Draft Minutes of 27th EA General Assembly

held on 25 and 26 May 2011 in Berlin, Germany

1. Opening of the meeting - Welcome from the host - Introduction of members and guests
The Chair invited DrSchultes, from the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology to deliver a welcome speech. The Chair thanked him for his kind words and wishes as well as for the support given to EA.
Thomas Facklam (TF) from DAkkS, as the host, gave practical information about the arrangements for the meeting.
The Chair welcomed the whole assembly, from the EA Members and BLA signatories to the representatives of DG ENTR and CLIMATE ACTION, through the EAAB members and recognized stakeholders (BUSINESSEUROPE, CEN/CENELEC, CEOC International, EFAC, EOCC, EOQ, EUROLAB, EURAMET, WELMEC). APLAC and IAAC were also welcomed.
After inviting the delegates to introduce themselves, the Chair confirmed that the quorum was present.
On the second day, Dr Holtmann representing BDI, the German Federation of Industries, highlighted the utmost interest of accreditation as serving the needs and expectations of industry. He wished EA a fruitful meeting day.
2. Approval of agenda
The Chair suggested that Item 10.2.3 be deleted as it would be covered under Item 5.1.1.
After the morning break on day 2, a short presentation on EU/ETS will be given by Mrs Creste- Manservisi, Head of Unit in DG CLIMATE ACTION (subject to her arriving in Berlin and not being prevented from coming due to the volcanic ash cloud).
The agenda was approved with the proposed change.
3. Review and approval of the minutes of the 26th meeting of the General Assembly held in Budva
The minutes did not raise any comment or suggested changes.
The minutes were approved as distributed as a true record of the last meeting discussions.
4. Chairman’s communications
The Chair made a presentation to review the actions undertaken and work achieved since the last GA. The presentation did not raise any comment.
5. Operational issues
5.1 Ratification of ballots
The Chair reviewed the results of the electronic ballots.
There were no queries on the electronic process.
The General Assembly ratified the results of the electronic ballots.
G.H. Schaub (GHS) from CEOC advocated that EA should make clear that EA-1/17 S1 is binding only in countries where Regulation(EC)765/2008 has been legally implemented. The comment was noted.
5.1.1 Adoption of EA-2/02 “EA Procedures for the Multilateral Agreement”
The Chair clarified that the revised version is an interim version.
GHS repeated his comment made on EA-1/17. The Chair commented that the document is to apply within Europe.
The Chair invited the EA full members to vote by a show of hands.
The vote was positive: EA-2/02 is approved with one abstention.
5.2 Cooperation with sector schemes under the Executive Committee’s monitoring – Report
The Chair welcomed Mrs Creste-Manservisi from DG CLIMATE ACTION who had kindly accepted to make a presentation. Then the EA MAC Chair, TF, would present the proposed road map for developing the MLA to cover accreditation in the field of EU/ETS.
It was insisted on the importance of data credibility to ensure efficiency of the system, and hence on the importance of the role of verifiers. Exchange of information between competent authorities and NABs is important as well.
Vagn Andersen (VA) from DANAK commented that EA’s involvement at a very early stage of the development of the Regulation has been very efficient, and the work should stand as an example within the Commission for other projects.
The Chair commented that Mrs Creste-Manservisi’s presentation highlighted that EA will have to develop a plan to complete the work in order to meet the 1 January 2013 target. Mrs Creste-Manservisi indicated that the guidance must be available by mid-2012 for the Member States to have sufficient time to prepare for the start of phase 3 of EU/ETS.
The Chair then invited the MAC Chair to present the road map.
In response to a question put by Nicole Meurée Van Laethem (NMVL) from BELAC, Mrs Creste-Manservisi clarified that both regulations for monitoring and reporting have to be in place by 1 January 2013. They have to be in place so as to ensure that any data coming as from 1 January shall go through the regulations. They will not be retroactive. There may be a need for transitional conditions, which should be further considered. NMVL pointed out that the response has a critical impact on the work of verifiers, and hence ABs.
The Chair clarified that verification bodies (VBs) have to be ready to operate according to the new regulation by 1 January 2013. There must be confidence that they are competent to do so by the deadline.
The figures that will be looked at will be the 2013 figures, and accreditation shall confirm competence of VBs and compliance with requirements entering into force on 1 January 2013.
Guy Jacques (GJ) from EUROLAB, the EAAB Chair, pointed out that accreditation of VBs will not be able to be done against the final applicable requirements as of the 1st of January 2013. He therefore suggested considering the accreditation process. GJ suggested extending the road map to the level of VBs to address the point of expectations with regards to VBs.
For VA, it is common practice to complete the accreditation process based on the results of witnessing activities which happen after the on-site assessment.
