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Interview with Orgalime's Director General Malte Lohan

Euralarm joined Malte Lohan, the newly appointed Director General at Orgalime for an hour-long chat to discuss what this crucial partner for our association that is Orgalime does right now to support our Industry's position in Brussels.

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Euralarm: To set the scene for our readers, what is the relationship between Euralarm and Orgalime, and how can Euralarm Members get more engaged in EU policy through Orgalime?

Malte Lohan: Formally, Euralarm is an Associate Member of Orgalime: that means that you are fully involved in all of our political work and have access to our full range of services and our advocacy tools. Euralarm is also helping us in shaping our political positioning on the areas that your Members are interested in: standardisation and the Single Market, cybersecurity, and market surveillance.

We also provide a bespoke service to Euralarm: a monitoring package which provides detailed real-time political intelligence on issues of interest to Euralarm Members. I think this is part of the foundation of the effective lobbying performed by your association.

So, on one hand, Euralarm is on the lead in any political issues that are really directly affecting your sector, and unless you specifically ask us to, we are not involved on sector specific issues. On the other hand, our approach is that the work we do as Orgalime and the work Euralarm does need to be complementary. Where we are active is at a horizontal level, at a more political level, where we are stronger together – and by “we”, I mean Orgalime, Euralarm and all of the other members of Orgalime representing the European Industry as a whole. An example of topic falling into this category is the governance of the Internal Market or the wider EU discussion on a future industrial policy.

 

Euralarm: Does Euralarm’s Membership help you in your advocacy by providing an example of how these high-level policies impact a certain sector ‘in real life’?

Malte Lohan: Exactly. You always need to combine the high-level political messages and also the weight of a big sector and the specific case studies and examples to make it tangible for policy makers. The best place to ‘make it real’ are the individual sectors. The benefit for us of working with Euralarm is to reflect the reality of your sector.

But this works both ways: I would imagine that you could directly push a Euralarm priority through our more horizontal, more political positioning, as long as it falls in Orgalime’s broad area of competences and our broad area of political issues.

I think that we already do that in some areas, for example in cybersecurity where Euralarm has been very much involved. But that principle works for any other areas where Euralarm and Orgalime have overlapping priorities.

 

Euralarm: What is, in your view, the strategic importance of security and safety issues at EU level? 

Malte Lohan: Of course, security and safety are important in their own right to prevent economic and physical harm and the EU puts a lot on emphasis on the interest of citizens. These always will be key issues. But I also see security and safety in a broader context, and I see them as a key to a better future for the EU.

Let me explain why. Transition to a cleaner, healthier and better future is driven by technology from smart grids, to e-mobility, to connected healthcare and the Industries represented by Orgalime are enabling this transition. But more than ever this transition also requires trust, the trust of businesses and trust of citizens.

These days that trust is in short supply: if you look at the trends sustaining the rise of populism, the backlash against migration, and the suspicion of business and political elites. Without a true effective European framework for security and safety, we will not build and earn that trust and therefore we will not be able to fully achieve that sustainable future for the EU.

 

Euralarm: In general, for the fire safety and security Industry, the lack of advancement regarding the EU Single Market has been rather disappointing. What are your personal views on the topic?

Malte Lohan: The Single Market is the engine behind years of growth in our Industries but it needs to be improved. This year we are celebrating its 25th anniversary. That should be a time of celebration but it also should be a time of serious stock taking and we have three key worries about the future of the Single Market.

First, they are many signs that we are starting to move backwards, with Member States taking back competences, for example in products legislation. Second, we have big concerns about compliance enforcement in the EU Member States which is really weak. Third, the future of the new legislative framework and the role of the harmonised standards is endangered.

 

Euralarm: The EU standardisation process is currently in review as part of the Joint Initiative on Standarisation. What are, in your view, the shortcomings of the current process?

