Standardization and coordination (the case of BG)
Dr. Bissera Zankova, Media 21 Foundation
- General observations
The primary objective of standardisation is to define voluntary, technical or quality specifications with which current or future products, production processes or services may comply (REGULATION (EU) No 1025/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on European Standardisation). Standardization is a people-centred process, aiming at serving best the public interest.
The involvement of societal interests and societal stakeholders in European standardisation activities relates to the work of organisations and parties representing interests of greater social relevance, for instance environmental, consumer interests or employee interests. Central among these is the input made by organisations and parties representing employees and workers’ basic rights, for instance, trade unions.
Standards can have a broad impact on society, in particular on the safety and well-being of citizens, the efficiency of networks, the overall environment, workers’ safety and working conditions, accessibility and other public policy areas. It is necessary to ensure that the role and the contribution of societal stakeholders in the development of standards are strengthened, through the reinforced support of organisations representing consumers and environmental and social interests via open, inclusive and efficient procedures. Due to the importance of standardisation as a tool to support Union legislation and policies and in order to avoid ex-post objections to and modifications of harmonised standards, it is important that public authorities participate in standardisation procedures at all stages of the development of those standards where they may be involved and especially in areas covered by the Union harmonisation legislation for products. European standardisation organisations shall encourage and facilitate an appropriate representation and effective participation of all relevant stakeholders, including small and medium enterprises (SME), consumer organisations and environmental and social stakeholders in their standardisation activities.This can be accomplished through coordination processes.
- Standardization in Bulgaria
The Law on National Standardization (State Gazette, No. 88/04.11.2005 effective 05.05.2006, amended until 2018) is the main instrument in the field of standardization in Bulgaria. Under Chapter One, General provisions, art. 1 (1) providing for the scope of the act the law shall regulate the conduct of the national standardization activity and the procedure for the establishment, organization and functioning of the Bulgarian Institute for Standardization (BDS). According to art. 6 (1) “the Bulgarian Institute for Standardization is the national standardization body for the Republic of Bulgaria”. The BDS bodies shall comprise: 1. General Assembly; 2. Governing Board 3. Control Board; 4. Managing Director; 5. Technical Boards; 6. Technical Committees so it functions as a multi-structure entity. Article 8 provides that eligible for membership in BDS shall be persons, desiring to support the activity of national standardization and willing to abide by the BDS Statutes, from the following groups: 1. Employers’ associations, branch chambers, producers and traders; 2. Ministries, agencies, commissions and administrative structures of the executive, established by law or by a Decree of the Council of Ministers; 3. Scientific organizations, research institutes and schools of higher education; 4. Conformity assessment bodies, inspection bodies, certification bodies, and testing and/or calibration laboratories; 5. Associations of insurers, associations of consumers, professional organizations and trade union. Therefore the law encourages BDS to represent various stakeholders and interests.
The elaboration of standards is a free and open activity. Any natural and/or legal person may submit a proposal, with justification, to BDS for the elaboration and approval of a Bulgarian standard (art.39) . The proposal under Article 39 shall be justified in terms of: 1. the goals to be attained by the proposed standard; 2. economic factors; 3. provision of financing and expertise; 4. possible application of the standard for the purposes of conformity assessment; 5. relation to other standards (art.40). The procedure for development, adoption and approval of Bulgarian standards shall be regulated by the Rules for National Standardization Activities and the Procedures of Work for National Standardization Activities (art.45). Under the Additional Provisions “Procedures of Work for National Standardization activities” shall formulate a specific way of performing the activity dedicated to national standardization in conformity with the Rules for National Standardization Activities.
Under the Rules for National Standardization Activities, part 1, General principles, consensus is a general agreement, characterized by the absence of sustained opposition to substantial issues by any important part of the concerned interests and by a process seeking to take into account the views of all parties concerned and to reconcile any conflicting arguments: Consensus need not imply unanimity. [BDS EN 45020:?2007, definition 1.7] Consensus is important because “standardization is an activity that includes the creation of consensus-based standards and standardization documents, their adoption by recognized bodies and the voluntary application of these documents for public benefit.” Consensus denotes the free will of participants and their willingness to unite efforts to the public good. The process of achieving the standardization objectives is based on observing the principles of standardization: a)recognition of the state of the art, giving priority to the international agreements and using the results of the European and International standardization; b)achieving consensus; c)wide voluntary participation of all stakeholders and their balanced/appropriate representation in the standards development process; d)transparency at all stages of the work; e)compliance with the rules for development and layout of standards; f)prevention of the domination of particular interests at the expense of the public interest; g)observance of the copyrights and distribution rights.
The decisions of the Technical Board shall be formulated by its chairman and the decisions for standards approval shall be made in compliance with the consensus principle (Rules for National Standardization Activities, part 2).
All interested legal entities on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria can voluntary join the Bulgarian Institute for Standardization and participate in the standardization work by their representatives. In the standards development the participation of the widest possible range of stakeholders shall be ensured, avoiding the dominant influence of anyone of them. Thus a diversity of viewpoints could be taken into consideration. The participation of the small and medium sized enterprises (SME) in the standardization process is especially important as they represent the majority of industry, the social sphere, the environmental sphere and consumer organizations. Public acceptance of standards relies on public consultation in the course of their development.
