The Standing Committee (Articles 5 and 6)

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CONTENT

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Article 5

A Standing Committee shall be set up consisting of representatives appointed by the Member States who may call on the assistance of experts or advisers; its chairman shall be a representative of the Commission.

The Committee shall draw up its own rules of procedure.

Article 6

1. The Committee shall meet at least twice a year with the representatives of the standards institutions referred to in Annexes I and II.

The Committee shall meet in a specific composition to examine questions concerning Information Society services.

  1. The Commission shall submit to the Committee a report on the implementation and application of the procedures set out in this Directive, and shall present proposals aimed at eliminating existing or foreseeable barriers to trade.

  2. The Committee shall express its opinion on the communications and proposals referred to in paragraph 2 and may in this connection propose, in particular, that the Commission:

    - request the European standards institutions to draw up a European standard within a given time limit,

    - ensure where necessary, in order to avoid the risk of barriers to trade, that initially the Member States concerned decide amongst themselves on appropriate measures,

    - take all appropriate measures,

    - identify the areas where harmonisation appears necessary, and, should the case arise, undertake appropriate harmonisation in a given sector.

  3. The Committee must be consulted by the Commission:

    1. before any amendment is made to the lists in Annexes I and II (Article 2 (1));

    2. when drawing up the rules for the consolidated presentation of information and the plan and criteria for the presentation of standards programmes (Article 2 (2));

    3. when deciding on the actual system whereby the exchange of information provided for in this Directive is to be efiected and on any change to it;

    4. when reviewing the operation of the system set up by this Directive;

    5. on the requests to the standards institutions referred to in the first indent of paragraph 3.

  4. The Committee may be consulted by the Commission on any preliminary draft technical regulation received by the latter.

  5. Any question regarding the implementation of this Directive may be submitted to the Committee at the request of its Chairman or of a Member State.

  6. The proceedings of the Committee and the information to be submitted to it shall be confidential.

    However, the Committee and the national authorities may, provided that the necessary precautions are taken, consult, for an expert opinion, natural or legal persons, including persons in the private sector.

  7. With respect to rules on services, the Commission and the Committee may consult natural or legal persons from industry or

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    academia, and where possible representative bodies, capable of delivering an expert opinion on the social and societal aims and consequences of any draft rule on services, and take notice of their advice whenever requested to do so.

    Articles 5 and 6 describe the composition and role of the Standing Committee, which is referred to repeatedly in the provisions of Directive 98/34/EC.

    The Committee is composed of representatives of the Member States’ national authorities and chaired by a representative of the Commission. It has competence for standards and technical regulations,80and constitutes the focal point for discussion of all the problems connected with the implementation of the Directive. It therefore plays a very important role in supervising the operation of the procedure and in the examination of policy issues raised by the notifications and also in developing an administrative network between national authorities.

    The operating rules of this body have been agreed by the Member States and the Commission, since the Directive stipulates that the Committee shall draw up its own rules of procedure. The only rules imposed by the Directive on the Standing Committee are the obligation to meet representatives of the European and national standards institutions at least twice a year, and to guarantee the confidential nature both of the information submitted to it and of its proceedings.

    This duty of discretion does not, however, prevent the Committee and the national authorities from using the expertise of natural persons or legal entities in the private sector, who are capable of examining and forming an opinion on the notified drafts. This advice can in fact be indispensable, since the national authorities of the Member States do not always have the necessary knowledge and resources to carry out this task. The Directive makes this possible unless, in accordance with Article 8 (4), the Member States expressly request that notifications which they have carried out be treated confidentially as an exception. In this case, the Committee must take the necessary precautions in order to safeguard the legitimate and duly justified interests of the Member States.

    In practice, the Standing Committee meets approximately four times per year. These meetings are convened by the Commission.

    Because of its varied responsibilities, the Standing Committee has general powers, common to the two aspects of Directive 98/34/EC, and specific powers limited to each of them.

    1. General powers

    Any question relating to the implementation of the Directive can be brought before the Standing Committee at the request of its Chairman or of a Member State.

    In addition, it must be consulted by the Commission on certain points, including the choice of the system to be used in practice for the exchange of information laid down by the Directive.

