Standards are a strategic tool that provides guidance to companies towards more efficient operations, increasing productivity and reducing costs. Moreover, standards also assist businesses in dealing with some of the most demanding challenges of modern business and allow them to gain access to new markets. The harmonisation of criteria facilitates free and fair global trade for developing countries.ISS has implemented over 96 per cent of all European standards, while the Republic of Serbia has transposed more than 75 per cent of all European directives within the framework of negotiation on Chapter 1 – Free movement of goods.
Standards eliminate barriers to doing business, provide consistent quality for products and services and facilitate their exchange, so the application of standards in business also enables increased economic activity in the region
On the fringes of the recent gathering of political leaders and businesspeople of the Western Balkans, the fifth Balkan conference on standardisation was held. In which way does this kind of common work of national standardisation bodies contribute to linking the economies of the region and their inclusion in European and global trends?
The regional Initiative to bring together national bodies for standardisation from the Balkans began in June 2011 in Ohrid, with the aim of strengthening cooperation, enhancing the process of standardisation and standardisation activities, more efficient work and successful participation in European standardisation. The Fifth Balkan Conference, which was held in Belgrade, was attended by representatives of national standards bodies from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Croatian, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Slovenia, Serbia and Turkey, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Economy and European organisations for standardisation, which exchanged experiences in the field of cooperation with government institutions, the translation of standards, financial sustainability, as well as application and participation in regional and EU projects.
The conference was characterised as very successful and the ISS was evaluated as being a good host. Standards eliminate barriers to doing business, provide consistent quality for products and services and facilitate their exchange, so the application of standards in business also enables increased economic activity in the region.
What kind of role does the ISS have in Serbia’s EU accession process and harmonisation with European directives and standards?
The ISS’s full membership in European standardisation organisations (the European Committee for Standardisation and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation) is one of the mandatory conditions for European integration, and is in line with the revised National Programme for the Adoption of the Acquis (NPAA). The ISS filed an application at the end of May 2016 and an assessment visit of European organisations is scheduled to begin in September. The ISS was previously obliged to take on 80 per cent of all European standards, which it fulfilled and exceeded back in 2012.
At this point, the ISS has taken on more than 96% of all European standards as Serbian standards, while the Republic of Serbia has transposed more than 75 per cent of all European directives within the framework of negotiation Chapter 1 – Free movement of goods.
Expert support is always needed. However, the ISS is pleased to note that in about 160 commissions for standards around 1,600 experts from various fields of standardisation work voluntarily. These are representatives of companies, laboratories, higher education institutions, state administration bodies and others
Please tell us something about the importance and place of national standardisation policy and the role of ISS in European and other international standardisation bodies.
Each country has a unique, recognised national standardisation body. In the Republic of Serbia there is a developed national quality infrastructure, which is testified to by the adoption of a national strategy in this field, which entered into force in 2015. With the adoption of amendments to the Law on Standardisation and related secondary legislation, the work of the ISS also complies fully with the latest European regulations in the field of standardisation. The ISS represents and protects the interests of the Republic of Serbia within the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), within which it has the status of a full member, as well as the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC), in which it has the status of an associate member. In addition, the ISS signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and there it gained the status of “ETSI’s national standards organisation”.
How much technical and financial support does Serbia have in this area?
Expert support is always needed. However, the ISS is pleased to note that in about 160 commissions for standards around 1,600 experts from various fields of standardisation work voluntarily. These are representatives of companies, laboratories, higher education institutions, state administration bodies and others. At the same time, ISS employees have excellent competencies that are constantly being advanced. The ISS is an indirect budget user and the funding is carried out through the Ministry of Economy, which is responsible for the area of standardisation. Investing in the development of ISS is extremely important, and despite the application of austerity measures in recent years ISS managed to arrange the facilities in which it operates, to establish a training centre, to reconstruct computer equipment and thus prepare to take on the obligations that derive from full membership in European organisations for standardisation.
Research of the Ministry of Economy within the project GIZ ACCESS showed that SMEs are not sufficiently informed about standards, although case studies show that in the long run the application of standards reduces operating costs
What is the structure of financing for the ISS like and what is the share of income from the sale of standards and related documents in the structure of your income? In which way do you finance training within the ISS?
The ISS receives slightly less than 70 per cent of its funds from the state budget, while more than 30 per cent is secured from its own resources. The budget of the Republic of Serbia finances income and membership fees in international and European standardisation organisations, while all other activities, including the training of employees, are financed by the ISS from its own revenues.
The general public most often associates standards with manufacturing processes and, to a much less extent, with the services sector. How much is the importance of both recognised in our country?
Services are now a significant driver of economic growth, so with a desire to highlight the potential that standards can offer the services sector, during June the ISS got involved in a series of ISO activities organised in order to promote these standards, the application of which can provide a key advantage by continuously improving operations, thereby improving customer satisfaction. Potential interested parties for the implementation of standards in this area can be from organisations that are engaged in trade, tourism, facilities management, international organisations, state bodies, consumer associations and others.
To what extent are domestic companies, primarily SMEs, aware of the impact of the adoption of standards on business success?
Research of the Ministry of Economy within the project GIZ ACCESS showed that SMEs are not sufficiently informed about standards, although case studies show that in the long run the application of standards reduces operating costs. That’s why in 2014, at the gathering of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce dedicated to SMEs, the ISS provided all participants with a free translation of the ISO’s publication entitled “Economic benefits from implemented standards”, which is available publicly via the ISS website. Due to high demand, the ISS subsequently organised several meetings dedicated to SMEs in order to make information on standards and the standardisation process itself more accessible to them.
You provide young professionals with the opportunity to volunteer with you and gain their first experiences in the business. How much are you sought after as an employer and how much are experts in the field of standardisation in demand on the market?
In 2011 the ISS was enrolled in the records of volunteer organisers and so far we have very positive experience. There is immeasurable enthusiasm, commitment and desire for the advancement of volunteers, which ISS in turn provide with an opportunity to gain experience in a specific field.
A job at ISS is creative and specific, but it is not so easy to produce a so-called “standardiser”, because, in addition to professional qualifications, it demands a specific way of thinking, good knowledge of professional terminology in Serbian and English, and a certain amount of time is needed to learn the job.
The need for experts in the field of quality in the market depends on the skills and commitment of employers, but I personally think that is the job of the future and that it will become increasingly popular in the future. What we also need to work on intensively is the introduction of standards in the education system, which, viewed in the long term, is one way to improve and develop economic activity in our country.