Is the European Commission really interested in the creation of a European standardisation system?

A few days ago we have received from CEN (the European Federation of the National Standard Organisations) the communication that the European Commission is refusing to pay the contributions already agreed for the work done after 2003 (and completed 3-4 years later) on EN 13445 (the Unfired Pressure Vessel standard) part 3 (Design). Just to explain the problem to people that are not familiar with the procedures of the European standardisation (and of the European bureaucracy), we will tell you that after 1990 Sant’Ambrogio had always assured Convenorship and Secretariat of WG’C’ (Design) / CEN TC54, the group who has in charge the update and development of EN 13445 part 3. From 1990 to 1995 this work was done on the basis of a financial agreement between Sant’Ambrogio and UCC/ANIMA, the Italian association of Pressure Vessel manufacturers. After 1995 the Commission decided to provide a financial support (50% of the man hours and the travel expenses) to CEN for the preparation of the most important harmonised standard of the Pressure Equipment Directive: but the European contributions were given only to the national standard organisations who had the responsibility of the Technical Committees, Working Groups and Subgroup where the work had to take place. For this reason after 1995 our work was paid by UNI (the Italian standard body), using these contributions. But after the first issue of EN 13445 in 2002 it became always more difficult to obtain the agreement of the Commission for further amendments and additions which were logically suggested by the first experiences of the users. However a certain number of “work items” were approved, although after a long series of discussions. These work items permitted substantial improvements of the standard: for example, the extension to materials other than steel, the extension to temperatures in the creep range, the experimental tests, etc. After 2006 it became practically impossible to obtain the Commission’s approval of new work items on EN 13445, so that we were obliged to give back to UCC/ANIMA the task of assuring the Secretariat of WG’C’, while Sant’Ambrogio was still assuring the Convenorship, upon reimbursement  of  the  Convenor’s  travel  expenses  only.  At  the  same  time,  the contributions already due were greatly delayed, while the Commission was asking more and more justifications about the man hours spent on each specific work item. Now, after completing the inquiry about the correctness of all the papers supplied, UNI has received the Communication that the Commission is not willing to pay. And this in spite of the fact that UNI got from CEN a regular “order voucher” and that the various amendments of EN 13445 part 3 (Design) had been all regularly approved and published. Other experts and institutions who worked together with us for part 3 (Design) and also for the other parts of EN 13445, have also received a similar communication. Moreover, it seems that there is a very good possibility that the Commission will ask the reimbursement of the contributions already given in the past. For somebody, like myself, who has been   working 19 years for the European standardisation of Pressure Equipment it is certainly not encouraging. I enclose the open letter that I sent to the Commission and to CEN on this subject. In this letter I am explaining the excuses found by our Eurocrates in order to spare some money and I try to figure out what can be the future of the harmonised standards of the PED, also considering the actual situation of the old national Pressure Vessel standards (that I have already described many times in our newsletters).

Fernando Lidonnici