BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission proposed revisions to its system of standards on Wednesday to cover green and digital products and technology and ensure it is setting future global standards rather than taking them from the likes of China.
The European Union already has standards for products from household appliances to toys, but now wants a system for its green and digital transition that goes beyond product safety or inter-operability to include environmental and labour criteria and its democratic values.
“Technical standards are of strategic importance. Europe’s technological sovereignty, ability to reduce dependencies and protection of EU values will rely on our ability to be a global standard-setter,” Internal Markets Commissioner Thierry Breton said in a statement.
Hydrogen’s use as a clean fuel, increased production of batteries, connected devices and artificial intelligence all raise issues about environmental and labour standards, data protection and cybersecurity.
EU officials point to China’s new strategy on standardisation introduced at the end of the last year, saying this highlights a need for the bloc to act faster and join forces with other “like-minded” countries.
The EU executive will also fund standardisation projects in neighbouring countries and in Africa.
The Commission proposal wants more standards set more rapidly for COVID-19 vaccines and medicines, recycling of critical raw materials, clean hydrogen, low-carbon cement, semiconductors and data.
Standards can take four to six years to develop, EU officials say.
The Commission proposal seeks to align projects funded by its Horizon Europe research and innovation programme with its standardisation aims and, with many experts nearing retirement age, promote this as a career opportunity for young people.
The proposal will also give a stronger voice to national authorities in the EU’s 27 member states on standard-setting, to limit the influence of non-EU companies or bodies in areas such as cybersecurity and hydrogen.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Gareth Jones)