Accreditation is, next to Market Surveillance, one of the two fields of activities in the PTB Eastern Partnership Project.
Accreditation is one of the elements of Quality Infrastructure. It is a key service needed by industry and government authorities. Operating in the public interest across all market sectors, accreditation determines the technical competence, reliability and integrity of conformity assessment bodies such as certification bodies, testing and calibration laboratories which check conformity and compliance with standards and regulations. Additionally, it works through a process of transparent and impartial evaluation of these organizations towards internationally recognized standards and other requirements.
Accreditation is often confused with another element of the Quality Infrastructure, namely, certification. Both accreditation and certification attest organization’s conformity to a standard. However, accreditation certifies whether the bodies of conformity assessment have sufficient competences to provide testing, inspection, certification, calibration services. The capabilities of a conformity assessment body are recognized by the accreditation body as sufficient, when the requirements of specific standards have been met by the body applied for accreditation, in particular: certification bodies have to meet ISO/IEC 17021 requirements for the certification of management system, ISO/IEC 17065 for the certification of products, ISO/IEC 17024 for the certification of persons; inspection bodies have to meet ISO/IEC 17020 requirements, and testing and calibration laboratories have to meet ISO/IEC 17025 requirements. National accreditation bodies can become internationally recognized joining the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and the International Accreditation Forum (IAF)
In Europe, Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 July 2008 sets out the requirements for accreditation. European co-operation for Accreditation (EA) is a not-for-profit association which ensures the cooperation between the National Accreditation Bodies in Europe responsible for different types of conformity assessment activities. European Accreditation Bodies become Members of EA signing a multilateral agreement of mutual recognition, the EA MLA, based on a harmonized accreditation infrastructure. Currently, EA has 50 members including 36 Full Members and 14 Associate Members. At worldwise level, EA is an active member of ILAC and IAF as as a recognised regional cooperation.
PTB is strengthening the six National Accreditation Bodies of the countries of the Eastern Partnership by strengthening the exchange between the institutions as well as by human capacity building and organizational development. As Associate Members of EA (European Accreditation) the National Accreditation Bodies already have a space for discussing questions of accreditation in the annual meetings. The PTB project is going to enhancing the exchange by creating channels to discuss regionally specific challenges and opportunities.