EA members shall commit not only to sign the MLA, but also to be active in the proposed network of ABs so as to support work in the EC.
Leopoldo Cortez (LCO) from IPAC, the EA CC Chair, emphasized that ABs will normally plan an assessment when requirements change and, therefore, they will be able to manage the process when the new regulations and the guidance enter into force. He strongly urged AB members to urgently contact their competent national authority (NA) in order to discuss the changes to be introduced into the system at the national level.
The Chair concluded by saying that the discussions were very useful since they highlighted several issues which need to be further looked at. EA’s aim is to continue cooperation with the European Commission (EC) in order to keep up with progress and come up with the appropriate plan.
The presentations outlined the state-of-the-art and it was recognised that changes may have to be done in the EA and AB processes.
The EC is developing the regulations within a frame that has been set out by the European Parliament, and EA has to recognise that. The road map, which is EA’s proposal, will have to be further discussed with the MAC and, as soon as additional information from DG CLIMATE ACTION that in any way may influence the road map is available, EA members will be immediately informed.
  • European Cancer Network
Hanspeter Ischi (HPI) from SAS presented his report on progress made with ECN. The report reflected that ECN is not fully ready to start the project.
The project has been published in the OJEU; it describes how accreditation could be incorporated into the project.
EA is discussing the conditions for receiving € 60,000 for the project from DG SANCO.
Some guidance may have to be developed in future to ensure harmonised implementation of the scheme requirements. Assessor competence for ABs and CBs will have to be developed.
Trial assessments are being considered to validate the proposed process and procedures.
A more detailed project plan will be established with ECN at a meeting to be hosted by UKAS.
NMVL suggested clarifying what exactly ECN is expecting from accreditation for the CA activities envisaged in the scheme. HPI responded that the paper submitted is a working paper meant to challenge the project, pointing out that there is a lot of experience in EA, particularly in the field of diagnosis.
Martin Stadler (MS) from BUSINESSEUROPE, one of the EAAB Vice-Chairs, advocated raising the point of use of MDD with DG SANCO. HPI clarified that this scheme does not cover.
Jacques McMillan (JMcM) from the EC confirmed that it is the Health Services of DG SANCO which are in charge of the project, and not the MDD persons.
The Chair added that DG SANCO was very much involved when the project was presented to the European Parliament (EP). From the start, the key issue has been to identify what activities accreditation would cover. Discussions have widened to cover all activities of the overall process, including testing activities and other aspects such as inspection or certification of services. The way forward is to identify what the activities to be accredited are.
Finally, the General Assembly agreed that work continues as proposed by the TFG led by HPI.
  • European Technology Verification
It is a scheme aiming at looking at claims made about the environmental impact of new technologies.
One person has been appointed to follow up progress in EA.
JMcM indicated that while an EC accreditation steering group meeting was cancelled, discussions go on about connection with other projects that could be interrelated. The next ETV meeting is planned for July 2011.
  • EU/ETS
A report from Niels-Christian Dalstrup (NCD) from DANAK, convenor of the EX TFG, had been distributed. The stakeholder meeting had been attended by a large number of EA members, where the MAC Chair presented the proposed road map for introduction of the activities into the EA MLA.
Final details of the Regulation are not yet available and may be changed (see also these minutes under Item 5.2 above).
VA reported that there had been a meeting the week before at which comments on Rev.2 of the Regulation were discussed. The 3rd version will be available for comments from 6June to 16 June. The final version is intended to be completed by the end of June.
He pointed out that there was a proposal to introduce a licensing system, but he strongly recommended that members in their comments should promote the accreditation route as the unique route.
The Chair informed that, as soon as the next version of the Regulation is available, it will be sent out through the Secretariat for comments to be consolidated by NCD. The Chair insisted that it is important that EA follows on and actively contributes to the development of the scheme, as the timeframe for introduction of the new Regulation is very short.
6. Strategic and policy issues
6.1 EA’s relations with the European Commission and EFTA
6.1.1 EA Work Programme 2010
The final report on WP 2010 had been distributed with GA papers for information.
It was provided to the EC as required by the FPA.
JMcM clarified that there had been no meetings of the Accreditation Steering Committee; this is why EA had not been invited.
6.1.2 Draft EA Work Programme 2012
A copy of the working draft had been distributed with the meeting papers. It reflects the proposed WP of the various committees, which will be discussed later on at the meeting. They may be amended. The Chair pointed out that the programme actually reflects an ongoing programme for EA.
The Executive Committee will consider revising the programme as a result of the discussions at the meeting, including concerning the Strategic Objectives of EA.
The WP shall be submitted at the end of September. The final copy will also be presented to the General Assembly in November. Final changes will be able to be introduced at that stage.
