China Standardization

京公网安备 11011402011482号

Hot Spots
Joint ITU-R SG6 – EBU Workshop
Your Position:Home > News >
Interview with Elena Santiago Cid, Director General of CEN
China Standardization 2023-01-11

CEN and CENELEC help build a safer, more sustainable and competitive Europe

Interview with Elena Santiago Cid, Director General of CEN and CENELEC



Please present yourself and give a brief introduction to the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC).

Elena Santiago Cid: I am the Director General of CEN and CENELEC. CEN (the European Committee for Standardization) and CENELEC (the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization) are two of the official European Standardization Organizations (ESOs), which have the responsibility to develop Standards for the European Single Market.

Our members are the national standardization bodies and the national electrotechnical committees of the 34 countries part of the Single Market: the 27 EU members, 3 countries of the European Free Trade Association (Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein), 3 EU accession countries (North Macedonia, Serbia and Türkiye) and the United Kingdom. The latter is a country with a demonstrated regulatory convergence or compatibility with the essential regulations that support the Single Market in areas that are relevant to CEN and/or CENELEC activities and with whom the EU has got a comprehensive trade agreement.

Together with the third ESO, ETSI (the European Telecommunications Standards Institute), we are recognized by the EU as the only European organizations developing standards and technical specifications in support of the implementation of European regulations and policies. In fact, while the vast majority of the CEN and CENELEC standards are developed following market needs, around 15% respond to a request made by the European regulators, based on the so-called “New Legislative Framework”.

How did you engage in the standardization work? How has your career in the world of standardization evolved?

I was born on October 14, World Standards Day, so I consider myself predestined for the world of standardization! 

Having a background as an electronic engineer, I started working with standards early in my professional career at the Spanish National Standardization Body, which was then called AENOR and now is UNE. There, I also served as the Spanish permanent delegate in the CENELEC Technical Board. 

After that, from 1996 to 1998 I served as Spanish National Expert at the European Commission, where I covered the New Approach Legislation, in particular the Directives on Electrical Safety and Electromagnetic Compatibility and the connection between harmonised standards and market surveillance. This position allowed me to interact with all Member States and contribute to the Screening Exercise of all accession countries prior to the enlargement. 

I then went back to AENOR as Director for External Relations. In that role, in addition to participating in the CEN Board, I led several technical assistance programs in Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia. This experience allowed me to get precious insight into the importance of international cooperation in standardization. 

Finally, on the September 1, 2003, I assumed the position of Director General of CENELEC, and then, since January 1, 2010, I have become the CEN and CENELEC Director General, which includes being the Head of the CEN and CENELEC Management Centre (CCMC).

In addition, in 2019 I became Vice-president of the Women4Cyber foundation, an organization that aims to promote, encourage and support women in cybersecurity.

What kind of mentality should a standardizer have? 

Standardization implies to manage knowledge in constant evolution. Therefore, being a standardizer requires an interesting and unique mix of hard and soft skills, to be a bridge across sectors and topics, and to guide technical experts. The core competences consist on building consensus, apply project management and understand standardization processes. 

Together with this, being a standardizer also requires highly developed soft skills: the consensus-building process means that leadership skills, such as managing teams and being able to take decisions, are key to make sure that experts make the best use of their time. For this reason, diplomacy and a human approach can really go a long way to getting the desired results!

Finally, it is important to be curious and open-minded. Technical committees are composed of people coming from perse backgrounds and having distinct expertise. As a result, standardization provides an awesome opportunity for personal enrichment: as a standardizer, you can learn from each other and discover innovative ideas.

In 2021, CEN and CENELEC formulated their Strategy 2030 to address the long-term challenges faced by the community of European standardizers. The Strategy 2030 identifies 5 goals for CEN and CENELEC, aiming to “build a safer, more sustainable and competitive Europe through European and International Standardization”. What is the significance and value of this strategy? How does the implementation of the strategy go? 

The CEN and CENELEC Strategy 2030 , synchronized with the ISO Strategy 2030 and also inspired by the IEC Strategic Plan, outlines a common vision for CEN and CENELEC and aims to address the long-term, disruptive challenges we face. It is the result of an in-depth reflection on how European standardization can put the continent on a path to recovery and resilience, in the context of the twin digital and green transition – which are at the heart of the EU's priorities. The Strategy is built around five goals, that will guide our work until 2030. The objective is to build a safer, more sustainable and competitive Europe through standardization, supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Through the Strategy 2030, we are rethinking and optimizing the way we create value for our customers and stakeholders in a rapidly changing world. For this reason, it is a collective exercise: it provides a frame of reference to ensure coherence and consistency across the long-term objectives of all our community.

Currently and for the foreseeable future, we are implementing a series of strategic and ambitious projects based on the five key priorities: from ensuring the timely citation of European standards, to transforming digitally our production through the introduction of “standards of the future”; from doing a thorough assessment of users’ needs to better meet them, to increasing the persity of our organizations, up to monitoring the strategic issues affecting standardization, our community has embarked on a transformative journey that will allow European standardization to meet the challenges of the future.

