In order to avoid duplication between standardization at international and European levels, for the benefit of contributors and users of standards as well as to increase the efficiency of standardization at European and international level, CEN and CENELEC have signed agreements with their respective international counterparts the International Standardization Organization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), setting out the rules governing co-operation.
The Vienna Agreement—which was signed between CEN and ISO in 1991—recognises the primacy of international standards and aims for standards to be recognized simultaneously at the international and European level via improved exchange of information and mutual representation at meetings. Either CEN or ISO shall take the lead in drafting a new standard and related documents shall be presented for simultaneous approval by both. Through this process, ISO members can influence CEN standards, and vice versa. Approximately 31% of CEN standards are developed under the Vienna agreement.
Nevertheless the Vienna Agreement allows CEN or ISO to conduct standardization activities on the same subject, if deemed necessary. The Joint ISO-CEN Coordinating Group of the Technical Boards has a critical strategic function of monitoring the application of the Vienna Agreement and of advising the higher CEN Technical Board and ISO Technical Management Board on all issues relating to the Vienna Agreement—including the need for revisions. A revised version of the Vienna Agreement (Version 3.3) was released in September 2001, in which the agreement itself was reduced to the essential principles of co-operation between ISO and CEN. Altogether, the current version gives priority to international standardization, and lends greater importance to ISO leadership than did the previous versions. EN ISO standards, for example, may now be revised only under ISO leadership, regardless of their origin.
CENELEC maintains close cooperation with its international counterpart, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). To facilitate a consensus-finding process between European and international standards development activities in the electrical sector, CENELEC and IEC formalized the framework of their cooperation in 1996 by signing an ‘agreement on common planning of new work and parallel voting’, known as the Dresden Agreement.
The main purpose of the CENELEC-IEC cooperation is to avoid the duplication of work and to reduce time when preparing standards. As a result, new electrical standards projects are jointly planned between CENELEC and IEC, and where possible most are carried out at the international level. This means that CENELEC will first offer a New Work Item (NWI) to its international counterpart. If accepted, CENELEC will cease working on the NWI. If IEC refuses, CENELEC will work on the standards content development, keeping IEC closely informed and giving IEC the opportunity to comment at the public enquiry stage. Both CENELEC and IEC vote in parallel at the same time during the standardization process. If the outcome of the parallel voting is positive, CENELEC will ratify the European standard and the IEC will publish the international standard.
After 20 years of a fruitful partnership that has resulted in a very high level of technical alignment (close to 80% of CENELEC standards are identical to or based on IEC publications), CENELEC and IEC have reconfirmed their longstanding cooperation on 17 October 2016, by signing the Frankfurt Agreement. Building on the experience of both partners, this new agreement preserves the spirit and approach conveyed by the Dresden Agreement, in particular the strategic commitment of CENELEC to supporting the primacy of international standardization. It includes several updates aiming to simplify the parallel voting processes and increases the traceability of international standards adopted in Europe attributed to a new referencing system.
The Frankfurt Agreement and the ‘agreement on common planning of new work and parallel voting between CENELEC and IEC’ aims to expedite publication and common adoption of International Standards. Additionally, the agreements aim to ensure rational use of available resources and to accelerate the standards preparation process in response to market demands. Any IEC draft submitted for parallel IEC-CLC adoption procedure, any CENELEC proposal for new work is proposed to IEC, no parallel development and adoption of common IEC-CENELEC publication under CENELEC lead, and common modifications to International work can be introduced at European level.