Twenty years of the "Vienna Agreement" which helps to ensure that international and European standards avoid duplication and make the best use of development resources are being celebrated at an international conference in the Austrian capital on 4 November 2011.

ISO President, Dr. Boris Aleshin, and Vice-President (technical management), Mr. Jacob Holmblad, are to attend the conference which marks the signing of the agreement between ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). The conference is being organized by the Austrian Standards Institute (ASI), which is a founder member of both organizations, with the support of ISO and CEN.

The conference will situate the Vienna Agreement in the global economic context. It will look back at its successes and lessons and, most importantly, address the future to ensure the best possible alignment between international and regional/national standardization activities.

The background to the agreement was that in working to make the ideal of the Single Market in Europe a trading reality, the leaders of the European Union concluded that harmonizing the national standards of the member countries was essential. It was not sufficient to do away with discriminatory, government-imposed import quotas between the member countries if their divergent national standards continued to present technical barriers to the free flow of goods in the Single Market.

The European Union decided to base its harmonized European standards wherever possible on International Standards. If European standards are harmonized from the outset with international ones, then there are increased savings and opportunities for the companies that wish to compete on export markets outside the region. One product specification can be offered to export customers everywhere. At the same time, the choice of European customers is widened to include product offerings, based on compatible technology, from around the world

In the Vienna Agreement of June 1991, ISO and CEN formally committed themselves to basing their work on international standardization. In other words, whenever possible, CEN adopts International Standards as European standards which are, in turn, promulgated as national standards in each of the CEN member countries.

As a result of the agreement that was signed between ISO and CEN in 1991, today more than 4 170 European Standards (EN) are identical to ISO standards out of a total 13 542 EN standards. ISO is currently leading the development of more than 810 standards that, on completion, will be approved in parallel as ISO and EN standards, while CEN has the lead on more than 160 standards for parallel approval.

Signature of the Vienna Agreement in June 1991 by the then Secretary General of CEN, Mr. Jacques Repussard (left), and the Secretary-General of ISO, the late Dr. Lawrence D. Eicher.
  • Participation in the conference “20 years of the Vienna Agreement” is free of charge. Conference languages are English, German and Russian with simultaneous interpretation. To register: www.20yearsVA.org