this. But the situation is getting more and more critical and the number of voices who see such an extension as the only and best way to prevent total chaos and create clarity in the market place increases. And the New Approach, success story for Europe, could continue to be applied.
I may be naive but I also tend to support the extension with the procedure outlined above. I don't think that anyone should be afraid to be blamed – it is a collective problem and will be solved collectively. Initiating the respective process would, in my opinion, not be a sign of disgrace or of shame but a move of greatness for driving for an all-encompassing solution.
Let's not try to square the circle in any way – let's accept that the solution may be this kind of Easter egg, brought forward by egg heads with the courage to solve an issue and prevent that the RED will always be considered with the red light for industry and consumers.

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