As the official guardian of the European accreditation infrastructure, EA has the overall strategic objective to safeguard the value and credibility of accredited conformity assessment services delivered by its Members and accredited conformity assessment bodies within the European market.
EA as the European accreditation infrastructure
EA has been formally appointed as the body responsible for the European accreditation infrastructure in Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 July 2008, Article 14, paragraph 6.
In accordance with Article 14, paragraph 2 in this Regulation, an agreement has been concluded between EA and the European Commission (EC) to specify, inter alia, EA’s detailed tasks as well as funding and supervision provisions.
This agreement includes:
- General Guidelines for the Cooperation between the European co-operation for Accreditation and the European Commission, the European Free Trade Association and the competent national authorities. These Guidelines, published on 21 May 2009 in the Official Journal of the European Union, embody the policy commitment of EA, of the EC, of the European Free trade Association (EFTA) and of the competent national authorities.
- 4-year Framework Partnership Agreements (FPA) which set out financial obligations and conditions between the EC and EA. These FPAs provide for annual operational grants and specific action grants based on EA’s annual work programmes to be approved by the EC every year.
The role of accreditation in European legislation
Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 that, since 2008, provides a legal framework for the provision of accreditation services across Europe, has been strengthening EA’s role in both voluntary and regulated sectors. The Regulation places an obligation on EU Member States to accept results issued by the conformity assessment bodies accredited by any of the EA MLA signatories.
It is part of the “new European legislative framework” (NLF) resulting from the “New Approach” standardisation that significantly contributed to the development of the Single Market. The success of the European standardisation system, in removing technical barriers to trade, plays a vital role in ensuring the free movement of goods between EU Member States.
Included in the legislation are requirements regarding the assessment of conformity assessment bodies applying for notification. A Notified Body, in the European Union, is a conformity assessment body that has been formally appointed by a national authority to assess whether a product, its design or its manufacture meet certain standards—usually those relating to specific European regulations or directives.
The process of achieving notification has changed such that accreditation is now the preferred route by which a conformity assessment body demonstrates its competence to become a Notified Body. The EA is working to support and harmonise (policy EA-2/17) the implementation of the rules for conformity assessment bodies seeking accreditation for notification purposes.
It is more important than ever that national accreditation bodies maintain the confidence of all stakeholders and regulators and are themselves regularly assessed by their peers in order to ensure their technical competency. This peer evaluation process must be transparent and accepted by all, including national authorities, and be tailored to accommodate the specific needs of regulatory sectors.
New responsibilities for EA members
Communication is pivotal to achieving the consistent implementation of the new regulation. The increased responsibility and trust placed in accreditation means that there is now a greater obligation on EA members to maintain a productive dialogue with national regulators and main stakeholders and ensure that their expectations are understood and met. A Best Practice Guide on Communications with the Regulators has been published to assist EA and its members to develop and strengthen cooperation with national regulators.
New responsibilities for EA
Similarly EA itself is enhancing its communications with the European Commission, attending every meeting on accreditation held by the Senior Officials Group for Standardisation and Conformity Assessment Policy (SOGS), as well as meetings of the EC Inter-Service Steering Group for Accreditation. For certain specific projects, the EA is also collaborating directly with DGs Environment, Clima, Transport, Health and Consumer Protection Agriculture.
EA is also required to consult and interact in a more efficient and transparent way with its other stakeholders and the EA Advisory Board ensures the effective and balanced involvement of all interested parties. The EA Policy for Relations with Stakeholders (EA-1/15) outlines how EA-recognised stakeholders may become involved in EA’s associative life and its technical activities.
EA develops, harmonises and builds consistency in accreditation as a service to trade with countries outside the European Market including those who wish to become EU Members (1). The aim is to reduce barriers to trade and to contribute to protecting health and safety. EA embraces and supports the development of accreditation bodies in these countries and their understanding of EA practices. Given the EU's desire for close links with these countries, the EA’s work in this regard comprises part of the EU Neighbourhood Policy (2).
1) “Potential candidates for EU membership" as stated by the European Council meeting in Feira in June 2000 are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo (under UN Security Council Resolution 1244), Montenegro, and Serbia.
2) Countries in the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy are: Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, The Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia, and Ukraine.