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2023-10-27 short info

We need the harmonized European standards – and there is urgent need to strengthen them as well!

The EU internal market thrives on successful and efficient standardization processes. In particular, Innovative medium-sized companies and SMEs – such as Pepperl+Fuchs in Mannheim, the global market leader in industrial sensors and explosion protection with more than 7,000 employees worldwide – benefit from this in particular.

CEO Dr.-Ing. Gunther Kegel talks about the connection between harmonized standards and international competitiveness, the lessons learned from Brexit, and why the German government and the EU should preserve, strengthen and accelerate current standardization processes.

Nadine Petermann

Interview with Dr. Gunther Kegel

DKE: How relevant are harmonized European standards for Pepperl+Fuchs?

Kegel: Harmonized European standards are invaluable to us! First of all, they tell our European customers not to worry: the product that has been correspondingly evaluated and declared is guaranteed to meet the safety requirements that the EU has laid down in its directives and regulations: for example, when it comes to contact protection for sensors in order to rule out the risk of electric shock. Compliance with harmonized European standards is therefore an important quality feature. Secondly, they in essence represent the basis for the single European market because they apply unconditionally in all of those countries. No one can opt out, or make special requests, and thus seal off their own market. And thirdly – and this is essential for our economic activity in the EU – standards are part of our technical regulation and thus represent the state of the art. Those who carefully design their products in accordance with harmonized standards do not have to face accusations of gross negligence or intent. This is of paramount importance for legal certainty in the event of product defects.

DKE: But haven’t national approaches become obsolete for quite some time as a consequence of globalization?


Unfortunately no, on the contrary. Brexit, for example, forced us to realize how fragile the system actually is. All of a sudden Great Britain wanted to have its own marking, UKCA marking. That was extremely challenging! Although UKCA marking is also based on European standards in terms of content, Great Britain nevertheless gave rise to enormous expenditure with the required administration and documentation.

At our company alone, the personnel and financial burdens were frightening. Numerous projects had to be put on the back burner, and development, production, logistics and documentation departments were working flat out to get our products ready for the British market. In addition to the costs – which were in the six-digit figures – immense capacities were tied up.

At least Great Britain has now returned from the wrong track again and continues to accept products with CE marking that are based on harmonized European standards. And we can count ourselves lucky! Also because experience has shown that at some point Great Britain would have introduced safety requirements that deviate from those of the EU – in which case the expenditure would have been considerably greater for us in the long term.

Murrstock /

Cheers to 30 years of the single market

Just as the internal market is considered to be one of the pillars of European integration, European standardization is in its turn one of the pillars of the European market. Therefore, on this Europe Day, the DKE celebrates a European standardization system that has proven its worth and is of increased importance for the European Union.

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DKE: Nevertheless, there are harmonized standards that are valid worldwide. Why is there still a need for harmonized European standards?


That’s correct, internationally valid standards are being developed for electrical engineering by the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission). It is also true that we can market products in Europe for which there are no harmonized European standards, but which nonetheless have to comply with the safety requirements of European legislation. However, proving that this is the case is much more complex.

In its conformity assessment the company must then justify how the safety requirements are met. And our customers then also ask specifically why we claim that our explosion protection is guaranteed, for example, even though the EU declaration of conformity does not make reference to harmonized European standards as usual. Explaining this is complex and costs money.

Things get really complicated when you actually have to take a product out of circulation due to quality defects. Then the company – unless it can show that the product was developed in accordance with harmonized European standards – has to explain a number of things both to the respective market supervisory authority and the customers.

DKE: Then why do you even take the risk of marketing products without harmonized European standards?

Kegel: It is certainly an absolute exception whenever we launch such products on the market. But the harmonization process sometimes simply takes too long. Although it is “only” a matter of accompanying IEC standardization under the umbrella of the European standards organizations CEN and CENELEC in a more or less parallel manner and providing the IEC standard with a European foreword and European annexes – in individual cases, however, it takes years for the so-called HAS (Harmonised Standards) consultants to approve harmonization of the relevant European standard in the review process. It then has to be approved by the competent EU ministry.

DKE: Isn’t it possible to shorten the process or set it up differently?

Kegel: Are you referring to the HAS consultants? Even if it takes too long in individual cases from our point of view, the review process is safe and of high quality. In our opinion, the long turnaround times can also be achieved through greater parallelization and interlinking of the actual standardization process and the consultation required for harmonization.

However, it is important that such consultation – which by the way only exists in Europe – does not remove standardization within the IEC and CEN CENELEC so far from one another that a different technical status is standardized in the IEC and in Europe. If it were up to European policymakers they would like to become much more involved, because standardization is now seen as a supplement to legislation. If European policymakers become increasingly involved here, then this will not only result in longer standardization handling times, but technical standards will also be watered down by discussions about values. Ultimately, we as a company would then have to develop and produce products for the world market on the one hand, and for Europe on the other. The harmonized European standards of CEN CENELEC protect us from precisely this, and ensure our competitiveness, as long as they are closely coordinated with the IEC. In the final analysis they also pay off in terms of the willingness to invest in Europe.

At a time when key German industries, such as the chemical industry, are in any case building new plants and developing products on a large scale outside of Europe, harmonized European standards represent a degree of investment security for our domestic business locations.

And for this reason the EU and the German government should continue to strengthen them.

We would like to thank for this interview

Portraitfoto Dr.-Ing. Gunther Kegel

Dr.-Ing. Gunther Kegel

Chief Executive Officer of the Pepperl+Fuchs SE

President of the ZVEI, German Electro and Digital Industry Association

Portraitfoto Dr.-Ing. Gunther Kegel

Chief Executive Officer of the Pepperl+Fuchs SE

President of the ZVEI, German Electro and Digital Industry Association

Career and activities:

  • Study of electrical engineering and doctorate at the TU Darmstadt at Pepperl+Fuchs in Mannheim.
  • Member of the VDE Executive Committee
  • Member of various supervisory boards and advisory councils
  • Chairman of the Exhibitor Advisory Board of the Hannover Messe
  • Co-editor of the journal a t p

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