All of this will go hand in hand with the International Standardization Organization, ISO, and the International electrotechnical Commission, IEC. Thanks to the Vienna and Frankfurt agreements, CEN and CENELEC strengthen their role in global standards setting, and make ISO and IEC Standards happen in Europe.

What is the real value of the European standardization system based on your experience?

The uniqueness of the European Standardization System (ESS) relies on four factors:

• a total harmonisation approach for Europe, where all National members of CEN and CENELEC must implement the European standards, withdrawing national conflicting standards;

• a strong commitment with the international standards organization, ISO and IEC, to giving primacy to developments at international level, avoiding overlapping and duplication of work;

• inclusiveness and transparency, which ensures wide market acceptance while responding to market needs. European standards are developed by consensus, encouraging and facilitating the participation of all relevant stakeholders, and enabling special measures for societal (consumers, trade unions and environmental) organizations and SMEs;

• an efficient public-private partnership between the market operators and the policy makers and legislators. This public-private partnership is governed by the New Legislative Framework, an innovation-friendly regulatory tool for “market-driven” industry and societal engagement. As a result, having one single standard adopted by all our members across the Single Market, instead of 34 conflicting national standards, fosters the free circulation of safe, secure and sustainable goods and services throughout Europe.

This value has been confirmed by the European Commission in the new European Standardization Strategy presented last February. This policy initiative recognises standardization as a key tool to better support Europe’s competitiveness and strategic autonomy, promote the adoption of European innovations on the global market and aspire to align that European and international standards the European values.

In the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way people work and live. How did CEN and CENELEC adapt to the changes?

Indeed, the Covid crisis has had a profound impact on CEN and CENELEC. In responding to it, I have been proud to see our organizations show resilience and agility. 

We have quickly adjusted to the 'new normal', by introducing more flexible work practices and fully embracing the digitisation of our processes. Such changes have allowed us to maintain and even improve our efficiency: in the long months of the crisis, European standards were almost immediately identified as key instruments to speed up production and support alternative production lines of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and medical devices. Our experts developed in record time common guidelines on community masks to protect citizens and our efforts continued as Europe (and the world) moved from fighting the emergency to engineering the return to growth.

Furthermore, in the longer term, the crisis has been the catalyzer of an in-depth reflection on how to make our system more fit for the future. The outcome has been the Strategy 2030 – which I have described above. 

We are currently involved in efforts to digitalise the standards development process, to ensure they can meet the needs of an increasingly digital society and economy. This ambition is reflected in the Strategy 2030 under Goal 2 “Our customers and stakeholders benefit from state-of-the-art digital solutions”. 

Currently, we are working on two key projects. The first one, Online Standards Development, is related to the process. The second one, Smart Standards, focuses more on solutions. Both these projects are undertaken in full coordination with ISO and IEC, as it wouldn’t make sense to develop European solutions that cannot be integrated in an increasingly globalized world! 

At the ISO General Meeting in Abu Dhabi in September, CEN and CENELEC signed a new Cooperation Agreement with the Standardization Administration of China (SAC). How will CEN and CENELEC enhance the cooperation with SAC within the framework of the new Agreement?

International Standards reflect the global consensus and distilled wisdom of many thousand technical experts, from small and medium-sized enterprises to global multinationals, who are delegated by their national standards bodies or electrotechnical committees to contribute to international standards development. The international standardization system is built on clear rules and principles of transparency and inclusion. It aims at delivering global solutions to ensure a level playing field for participating countries.

CEN and CENELEC have always had cooperation agreements or activities with SAC since China's accession to the WTO. We are pleased to have renewed our cooperation with SAC through a shared mission of strengthening the international standardization system represented by ISO and IEC. Furthermore, China has an immense pool of young engineers, who can play an important role in ensuring the sustainability of the international standardization system.

Why is it so important to attract the young generation to engage in the standardization area? What are your suggestions to bring more young people to the field?

Young people bring a much-needed added value to standardization, at all levels. They have knowledge, sensitivities and new perspectives that not only can enrich the work in our Technical Committees, but they can also suggest new and innovative topics for standardization. Most of all, in the current global challenges, such as climate change or the digital transition, they are the ones who have the most stakes for the decades to come: by listening to them, we can better imagine and build the future and a better world.

This value is particularly important for Europe. One of the strengths of the European Standardization System (ESS) is its inclusiveness and its ability to be driven by market needs. Therefore, increasing the participation of the new generations by including them in our work is key to ensure that we remain relevant: only in this way we can continue providing actionable solutions meeting our customers' needs.

This is where we want to invest more in the coming years. Such a commitment is at the heart of Strategy 2030: in its Priority 4 we commit to building “an inclusive CEN and CENELEC system as the gateway for standardization in Europe", with a specific focus on young people and gender responsiveness.

We are already acting on our ambitions. As 2022 is the European Year of Youth, we have launched a campaign to highlight the role of young professionals in standardization and raise awareness among our community on the importance of including new voices in technical work. It is just the beginning: in the coming months and years we will collaborate closely with our members and the European Commission to promote broader academic awareness about the importance of standards. My wish for the future is to see a dynamic European standardization system, agile and robust, able to attract, motivate and engage more young professionals: to tackle continually evolving needs and challenges, we need the next generations to embrace standardization.

Home Page