This issue’s main theme: Accreditation Body of Serbia became a full member of the European co-operation for Accreditation
International passport for trade
Dejan Krnjaić: Serbian economy will be able to enter not only the EU market, but world market as well when it comes to products and services tested and certified by our accredited CABs, whereby trust in quality and safety of Serbian products and services will be ensured. Furthermore, the Serbian economy will be given extremely important technical support to attain competiveness on the European market
On 24th May, the Accreditation Body of Serbia (ATS) will become a full member of the European co-operation for Accreditation (EA) at the meeting of the EA General Assembly in Madrid. This came as a result of the decision made by the EA Multilateral Agreement Council (decision made at the meeting held on 18th and 19th April 2012 in Copenhagen) to sign so called BLA (bilateral agreement) between the ATS and EA on the basis of the analysis of the ATS Peer Evaluation Report for the following fields of accreditation: testing laboratories, medical laboratories, calibration laboratories, inspection bodies and certification bodies operating certification of products.
Immediately after being granted the full membership status the ATS will be incorporated into the system of so called EA MLAs (multilateral agreements).
In his interview to ZIP Magazine Dejan Krnjaić, ATS Director, explained how Serbian economy and citizens would benefit from the said EA agreement that would be signed in Madrid.
- This means that the Serbian accreditation system will be recognized as equivalent to those of other countries signatories to the EA bilateral (BLA) and multilateral (MLA) agreements. Up to now the Accreditation Body of Serbia was an associate member of the European co-operation for Accreditation. It was established by our Government as a national accreditation institution that was registered as a public institution the task of which was to confirm and monitor competence of Serbian conformity assessment bodies (CABs) to perform testing, calibration, inspection, product certification, management system certification and person certification activities.
After a very rigorous three-year evaluation process the EA assessed the ATS as a competent and reliable partner and with that end in view a decision was made in Copenhagen to sign the bilateral agreement (BLA) between the ATS and EA. This actually means that the ATS performs its activities in accordance with the EA procedures and requirements and of other international organisations for accreditation, whereby trust in competence of accredited CABs from our country and acceptance of their reports and certificates outside Serbia was established, explained the interviewee.
According to him, during the last three years the ATS carried out, thanks to the enormous support of the Ministry of Economy and Regional Development, a series of joint activities that led to the signing of the said agreement - from the adoption of the new Law on Accreditation to the upgrade of the accreditation procedure through the adoption of the new issues and revisions of the management system documents enabling the establishment of a regulated system, efficient and swift procedures facilitating the operation of the ATS and accredited CABs.
Mr Krnjaić explained that such a huge success occurred after the application was sent to the European co-operation for Accreditation by the ATS on 12th February 2009 initiating the peer evaluation procedure. The peer evaluation itself was carried out with the aim of checking whether the accreditation system that had been put in place in the Republic of Serbia was in keeping with the requirements of ISO/IEC 17000 series, first of all 17011, relevant requirements of the EU legislation (Regulation EC No. 765/2008), and guides and guidelines of the international organisations for accreditation.
The interviewee added that in addition to the said assessments a witnessing of the work of the ATS assessment teams was performed at the ATS premises for 12 conformity assessment bodies (three calibration laboratories, two testing laboratories, three certification bodies operating certification of management systems, two certification bodies operating certification of products, one inspection body and one medical laboratory). This helped, among other things, the Multilateral Agreement Council of the European co-operation for Accreditation to make a decision on 18th April this year to sign the Agreement with the ATS and thus recognise the entire accreditation system in the Republic of Serbia.
- The agreement between the ATS and the EA will enable the Serbian economy to enter not only the EU market, but world market as well when it comes to products and services tested and certified by our accredited CABs, whereby trust in quality and safety of Serbian products and services will be ensured. Furthermore, the Serbian economy will be given extremely important technical support to attain competiveness on the European market. The recognition of the results of the conformity assessments performed in Serbia will be ensured through networking of the Serbian accreditation system with those of the EU and world – highlighted Mr Krnjaić.
He pointed out that the BLAs and MLAs (producing different EA membership statuses) affected the removal of barriers to trade and enabled free movement of people, products and services across the EU and world borders.
- Accreditation brings trust in the services of accredited laboratories, certification and inspection bodies given that this trust provides an international “passport for trade” for products, people and services due to international recognition of BLAs/MLAs by international organisations for accreditation – International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and International Accreditation Forum (IAF). Signinng of the Agreement will contribute to the reduction in prices and to the increase in the competitiveness of Serbian products and services not only in the EU, but throughout the world as well – said the ATS Director.
According to him, there is no real difference between an MLA (multilateral) and a BLA (bilateral) except that the MLA is signed by a country that is a full member of the European co-operation for Accreditation, while a BLA is signed by an associate member.
Full EA members are EU Member States or EFTA countries, and EU Candidte Countries. A decision has been made in Copenhagen enabled the ATS to become a signatory to the BLA, and after a full membership status has been obtained at the EA GA meeting in Madrid, the ATS will automatically become an MLA signatory.
