European standards (EN)

- CEN – Comité Européen de Normalisation (European Committee for Stanadardization),

- CENELEC – Comité Européen de Normalisation Électrotechnique (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization) and 

- ETSI – European Telecommunications Standards Institute 

are the three European Standardization Organizations. 

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).

The European Commission refers to European Standards that are produced by CEN, CENELEC, or ETSI under a mandate given by the European Commission as 'harmonized standards' (hEN). In general, these standards support the essential requirements of a New Approach Directive.

Harmonized standards are prepared to verify the compliance of a product/material/service/process with relevant European legislation (Directive, Regulation)

A harmonized standard may be based on an already existing "non-harmonized" European Standard, an ISO standard (existing or under preparation), a suitable national standard or other document. 

In the building sector, EU Commission typically issues Mandates to CEN for the preparation of harmonized standards. 

CEN main features

  • established in 1972;
  • 34 members, i.e. the National Standardization Bodies of 34 European countries – including all the member states of the European Union (EU) and other countries that are part of the European Single Market (see the CEN members); 
  • A European Standard (EN) automatically becomes a national standard in all 34 countries covered by CEN Members;
  • The use of EN 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.

EN standard preparation process

The technical work is carried out under the overall management of the CEN Technical Board (BT).

The BT is reponsible for setting up various technical and project committees and monitoring the progress of the technical work. It is also responsible for setting up the rules for the development of European standards.

Technical Committees (TCs) are established by the BT in order to develop European standards or other normative documents related to specific industries or generic subjects appropriate to the needs of that sector.

In cases where a limited number of standards is needed on a particular subject and in a new area, a Project Committee (PC) instead of a TC can be established. PCs function in a similar way to TCs but they are not allowed to decide on the inclusion of new work items in their programme and they are disbanded once they have finished the standardization work for which they were created.

Technical Committees may set up one or more Working Groups (WG) in order to focus on specific tasks or to provide a draft standard.

Read more here about the CEN governing structure.

Approval process

Once the text of an intended standard has been drawn up by the relevant Working Group (WG), under a Technical Committee (TC), and accepted by that particular TC for approval, it will be sent by CEN to all National Standardization Bodies (NSB) for Public Enquiry.

At this stage the document receives its number and the designation "prEN" (Draft European Standard). Each NSB is obliged to cast its vote and may give general, technical and editorial comments. All comments will be then examined under the responsibility of the relevant TC – in practice by the WG who had prepared the draft, and this WG also prepares the modifications taking into account the comments.

Then, the TC approves the text for further processing to CEN, who finally will send the final draft (now called "Final Draft European Standard" or FprEN) for Formal Vote among the NSB's.

Again, each NSB is obliged to vote, but at this final stage it is no more possible to change the technical contents of the draft, only minor editorial changes can be made. The vote is weighted (e.g.Germany has 29 votes, Finland 7 votes) – and at least 71% of the votes must be positive to have the standard approved.

Soon after approval the document will be published as European Standard (EN) by CEN, and within 6 months each CEN member has to adopt it as a national standard (this explains why all members are obliged to vote) and withdraw possible conflicting national standards.

Check here to know more.

European standards
Timeframe for the development of European Standards
European standards
Timeframe for the development of Technical Reports

Participating in the process

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.

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.