The Rules clearly formulate the responsibilities of each group of participants which comprise the minimum requirements for the adoption of standards.
Under the Rules for National Standardization Activities, part 2, General principles, 3.5, a stakeholder is a person or organization with activities in the Republic of Bulgaria interested in a specific area of standardization and supporting standardization activities. The stakeholders’ approach is an effective tool both with respect to the overall standardization procedure and the structure of the bodies involved.
A Technical Committee on standardization shall be established upon the initiative of interested organizations, public authorities, etc. in view of the wide participation of the largest possible range of interested parties. The BDS encourages the participation in the standardization of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by facilitating their access to BDS/TC work. SME or SMEs’ associations that are not BDS members may participate as observers. Participation in standardization through SME associations is recommended as thus their overall interest can be protected better. In particular cases, at BDS/TC estimation, stakeholders of social, environmental and consumer organizations may also be invited as observers in the work on a specific topic. Where necessary, for the development of standards, which are expected to serve for legislation purposes, BDS shall notify and invite competent public authorities, including market surveillance bodies. Aiming at achieving a balance of interests, the composition of each Technical Committee shall be of “appropriate representation” that should not be too large in order to be manageable.
The rights and responsibilities of BDS members depend on the type of membership they have declared in compliance with the BDS Statute – full-fledged members will contribute constantly and actively while observers will contribute to a limited number of issues without the right to vote but they should also support the overall process. The former shall actively participate in the standards’ development through their experts in working groups or submission of expert opinion on draft standards. They shall participate in the voting process in all stages of the standards’ development. An organization enjoying the status of observer has the right to participate in the working meetings of the relevant BDS/TC through its authorized representative, without the right to vote in decision making. In order to achieve efficiency of participation in the work of the respective working body SMEs representatives should demonstrate activity in expressing their interests and contribute to the development of standards observing the applicable legislation, rules and procedures relevant for the standardization work. The SME representatives enlarge the scope of interested parties and express the business interests of the majority of firms and companies in the country.
Parties interested in a particular draft Bulgarian standard shall submit their comments in writing at BDS in a term of two months after the announcement of a public enquiry. Exceptionally BDS may specify a shorter period, but no less than 30 days (stage 40.60). BDS/TC members may not submit opinions on drafts for public enquiry approved by them at a ” Committee Draft ” stage. BDS/TC, BDS/PC or BDS/BT shall review and discuss all comments on a draft Bulgarian standard received within the time limit. The comments and opinions may be accepted or rejected, giving reasons for the rejection.
- Coordination of the standardization procedure
In the standardization procedures the principle of coordination of interests is implemented. Coordination expands horizontally in comparison to the vertically applied super ordination and subordination.
According to the Administration Act (SG, 1998, amended until 2018) the law regulates the structure of the administration, the basic principles of organization of its activity, its positions in it and the basic requirements for its occupation (art.1 para 1).
Under art.2 para1 (Amended, SG No. 24/2006) the Administration shall carry out its activity in compliance with the following principles:
2. openness and accessibility;
3. responsibility and accountability;
5. subordination and coordination;
7. (new – SG 42/09) objectivity and impartiality;
8. (new, SG No. 85/2017) continuous improvement of quality.
Under para 7 state authorities coordinate their activities to implement a unified state policy and consult with social partners, representatives of the private sector and civil society representatives.
The law does not provide for legal definitions related to the administrative principles and to coordination in particular. The Bulgarian administrative law theory creates its own concept of coordination which is legal by nature and relates to coordination within the system of state regulation. This concept is designed upon the approach through which the law as a state regulator devises the coordinating relationships in the state apparatus – establishes coordination bodies, empowers them with coordination competences, determines the scope and content of coordination impact. The approach is explained by Prof. Milcho Kostov, renowned Bulgarian scholar in his article “Coordination competence of the bodies exercising state and people’s control” (Legal thought journal, N3/1987, 15 – 33) published a long time ago but still among classical Bulgarian legal writings.
Coordination can be discussed both as a social category and as a legal category. In the first case the focus is put on the socially beneficial effect of the coordinating activities. Legal theory also tackles the legal notion of coordination. Coordination as an element of state governance falls within the scope of the power of a particular state body. The body empowered to coordinate, issues legal acts of power through which the outcomes of the coordination impact are accomplished. Coordination is facilitated or supported by non legal operative and organizational activities – meetings and instructions performed by auxiliary units specifically titled as coordinating councils. The organizational non-legal activity of such councils can have coordination relevance only if it is based on power impact, i.e. if there is a legally guaranteed opportunity for an act of power to be issued.
All executive bodies perform their duties through certain organizational and functional ties. These links reveal the characteristics of subordination, super-ordination and coordination. The Council of Ministers is in a position of superiority over its subordinates – super-ordination. The lower units are in a subordinate position to the bodies standing above them – subordination. No coordination exists in the relationships of bodies hierarchically organized when this organization is rooted in the relationships of super-ordination or subordination.