    The Committee expresses an opinion on proposals presented by the Commission in order to limit existing or potential trade barriers: it can, for example, ask the Commission to encourage dialogue between the Member States, so that they can find - in application of the subsidiarity principle - solutions between themselves. The encouragement of such dialogue is in accordance with the spirit of Directive 98/34/EC, which seeks to remove barriers at source, by prevention rather than coercion.

    Every two years, the Commission presents to the Committee the report which it will send to the European Parliament, the

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    Council and the European Economic and Social Committee on the results of the application of the Directive (see Article 11).

    2. Specific powers under the procedure applicable to technical regulations.

    The meetings of the Standing Committee enable the Commission departments and the Member States to exchange views on all aspects of the application of the ‘technical regulations’ part of the Directive.

    The Standing Committee can specifically request the Commission to identify those areas in which harmonisation of national legislation is necessary and to begin work at a European level (the preparation of a draft or a proposal for a decision, directive or a regulation).

    It must give its opinion on the rules regarding the codified presentation of information, both when these rules are drafted and when they are adapted to each amendment of the Notification directive.81It draws up a list of national authorities, other than central governments, whose technical regulations fall within the scope of the Directive and examines any draft amendment to this list. The Committee is also the forum for discussion of numerous issues, from technical problems encountered in the exchange of information by electronic mail, to the dificulties arising from the overlapping of the 98/34/EC procedure with the notification procedures provided for by other Community acts; certain notified draft technical regulations are placed on the agenda with a view to finding solutions to specific problems raised.

    Apart from the 98/34/EC Committee, meetings organised within the Member States, known as ‘package’ meetings, extend, where necessary, direct contacts between the representatives of the national authorities responsible for drafts and the Commission departments.

    These meetings also provide an opportunity for contacts with the representatives of the central units of the Member States responsible for the application of Directive 98/34/EC, with a view to settling practical problems encountered in the application of the information procedure, finding solutions which will enable infringement proceedings launched by the Commission for non-notification of draft national regulations to be closed, or avoiding such proceedings.

    3. Specific powers under the standards procedure

    The Standing Committee must be consulted by the Commission on any amendment to the lists of European or national standardisation bodies shown in the Annexes I and respectively II of the Directive, and on the presentation format of national and European standards programmes.

    It must also be consulted on any request (mandate) which the Commission plans to give to CEN, CENELEC or ETSI, for the preparation of harmonised European standards. This relates, among other things, to standards in the fields governed by the ‘New Approach’ Directives (machinery, construction products, toys, personal protection equipment, simple pressurised appliances, gas appliances, medical devices, telecommunications terminals, etc.), and standards in other European fields/policies with a view to implement these policies (energy, environment, consumer protection, new technologies, etc.).

    Before giving a mandate to the standardisation bodies, the Commission always ensures that it has the political support of the Member States by consulting them through the Commit-

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    tee on the relevance and timeliness of undertaking standardisation work on a European level.

    A positive response from the Standing Committee leads the Commission to invite the European standardisation bodies to prepare one or more standards within a given period. During this period, the Member States will take all necessary measures to ensure that their respective standardisation bodies neither prepare nor introduce standards in the same field (see Article 7).

    The fact that the national authorities participate in the award of mandates has the result of involving them in the results of European standardisation work. They therefore have an incentive to facilitate the work of the standardisation bodies and endeavour to remove any possible obstacles to the full application of European standards.

    The Standing Committee also reviews progress of mandated work and discusses several problems relating to standardisation in the framework of Directive 98/34/EC.

    Moreover this standing Committee is also consulted on possible shortcoming in mandated standards, as stipulated in New Approach Directives. This procedure is known as the procedure for formal objections against an harmonised standard.82

    [80] Hence its title: ‘Standards and Technical Regulations Committee’ or ‘98/34/EC Committee’.

    [81] The nomenclature established for transmitting messages between the Commission and the Member States underwent, for example, numerous changes when the Directive was amended for the second time, in order to take account of ‘de facto’ technical regulations, the ‘other requirements’ concerning the life cycle of the product when it has been placed on the market, and the new standstill periods.

    [82] See the Vademecum on European Standardization: http://europa.eu.int/comm/enterprise/standards_policy/vademecum/index.htm