20th anniversary of Vienna Agreement helps harmonise international and European Standards

Issue 33 – November 2011

Twenty years of the 'Vienna Agreement', which helps to ensure that international and European Standards avoid duplication and make the best use of development resources, were celebrated at an international conference in the Austrian capital on 4 November 2011.

The conference marked the signing of the agreement in 1991 between the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). The background to the agreement was that in working to make the ideal of the Single Market in Europe a trading reality, the leaders of the European Union concluded that harmonising the national Standards of the member countries was essential. It was not sufficient to do away with discriminatory, government-imposed import quotas between the member countries if their divergent national Standards continued to present technical barriers to the free flow of goods in the Single Market.

The European Union decided to base its harmonised European Standards wherever possible on international Standards. If European Standards are harmonised from the outset with international ones, then there are increased savings and opportunities for the companies that wish to compete on export markets outside the region. One product specification can be offered to export customers everywhere. At the same time, the choice of European customers is widened to include product offerings, based on compatible technology, from around the world.

In the Vienna Agreement of June 1991, ISO and CEN formally committed themselves to basing their work on international standardisation. In other words, whenever possible, CEN adopts international Standards as European Standards which are, in turn, promulgated as national Standards in each of the CEN member countries.

As a result of the agreement that was signed between ISO and CEN in 1991, today more than 4,170 European Standards (EN) are identical to ISO Standards out of a total 13,542 EN Standards. ISO is currently leading the development of more than 810 Standards that, on completion, will be approved in parallel as ISO and EN Standards, while CEN has the lead on more than 160 Standards for parallel approval.

Published in international.