As coordination is implemented outside the boundaries of the normal administrative hierarchy and does not address subordinate bodies and agencies coordination competences legally perceived are exercised if there is explicit normative empowerment. A normative act should provide for the structure and activity of the coordinating body. In the case of bodies possessing general competencies within the state, coordinating functions represent part and parcel of these competencies (as in the case of the Council of Ministers or other bodies). The coordinating competence can be juxtaposed to the controlling competence and then it is an element of the general controlling competence.
The concrete forms through which coordination between the state bodies is accomplished are specified in art.45 of the Administration Act of Bulgaria. These are councils, expert and working groups
“Art.45 (1) (Amended, SG No. 24/2006, amended, SG No. 15/2012) In carrying out its activities, the Minister may establish councils as expert advisory units for solving problems of his / her special competence, as well as working groups to carry out specific tasks.
(2) (Supplemented, SG No. 24/2006, amended, SG No. 15/2012) The councils under Para. 1 may include experts as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations relevant to the activity of the respective ministry.
(3) (New, SG No. 15/2012) The Minister may set up working groups to draw up a bill or a draft act of the competence of the government for which the importer has been designated. Workers from other administrations may also be included in the working group with the consent of the respective Secretary-General, the Permanent Secretary of Defense and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
(4) (Supplemented, SG No. 24/2006, former para 3 – SG 15/2012) The activity of the councils and the working groups shall be serviced by the administrative units of the Ministry.
(5) The Minister shall present to the Council of Ministers an annual report on the activities of his ministry and its subordinate administrative structures.”
There is a variety of bodies through which interaction among institutions including coordination may take place under Bulgarian legislation. No special criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of the work of a body through which the interaction between the institutions is performed exist. There is great flexibility in this respect. In more general terms there is also no common philosophy about the style of work of these bodies, as they are regulated by different normative documents, regulations for the implementation of laws and internal decisions that in most cases are not published. In addition there are no clearly developed mechanisms for inter-ministerial co-ordination and for coordination in general. However, with regard to standardization, these procedures are regulated in greater detail following the international norms and eventually standardized. It is a different issue as to their effectiveness due to fact there are no specific rules for the performance assessment of the standardization bodies.
- Methods for the improvement of coordination
For better coordination of the bodies operating among institutions experts recommend a team structure to be introduced. The main features of a team are the structural flexibility and the quest for knowledge. The idea that the notion of team is synonymous with efficiency is based on the understanding that within it operate professional distribution of the individual roles of the team members, group norms of behavior, and there is a type of leadership tailored according to the specificities of the team’s goal.(Inter-institutional coordination and team work, University for National and World Economy, 2010, project under contract with NID 21.03-28/2008, under the guidance of Prof.Dr. E.Todorova, referring to Yang, H.L and Tang, J.H. (2004) Team structure and .team performance in IS development. A social network perspective. Information &Management 41: 335 – 349.) Bower, P., Campbell, S., Bojke, C, and Sibbard, B. (2003) however, warn that the measuring of the team work can prove problematic especially in the social and health care areas. The opinion of the authors of the quoted Bulgarian survey is that all specialized bodies designated to perform inter-institutional tasks need to have a team structure and team leadership in order to be effective. There is however, no legal obligation for this and it can be only informally implemented.
Currently there are no inter-institutional or coordinating structures dedicated to convergence and social media in Bulgaria. On the Council of Ministers portal it is announced that a Coordination Council on Information Society is set up, entrusted with the function to develop, periodically update and propose for adoption by the Council of Ministers strategies in the field of information technologies and the information society, as well as programs for their realization. The Council is established by a Council of Ministers decision N7 as from January 7 2003. It is no longer in operation.
Since 2017, the Public Council on Information Technologies and Internet Governance
an expert advisory body to the Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communications, has been set up. Its tasks are to solve problems related to the implementation of the state policy in the field of information technologies and Internet governance and to pursue cooperation in decision making, drafting opinions and adopting initiatives. The council performs its functions under the adopted rules for establishment and operation.
These are two examples of how coordinating bodies are set up if there is a need for such a type of governing activity. Coordination facilitates the work between bodies and organizations in a particular area with respect to the accomplishment of predefined goals and is an approach that secures dynamism and flexibility beyond hierarchies. Networks can improve coordination because modern regulation generally exhibits a “networked quality” (Baldwin (2010: 275). Characterized by voluntary participation frequently transcending both state/non-state distinctions and national boundary networks (technical, institutional, expert) can structure important connections in any field carrying the exchange of information, knowledge and expertise. Due to the Internet they can also promote better interaction between various types of regulation (national and international, regulation, co- and self-regulation) and underpin the evolution of globally recognized rules and principles. Against the backdrop of various debates the theory of regulation and administrative law in particular has to clarify how networks influence the quality of regulation in different fields and whether they really bring better coordination, transparency and efficiency to the regulatory impact.