Present secure, future uncertain

Future of European standardization system in jeopardy


The numbers presented by DIN President Prof. Dr. Klaus Homann at DIN's annual press conference on the 20th of April show that German industry finds standardization and standards indispensable even in times of economic crisis. DIN, Germany's national standards organization, coordinates the work of about 28,700 experts from all areas of society. Membership in DIN, a registered non-profit association, is the highest in 15 years. Our production and productivity have increased, costs have been lowered through systematic restructuring, and our financial basis is sound.

Of the 2,337 standards published in 2009 over 80 % are valid throughout Europe and/or the world, a considerable advantage for the German export industry. In keeping with the goals of the Federal Government, DIN carries out numerous activities in the promotion of innovation and the support of small to medium size businesses by facilitating access to markets and to standards work.

This picture of a well-functioning system is clouded by the current plans of the European Commission, the expected consequences of which were described by Heinz Gaub, member of the DIN Management Board. One of the changes proposed by the Commission is the free provision of European Standards. Many are unaware of the fact that European Standards are not developed in Brussels, but by the Members of the European standards organizations, with Germany being responsible for no less than 30 % of the project management of this work. Any weakening of DIN's function in this could not only bring immediate disadvantages to the European standardization system but could in the long run be to the detriment of German industry as a whole because it would have considerably less influence on standards work.

In calling for free standards the Commission fails to realize that it would destroy an efficient, basically fair financing model resulting in serious disadvantages and risks. Without adequate financial compensation DIN would be considerably less efficient and productive and would no longer be capable of representing German interests at international level to the extent it does today. But financial compensation through tax monies would endanger DIN's independence and neutrality. "The issue at hand is whether standardization should remain a matter for the private sector or should become a matter for the State", said Gaub. He also said that the consensus within German industry – for instance within the Federation of German Industries (BDI) – is that privately organized standardization must be maintained as a form of economic self-regulation.