Euralarm sat down with Hein Bollens, Deputy Head of Unit European Standardisation at the EU Commission's Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. The following is a lightly edited version of the interview.
Euralarm: To set the scene for our readers, what does it mean for Euralarm and the fire safety and security community to be a signatory of the Joint Initiative on Standardisation (JIS)?
Hein Bollens: The JIS is one of the main pillars of the Single Market Strategy launched by the EU Commission in October 2016.
From the start, the general objective of the JIS has been to think together, with a maximum of stakeholders involved, how the European Standardisation System can address the changing economic landscape - including digitisation - and some great societal challenges: energy, climate, ageing population, consumers, workers. It also aims at strengthening the long-standing successful Public-Private-Partnership between the European Standardisation Organisations and the EU.
We want to involve a maximum of stakeholders, we mean, also those organisations and associations which have not been part of the traditional standardisation community. It aligns with the Better Regulation Principles under the current Juncker Commission, enhancing dialogue, transparency and consultation, and promoting co-regulation principles.
"We are very happy with the safety and security communities adhering to the JIS as these crucial aspects of EU society are more than ever important."
We are very happy with the safety and security communities adhering to the JIS as these crucial aspects of EU society are more than ever important. In particular, Euralarm's signature to the JIS demonstrates the commonly shared values and objectives of European standardisation. We are pleased to have Euralarm being very active in the JIS process and putting forward important action points to enhance the European Standardisation System.
Let me here highlight: the proposition of a single standard for market access in Europe - first on the list of ‘values’ defining the basis for the JIS, encouraging the development of European service standards, programmes for education in standardisation, the creation of a roundtable with the Industry to ensure the market relevance of standards, and linking innovation with standardisation. In addition, one ‘pilot project’ is to help the implementation of the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) through standards, very close to the heart of Euralarm and the European Commission.
Euralarm: What is, in your view, the strategic importance of security and safety issues at EU level?
Hein Bollens: Security has been a political priority since the beginning of the Juncker Commission's mandate – from President Juncker's Political Guidelines of July 2014 to the latest State of the Union address in September 2017.
The European Agenda on Security guides the Commission's work in this area, setting out the main actions to ensure an effective EU response to terrorism and security threats. This includes countering radicalisation, boosting cybersecurity as well as improving information exchange. Since the adoption of this Agenda, significant progress has been made with its implementation.
In fact, in the rapidly changing environment, also at geo-political level, we have to intensify our efforts to achieve a genuine and effective safe and secure society for all citizens and businesses. Fragmentation makes us all vulnerable.
The European Union's growing role in coordinating internal security and safety policies is partly captured by looking at policymaking within the area of freedom, security and justice. But new perspectives and concepts have been introduced to examine the EU's wider internal security role for the EU. For example, EU initiatives related to food security, health safety, infrastructure protection, counter-terrorism and energy security are also relevant to the policy debate on security.
Euralarm: Euralarm is mainly involved in the JIS actions’ 5, 8 and 12. How is the work progressing overall for the JIS and particularly in those 3 areas?
Hein Bollens: First of all, the JIS is carried by all its participants and signatories, not (only) by the European Commission. We facilitate the process and we also participate in different actions, and we are still very much impressed by the ongoing commitment of all and personal engagements of so many stakeholders which have entered in a positive and constructive multilateral dialogue. It has created a unique dynamism and drive amongst the community. A real bottom-up experience. Given the continuous strong involvement of all, we have recently discussed, with the Steering Group, the concrete results and deliverables coming out of the JIS. It is already quite impressive and beyond our expectations. And, we are only half-way through the process. The JIS is supposed to present concrete results by the end of the current Commission mandate.
In fact, the overall scope of the JIS has been to look at speeding up the system, to modernise it and to better prioritise within the system. This is the focus of actions 5, 8 and 12, where Euralarm takes a prominent role. We commonly look for solutions in the smoother referencing of harmonised standards in the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU) for the CPR and to better understand the legal and technical aspects. We commonly look at collaborative processes to achieve improvement of performance in terms of quality and timeliness over the entire life cycle of European standards. We make the link with other policy and regulations and ensure that the roles and competences of each actor remain preserved, in respect of the European and Member State regulations. We also commonly look at enhancing the integration of Europe's service markets by promoting, where appropriate, the increased development and use of market driven European service standards to benefit European businesses and consumers through increasing market transparency, improving the quality of offer, facilitating market access, and promoting the greater provision of product-service packages.
"The overall scope of the JIS has been to look at speeding up the system, to modernise it and to better prioritise within the system."