Claudio Boffa (CB) from NAB-MALTA suggested including a reference to the role of the Financial Oversight Committee in the draft WP. The proposal was noted.
6.2 EA Development Plan for the years 2010-2015
The Chair recalled that the Strategy paper had been approved in November 2010, when the General Assembly had asked for a minor revision that has been incorporated. In addition, the Executive Committee has considered a few additional minor revisions to tidy up various parts of the Strategy. The aim was now to reconfirm the Strategy incorporating the amendments.
As also agreed in November, strategic objectives that provide the link between the Strategy and what needs to be put in place by 2015 have been developed. This will have to be reflected in the EA WPs.
The General Assembly confirmed its agreement to the proposed Strategy.
For Ignacio Pina (IP) from ENAC, a mechanism for enforcing EA decisions, outside of the MLA process, is needed and should be put into the paper.
The proposal with regards to sanctions could be further developed. The Chair commented that the ultimate sanction would in any case be suspension of the membership. Every EA member is required to abide by the EA rules by virtue of its membership status.
The Chair informed the attendance that there is ongoing work to look at a document to be signed by EA members that would encapsulate each Member’s commitment to EA. However in principle, as a Member, every AB is signing up to abide by the rules. Therefore there is no real ground for developing a strategy to reach such an objective.
The Chair presented the document. The intention has been to balance the proposed objectives.
Actions suggested will have to be put into the annual WP of the EA committees in order to meet the EA Strategic Objectives.
The Chair called for comments on the Strategic Objectives.
IP congratulated the Executive Committee, welcoming the proposed emphasis on benchmarking activities.
CEN/CENELEC welcomed the objectives, and confirmed the intention to reinforce links between EA and CEN/CENELEC.
JMcM pointed out that in Europe, officially, there are only 3 “institutions” and EA does not qualify for the status. He suggested changing the word.
The General Assembly agreed the proposed Strategic Objectives.
The Executive Committee will continue to develop and monitor the work. In future, there will be individual actions which will require discussions at the GA level.
VA stressed that the proposed actions do not involve the Executive Committee only, and he advocated that EA members shall be prepared also to take action.
6.3 Implementation of Regulation 765/2008
6.3.1 Implementation of SOGS N595 CERTIF 2009-06 Rev6-Cross border accreditation activities
Merih Malmqvist Nilsson (MMN) from SWEDAC, the EA HHC Chair, indicated that the contents of the paper submitted to the GA are planned to be incorporated into EA-2/13: EA Cross-Frontier Policy for Cooperation between EA Members.
She also indicated that revised EA-2/13 will be sent out for comments before the summer break.
NMVL pointed out that the proposed rules for multisite accreditation could also apply at the national level, but this is not obvious from the document. A separate document may be useful to address multisite accreditation. There is a risk that the very good principles to be embedded into EA-2/13 may lose their focus and significance for multisite accreditation at the national level.
It was agreed that the HHC TFG on EA-2/13 will consider the point and come up with a proposal.
Action HHC TFG
GHS suggested having a resolution for immediate implementation of the proposed principles.
MMN’s opinion was to concentrate on developing the document to ensure common understanding and harmonized practices.
In summary, it was confirmed that principles are now being developed. The HHC will continue in the direction that the principles will be put into a separate document because they apply to all activities, and not only within the cross-frontier framework.
From the stakeholders’ point of view, it is important to ensure that the principles are applied correctly.
JMcM highlighted that the cooperation principles are also important and should be given equal consideration.
He added that a mature document would be welcomed at the last SOGS meeting of the year that is planned to take place on 17 November 2011, although the meeting will take place before the EA General Assembly where the result of the ballot on EA-2/13 is expected to be ratified.
6.3.2 EA position on Evaluation of the impartiality and objectivity requirements of ISO/IEC17011 with particular focus on governmental national accreditation bodies
In response to the SOGS, the HHC has developed the paper distributed in advance of the meeting, which had also been presented to the SOGS where it was well received.
Because it is a summary of requirements already clearly stated in other documents, the Executive Committee recommends that the document should not be published in its own right, but that action is taken to make sure that we are using the value of the document. The proposal is to forward the document to the MAC and mandate the MAC to incorporate the contents into the evaluator training system.
The Chair called for comments.
GHS raised a concern about use of the word “firewalls”.
TF reported that the document has already been used in the MAC. He also supported finding another word to describe the concept.
For Jean-Marie Reiff (JMR) from OLAS, there is a risk that discussions on impartiality emerge again in future without the paper being given an official status. The point was noted.
The Chair stressed that the Executive Committee intends to ensure that the principles are taken on board and are not lost or diluted.
MMN commented that, should the paper be transformed into an EA document, the HHC-member stakeholders have expressed the wish that the document goes out for comments according to the EA procedure.