EA Celebrating its 15th Anniversary in 2015: the added value of accreditation for notification

The communication campaign that aims at emphasizing EA’s values, achievements and prospects on the occasion of its 15th anniversary is being continued with a few words by Michael Nitsche, the Chair of the EA Advisory Board responsible for the EAAB National Authority College. Michael Nitsche outlines EA’s role in ensuring competence of conformity assessment bodies and supporting their notification.

Primarily focusing on fostering the implementation of the single market, EU Member States have been expecting that EA operates in accordance with Regulation (EC) 765/2008. As the European accreditation infrastructure, EA shall mostly make sure that national accreditation bodies (NABs) ensure the competence and reliability of conformity assessment bodies (CABs) based on transparent processes, and support the notification of CABs under the EU legislation. Have these expectations been met by EA over the past 15 years?

The “National Authority College” (NAC) of the EA Advisory Board consists of members from five countries which vary greatly in size and economic strength, and each of these countries has an accreditation body which has signed up the EA Multi-Lateral Agreement. When considering the diversity within the NAC, it is easy to understand that a wide range of different expectations are held by the several hundred different national authorities related to accreditation activities. Clearly EA cannot meet all these expectations in detail; however, over the past 15 years EA has learnt that European accreditation represents an integral part of the overarching European quality infrastructure mosaic, and that harmonisation and transparency are keys to establishing mutual confidence within this system. Taking the complexities of the different technical fields covered into account, it is not surprising that many authorities rely heavily on the support they get by accreditation. If the reliability of accreditation awarded within Europe and the competence of CABs are assured, then national authorities profit considerably from EA´s work when notifying CABs. National authorities often act in very specific legally defined areas. Therefore it is important for them to understand the functioning of European accreditation infrastructure in detail and the legal implications of rules set out by EA, as many national authorities have the impression that they cannot influence the rules set out by EA.

Which improvements would be needed for accreditation in the regulatory area to be further harmonised? Could you suggest priorities to be now answered by EA?

From the national authority’s perspective, harmonisation within European accreditation infrastructure is beneficial if it is clearly tailored to (their own) legal specifications. Certainly, it should be expected that the focus from EA is more on specification of EU Directives and providing specific accreditation schemes in special legal areas. An indispensable prerequisite for ensuring confidence and acceptability of such schemes is to carry out the peer evaluation in such a way that the conformity assessment results of all CABs accredited by EA NABs will be harmonised on a unique and high level in order to deliver confidence in the single market. Additionally, from the perspective of some NAC Members, it would be beneficial if accreditation was made mandatory and not voluntary as in Regulation (EC) 765/2008. One argument for this is that the alternative way – notification without accreditation – generates a lot of work for the authorities when they have to check all the documentation that is distributed to authorities in all Member States. Other NAC Members continue to support the alternative way – notification without accreditation – as opened in Regulation (EC) 765/2008.