Malte Lohan: We are very concerned about the overly legalistic reading of the European Commission on harmonised standards, following the European Court of Justice jurisprudence, which in effects says that the European Commission takes responsibility of the standards that are published. The Commission’s legal services take the stance that this means that it needs to vet and validate every standard that is published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Of course, the Commission is simply not in a position to do that job at the pace that the Industry needs.

Because of this, and it is the case for many Industries, there is a major backlog on harmonised standards, which are ready for use or even already obsolete as a result of being stuck in the process of publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.

The Commission has taken some steps to reduce that backlog, but we do not believe that these are enough. Fundamentally, the current Commission thinking misunderstands the nature and the role of harmonised standards and it is urgent that we address this at a political level. Otherwise, the whole EU standardisation system may be at risk. We already see that the market is losing patience with this approach, and there is a lot at stake for the Commission and for the EU to fix this.

 

Euralarm: The EU Commission’s ‘goods package’ has been presented in December last year. Is it a game changer? 

Malte Lohan: There are shortcomings in compliance and enforcement in the EU Single Market and parts of the ‘goods package’ are trying to address this. Does that make it a game changer, I do not think so, because there are other big issues with the Single market. But the goods package is a key condition for the Single Market’s success and we believe in getting that right.

It is about protecting businesses from unfair competition and creating a genuine level playing field for all the operators where those playing by the rules are not undercut by competitors that deliberately do not and are not caught by the compliance enforcement authorities. Same in the security and fire safety sector as in many other sectors, you have rogue operators which fly below the radar and can count on gaps in the enforcement net, and therefore can come in at a much lower cost point.

The good operators of course have a higher cost and we really think that this is a big weakness and that the current proposal is not sufficiently addressing that. So you have this perfect storm, where to be compliant you have to do ever more, products become more costly and more complicated and at the same time it becomes easier for the rogue operators to fly below the radar. And because we do not see the money going to market surveillance authorities at the level required, the only way that this can be addressed is by better using the intelligence that the market itself can create, to support the work of the market surveillance authorities.

 

Euralarm: The EU Commission is making big moves on cybersecurity, with the proposed cybersecurity act, what does Orgalime advocate for in terms of this proposed legislation and its implications for the industrial sector?

Malte Lohan: Let’s start by stating the obvious, which is that cybersecurity is one of the biggest priority for the coming years for the European Industry and I would say for the sectors represented by Euralarm especially. A day doesn’t go by without some headline related to another cybersecurity crisis somewhere in the world. So, we have to get this right, and it is connected to the wider issue of trust that I have mentioned earlier.

But this is also a hard issue, disruptive economic harm that needs to be prevented, and a competitiveness issue. Without a cybersecurity framework, which works for businesses of all sizes, the digital single market will not materialise. So, we welcome the EU’s work on a common framework, and we support the notion of introducing this framework.

But we have some major concerns with the European Commission’s proposal, including the failure to reflect the new legislative framework which we advocate for all technical harmonisation legislation, and for us it makes no sense if this is not properly reflected in the cybersecurity package.

 

Euralarm: Could you explain to our readers what is the new EU legislative framework?

Malte Lohan: The new legislative framework, also know as the new approach is a basic better regulation tool of the EU which has been used for some decades for internal market legislation, and harmonised standards are a key pillar of that. It sets a broad framework of objectives to be achieved through policy but it leaves some of the technical details on how to achieve those standards to Industry. And this is a framework which has enabled years of innovation in our Industries. It has proven to be a better regulation tool and we want that to be continued in the context of cybersecurity.

So, one of the core points for us to do so is to accept the concept of self-certification. Not all cybersecurity risks are equally important, strategic or systemic. You need to allow a flexible approach to certification which includes self-certification for companies of all sizes including SMEs to make the future cybersecurity framework work. Finally, we also have concerns about the lack of opportunities for Industry involvement with ENISA, the European agency for cybersecurity, in matters relevant to the Industry.

So, we have been working hard to address this at the European Parliament, while working very closely with Euralarm, and the signs are positive: we are improving on those short-comings from the European Commission’s proposal. But of course, we are a long way from a conclusion.

 

 

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