NGOs demand bigger role in EU standardisation

Environment, consumer, trade union, groups call for balanced participation in norm-setting bodies

Non-governmental organisations have set out demands for more influence in setting product standards that have to be met under EU environmental laws. At a seminar in Brussels today environmental, consumer and trade union groups said the bodies deciding the standards were dominated by industry interests and led to inferior environmental and health protection.

Under the EU's so-called "new approach" to legislation, much standard-setting in product-related laws is now carried out by technical working groups in organisations such as CEN. The approach has been extended to environmental legislation, with the 1994 packaging directive leading the way (ENDS Daily 27 April). The EEB pulled out of the CEN process last month in protest at a lack of influence (ENDS Daily 4 May).

Speaking at the seminar today, the group's policy director Christian Hey said the EEB would only resume participation in the standard-setting process once it had been "seriously reformed". Environmental concerns should be actively integrated into the decision-making procedures of bodies such as CEN, he said, rather than being seen as an "information problem". A recent initiative to set up an "environmental helpdesk" to advise within CEN was wholly inadequate, he said.

The EU should help to fund an environmental technical bureau to counter-balance industry participation in working groups, he added. Standards were now being set not by consensus, but through a process of evolution by "survival of the fittest" in which the opinions of organisations with the most resources were heard loudest, he said.

Follow Up:
EEB, tel: +32 2 289 1090; see also their report, Towards Balancing Participation.

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