Euralarm: Talking about this, what is your opinion on the development of standards in the area of services?
Hein Bollens: The Services Directive of 2006 recognises standards as one of the quality enhancing measures that will benefit users of services, especially consumers. Regulation (EU)1025/2012 on European standardisation also recognises the potential of service standards. However, unlike goods standards, which are widely used and accepted to be beneficial, there are only few services standards in Europe - approximately 2% of all standards. While their number is growing, most existing and newly emerging services standards are national: fewer than 20% of existing service standards are European.
The further use of European standards in the services sector can bring many advantages and opportunities for both businesses and consumers. There is a need to further exploit the potential of service standardisation at European level and to build on the existing national experiences on service standardisation. In fact, there is significant untapped potential from the development and use of voluntary European service standards to deliver an integrated and competitive European services market, and to address ‘servitisation’ and other forms of product-service concepts. Such standards could reduce costs and market fragmentation.
Evidence gathered by a number of National Standardisation Bodies, as well as in CEN work on Mandate M/517 on horizontal service standards, shows that users of service standards see benefits in increasing market transparency, improving quality of offer, and demonstrating it to customers. This helps them to raise effectiveness and efficiency of business operations as well as facilitating market access. These benefits were also recognised by the European Commission's guidance on ‘Tapping the potential of European service standards to help Europe's consumers and businesses’ (June 2016). This document describes barriers linked to national standards, which might impact cross-border provision of services. In this context, let me also highlight the important work of CEN's ‘Strategic Plan on Services standardisation’, which is part of the JIS Action 12.
Of course, there is the challenge to associate stakeholders in the service standardisation process, including the identification of their standardisation needs, the engagement of the expertise to standards drafting process and the implementation, use and promotion of standards. At the end, standardisation is a voluntary, market and consensus driven exercise. More importantly for service standards, the market relevance aspect really must prevail and determine whether opportunities should be considered.
Euralarm: In general, for the fire safety and security Industry, the lack of advancement regarding standardisation and certification in the context of the EU Single Market have been rather disappointing. What are your views on the topic?
Hein Bollens: I would first of all like to emphasise the important role Euralarm plays in helping the sector moving forward, in particular, when it comes to standards development in this particular sector. You worked at the development, delivery and promotion of the new services standard EN16763. In addition, a paper on outsourcing the maintenance of fire safety and security systems, intended for building owners and managers was published as part of those activities. EN16763 puts a spotlight on the requirement for staff to be suitably skilled, trained and knowledgeable.
Let's look ahead rather than looking back. It is a good sign to have a more unified representation for the Fire and Security Industry in Europe, which is able to respond to new challenges: from the possible revision of the EU Construction Product Regulation, to new development in EU legislations and European standards, as well as technological development which will impact the Industry across all segments. At the crossroads of standardisation and research, cutting-edge innovation in the sector of fire safety will drive the development of future standards and make buildings and people safer than they have ever been.
"It is a good sign to have a more unified representation for the Fire and Security Industry in Europe, which is able to respond to new challenges: from the possible revision of the EU Construction Product Regulation, to new development in EU legislations and European standards, as well as technological development which will impact the Industry across all segments."
Euralarm: Making standardisation faster is a big topic. What can reasonably be achieved in terms of time and efficiency?
Hein Bollens: Speeding up the system shall not be to the detriment of the quality of the standard and should not be to the detriment of inclusiveness. We all would like to see the state-of-the-art standards available on time for when the market as well as policy makers need it. I therefore prefer the term ‘timely’ rather than ‘speedy’ in the vocabulary for European standardisation. There is a lot of appreciation for the efforts put in place by the European and national standardisation bodies to look into the matter. And, there are already tangible results today.
Having said this, it would be good if one could possibly think a little bit out of the box. In fact, nowadays, whatever complexity of the standard, being an easy one to develop or a difficult one, it follows always the same process and procedures. Why not tailoring the standardisation process based on the degree of complexity of the standard to be developed?
Also, many European standards come down from the international level. ISO and IEC are doing excellent work to offer world-class standards which make the planet safer and more secure. Citizens, like you and me, do not always see and feel standards in our daily life. In fact my credo is: "the best standard is the one you do not see".
Internationally, the standard making processes are a bit different from the European ones. Therefore, we find it important that agreements exist between the European and international standardisation levels, such as the Vienna and Frankfurt Agreements that allow for streamlined activities, more efficiency and speedy availability of standards. Standardisation is surely marching forward into the public domain: the timely availability of standards is crucial to spur technological innovation and reduce barriers to trade.