European Standards

What is a standard ?

A standard is a technical document designed to be used as a rule, guideline or definition. It is a consensus-built, repeatable way of doing something. Standards are created by bringing together all interested parties such as manufacturers, consumers and regulators of a particular material, product, process or service. All parties benefit from standardization through increased product safety and quality as well as lower transaction costs and prices.


A European Standard (EN) is implemented by the national CEN and CENELEC Members as a national standard, and therefore is included in the standards catalogue of CEN and CENELEC's Members, the National Standardization Organizations in 34 countries.

The European Standards Bodies (CEN, CENELEC and ETSI) define a Standard as a document, established by consensus and approved by a recognized body that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context. Standards should be based on consolidated results of science, technology and experience, and aimed at the promotion of optimum community benefits.

Who develops European Standards? 

The CEN and CENELEC's National Members work together to develop European Standards and other deliverables in a large number of sectors to help build the European internal market in goods and services, removing barriers to trade and strengthening Europe's position in the global economy. 

The development of a European Standard (EN) is governed by the principles of consensus, openness, transparency, national commitment and technical coherence. More than 200.000 experts from industry, associations, public administrations, academia, and societal organizations are involved in the CEN and CENELEC network that reaches over 600 million people.

We work in a decentralized way. Our Members – the CEN National Standardization Bodies (NSBs) and CENELEC National Committees (NCs) of the EU and EFTA countries – operate the technical groups that draw up the standards and the CEN-CENELEC Management Centre in Brussels manages and coordinates this system.

How are European Standards developed?

Although technically anyone can propose work that will result in a European Standard, at CEN and CENELEC the work is usually channeled by the members (the CEN National Standardization Bodies and the CENELEC National Committees). In some cases, the request comes from the European Commission or from other stakeholders.


If enough CEN and/or CENELEC members are willing to be involved in the development process, the work is then assigned to a CEN and/or CENELEC Technical Committee (TC) in the field concerned. At the same time, “standstill” is enforced on all national work surrounding the same topic. Once the Technical Committee is established, mirror committees of stakeholders at national level decide on the national contributions regarding the development of the standard. In addition to the CEN and/or CENELEC members, Technical Committees also include a number of observers, such as ISO/IEC members, European Commission/EFTA, European partners including Annex III organizations, external European industry associations and other affiliate bodies.


Once the proposal for a standard has been evaluated and approved, the proposal goes on to the drafting stage which is based on consensus-building. When the draft standard is finalized, it goes up to public enquiry open to all interested parties. When the enquiry is over, the votes and comments on the standard are evaluated and depending on the result, the draft standard is either published or additionally worked upon and subsequently submitted to formal vote. Furthermore, European Standards are also developed to ease compliance with European rules and regulations such as EU legislation. Through Regulation (EU) No 1025/2012, the three European Standardisation Organisations (CEN, CENELEC and ETSI) may receive a request to produce European harmonised standards in support of EU legislation and policies.

Standards in your everyday life

Did you know that millions of businesses and organizations are applying and using European standards every day? The more you know about standards, the more you will be able benefit from them. Standards make our lives safer, simpler, more comfortable and more efficient. But standards only work when they are properly used. Do you want to make sure that your child’s toys are safe? Then watch out for the EN 71 series of standards on toy safety. Do you care about the environment? That’s where the standard EN ISO 14001 for environmental management systems comes in.


Standards bring us benefits at home, at work, during leisure time, both at home and abroad. They ensure the products we use are safe and reliable, and that different appliances and pieces of equipment can connect and work together for a better experience. The home you live in is made safe through construction standards, and your personal data is protected by IT security standards.

Often we can only appreciate the importance of a standard when it is missing, or has not been properly applied – because then things do not work as they should.






What are the steps to develop a European Standard (EN) ?

Any interested party can introduce a proposal for new work. Most standardization work is proposed through the CEN and CENELEC Members.

Once a project to develop an EN is accepted by the relevant Technical Body, or by the Technical Board, the member countries shall put all national activity within the scope of the project on hold. This means that they do not initiate new projects, nor revise existing standards at national level. This obligation is called 'standstill' and allows efforts to be focused on the development of the EN.

The EN is developed by experts within a Technical Body.

Once the draft of an EN is prepared, it is released for public comment and vote, a process known as the 'Enquiry'. During this stage, everyone who has an interest (e.g. manufacturers, public authorities, consumers, etc.) may comment on the draft. These views are gathered by the members who then submit a national position by means of a weighted vote and which is subsequently analyzed by the Technical Body. If the results of the Enquiry show a 100% approval for the EN then the European Standard will be published.

If the results of the Enquiry show that the draft EN requires technical reworking, and the results of the Enquiry are not 100% approval then the Technical Body updates the draft and resubmit it for another weighted vote, called the Formal Vote.

Following the approval of the EN, either from the Enquiry or the Formal Vote, the EN then is published. A published European Standard must be given the status of national standard in all member countries, who also have the obligation to withdraw any national standards that conflict with it. This guarantees that a manufacturer has easier access to the market of all the member countries when applying European Standards and this also applies whether the manufacturer is based in a member's territory or not.

To ensure that a European Standard is still current, it is reviewed within five years of its publication. This review results in the confirmation, modification, revision or withdrawal of the EN.

European Standards are made available in 3 official languages: English, French and German. Members of CEN and CENELEC can translate standards in their own language.

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