- Reliability of the MLA is confirmed through a rigorous peer evaluation process. The purpose of these rigorous on-site evaluations is to confirm whether the accreditation bodies (signatories to the agreement) can still perform their activities in line with the internationally recognised accreditation criteria.
Peer evaluators are experienced and trained, while the evaluation includes the time spent at the AB premises to confirm the conformance with the requirements of ISO/IEC 17011:2004 (Conformity assessment - General requirements for accreditation bodies accrediting conformity assessment bodies), and with other relevant criteria pertaining to the EU or national legislation and industrial schemes. Furthermore, peer evaluators have to witness the work of the AB’s assessors during assessments in order to determine whether the competence of a CAB is determined in the right way.
After an AB has signed the MLA products or suppliers’services would no longer need to be tested, certified or inspected in each country of export. Therefore, this Agreement enables products and services to cross the EU and world borders, i.e. this means that technical barriers to trade will be removed in case of products and services coming form the Republic of Serbia, the costs of additional conformity assessments will be reduced and the level of competitiveness of our economy will be increased. Outside Europe this Agreement is recognised by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and International Accreditation Forum (IAF). This recognition enables test reports and certificates issued by CABs accredited by an AB signatory to the MLA to be recognised by signatories of ILAC and IAF multilateral agreements as equivalent – emphasised Mr Krnjaić.
According to him, MLA signing process to confirm the competence and impartiality of ABs is monitored by the European Commission, national authorities and EA Advisory Board.
Accreditation granted by an AB signatory to the EA MLA is recognised worldwide on the basis of the equivalent accreditation systems, whereby the costs will be reduced and benefits for the industry and consumers will increase.
- The first effects of signing this agreement can be expected immediately, and a family of 450 accredited testing laboratories, calibration laboratories, medical laboratories, inspection bodies and certification bodies operating certification of products can offer their services in the region, Europe and world since their reports and certificates are internationally recognised. However, signing of the MLA provides an additional guarantee to the Serbian citizens that testing, inspection and certification performed by accredited CABs are at the highest level, whereby the ATS fulfilled its key objective – safety and security of the citizens of the Republic of Serbia – emphasised Mr Krnjaić.
In his opinion, accreditation is a harmonised procedure performed in accordance with ISO/IEC 17011, and it is an efficient mode of demonstrating and monitoring competence of CABs by an independent and impartial institution, i.e. a national accreditation body (AB). This mode of assessment, confirmation and monitoring of competence by an impartial and independent third party that is also be peer evaluated and monitored by international and regional organisations contributes to the development of a uniform worldwide network of ABs and attainment of high level of trust of all those participating on the global market.
- A country may prescribe legislation requiring mandatory performance of conformity assessment depending on the level of risk arising from the product nonconformity, risk to health and safety so that the level of risk could be reduced to an acceptable level. In Serbia technical regulations prescribe conformity assessment of measuring instruments, machinery safety, electromagnetic compatibility, environmental protection, agriculture and food safety so that the national competent authorities could be introduced as the third and highest level in the entire system in addition to the CABs and the national AB confirming their competence.
Development of a uniform global accreditation system that is in line with the harmonised criteria of international standards and guidelines of international and regional organisations for accreditation will enable equivalence of the results of CABs.
Signing of the bilateral or multilateral agreements leads to mutual recognition of reports and certificates issued by accredited CABs, whereby free movement of goods and services is made possible with no barriers to trade – highlighted Mr Krnjaić.
He mentioned that nowadays global market consumers or public institutions ask for or prescribe the fulfilment of a large number of requirements, i.e. standards (technical regulations) that have to be fulfilled before placing the product on the market.
- Application of standards may, at first, seem irrelevant for our every day lives, but they certainly affect the safety of facilities we work and live in, healthcare we receive, production of food, textile, electrical appliances - practically all products, processes and services we receive.
It is an obligation of the producer or supplier to undertake all necessary actions aiming at high level of protection of different fields of public interest such as: safety, human, animal and plant health, and environmental protection which is accomplished by performing conformity assessments – said Dejan Krnjaić.
The ATS website (www.ats.rs) contains all the necessary data on accredited CABs the number of which amounted to 476, and the information about the rules of accreditation and documentation necessary for initiating the accreditation procedure.
A certificate of accreditation shall be issued every four years, but the ATS performs continuous surveillance of all accredited CABs in order to provide observance of the prescribed criteria.
- So far a large number of companies have been certified in Serbia as per the requirements of management system standards such as ISO 9000, ISO 14000, OHSAS 18000, and ISO 22000. These companies invested their time, work and resources to finalise the certification process with the aim of upgrading their system and business activities. However, in an effort to get certified these companies are often tempted to use “shortcuts” and thus reduce the costs since they deem that “it is the certificate that matters, not the CAB that issued it”.
Nevertheless these companies soon realise that benefits from such a certification cannot meet their expectations – warned the ATS Director.
Zlatija Vuković, ZIP – laws and practice, Law and Economics Magazine