Standardization CEN & ISO

Standard definition

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.

An unofficial characterization of a standard is: "documentation of good existing practice"

A European Standard (EN) is a document that has been adopted by one of the three recognized European Standardization Organizations: CEN, CENELEC or ETSI. An EN is available, in principle, in the three official languages of CEN (English, French and German).

CEN & ISO background information

Both CEN and ISO are standardization organizations, members of which are national standardization bodies.

CEN – The European Committee for Standardization

European – 33 members – established 1972 (see the CEN member)

- More information about European standardization

- A starter guide to standardization for experts in CEN Technical Bodies can be accessed here

- A European Standard (EN) automatically becomes a national standard in all 33 countries covered by CEN Members.

- It is important to note that the use of standards is voluntary, and so there is no legal obligation to apply them, unless called up in legislation or cited as part of a contract.

- The number of European standards exceeded 21.000 in mid 2014. Around 1000 new standards are published each year. (e.g. in 2013 942 European Standards were published) - browse and search standards 

ISO - The International Organization for Standardization

Global - 163 members – established 1946 (see the ISO members)

- More information about global standardization

- ISO members are not obliged to adopt ISO standards.

- ISO has developed over 19.500 standards – see ISO Catalogue


Participation in the standardization procedure

CEN – The European Committee for Standardization

The National Members:

- Make up the delegations to the technical committees by finding expertise in each country.
- Vote for, and implement, European Standards as national standards.


CEN's National Members are the National Standardization Bodies (NSBs) of the 28 European Union countries, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Turkey plus three countries of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland). There is one member per country.

Businesses as well as other organizations and stakeholders, can participate in standardization in a number of different ways. The main route for businesses or other stakeholders to get involved in standardization is via their National Standardization Organizations. Another avenue for influencing the development of standards is via business associations or those representing specific industries at European level in their capacity as Partner or Liaison Organization of CEN.

ISO - The International Organization for Standardization

ISO standards are developed by groups of experts, representatives of industry, NGOs, governments and other stakeholders, who are put forward by ISO's members.

ISO's full members (member bodies) can decide if they would like to be a participating member (P-member) of a particular Technical Committee (TC) or an observing member (O-member). P-members participate actively in the work and have an obligation to vote on all questions submitted to vote within the technical committee. O-members follow the work as an observer, but cannot make any comments about the development process or vote. Correspondent members can become O-members of a particular technical comittee.