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The Background of Standardization in Greece

The idea of organizing standardization as an institution was first put on the table in Greece in 1931, 77 years ago, and derived from the need for better regulation and protection of industrial products.
The then Administration of the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE-TCB) (rapporteur Dimitris Efstratiadis, Civil Engineer under the presidency of Nikolaos Kitsikis) understood the national benefits of standardization and the need to take action, but did not adopt the proposed model of organization with broad representation of different institutions. Thus, the TEE-TCG (Technical Chamber of Greece), as an official technical adviser to the state, set up in 1933 a four-member inter-chamber committee, the “Hellenic Committee of Standardization” (symbolically ENO, abbreviation of the Greek word for Unification). In this way the TEE-TCG was the first body in Greece to support the institution of Standardization giving it the first impetus, which interrupted by the war that followed.

After the war and the post-war adventures in which the country was involved, an attempt was made to regroup the institution of standardization, setting a better foundation. Indeed, the then management of the TEE-TCG, taking into account the experiences and wrong choices of the previous project, adopted the idea of a multi-stakeholder model of organization.
Following tedious efforts, in June 1955 the signing of a “PROTOCOL of COOPERATION” was achieved between four of the leader Greek associations with activities involved in the standardization work, namely TEE-TCG, Federation of Industries of Greece (SBE), Hellenic Centre of Productivity (ELKEPA) and the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI). Following this agreement, the “Hellenic Committee of Standardization (ENO)” was re-established with the participation of representatives from all four bodies. Based mainly on the representativeness guaranteed by the protocol of cooperation, ENO represented Greece until 1965 in the newly established post-war International Organization for Standardization (ISO), set up standardization programs, set up technical committees for standardization and prepared 29 Hellenic Standards, which, however, were not effectively implemented.

For few years the work was progressing satisfactorily and everything showed that standardization had taken the appropriate place in the process of industrial reconstruction of the country when unexpectedly the interest began to decline gradually. The financial support provided to ENO by any participant that had signed the Protocol, despite the commitment undertaken, was discontinued with the exception of TEE-TCG. As a consequence, there was a lack of financial resources to continue the work, so ENO worked only with the TEE-TCG’s partnership. Those Technical Committees that had not completed the project suspended their operations, and no newer committees were established, leading to suspension of all activities.
The solution proposed at the time was the establishment of a fully independent standardization body.

Despite the serious problems reported above, the participation of the Hellenic Standardization (ENO) in ISO and the already existing contacts with the other National Bodies for Standardization continued. Thus, with a little financial support, the right of reception of all the technical work of ISO was ensured, the standards of national bodies for standardization, together with the catalogues of standards and the special journals, was ensured, creating and constantly enriching the unique, valuable and irreplaceable, for that period of time, International Collection of Standards of TEE-TCG. This collection provided Greek engineers with a unique source of technical information. The TEE-TCG granted to ELOT after its establishment the work of the ENO Committee and part of the International Collection of Standards.

The forced restrictions of the “Hellenic Committee of Standardization”, in the absence of resources, did not mean also the interruption of efforts for finding a new solution. TEE-TCG and ENO, in order to ensure a practical and substantial support from the state organized a special Meeting in 1958, at which promises were again made without any result. In 1960 the “Hellenic Committee for Standardization (ENO)” was enlarged with the participation of the Organization of Industrial Development (OBA), as representative and supporter of industrial development in Greece, but this effort did not succeed despite the strong support of the of the OBA administration , which after a short time ceased to operate.

In the mid 1960’s, the Hellenic Electrotechnical Union (EEE) was founded on private initiative, an organization aimed, among other things, at the promotion of standardization in the field of electricity.
The Hellenic Electrotechnical Union was a collective scientific body (Legal Person of Private Law) of a not profit character. Its founding members were the National Electrical Company (DEH), the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), the , Federation of Industries of Greece (SBE), the Association of Mechanical engineers, Electricians and Shipbuilders of TEE-TCG, Hellenic Centre of Productivity (ELKEPA ) and industrial enterprises BIOCHALKO, IZOLA, BIK, EBIOP, etc. as well as professors from academic community.
EHE became a member of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and drafted standards in the electrical sector called “Specifications -EHE”. In 1978 EHE was absorbed by ELOT.

At the end of 1963, TEE-TCG was invited by government, as its technical advisor, to submit a draft law on the foundation of Organization for Standardization, as a Legal Entity governed by Public Law. The law on the establishment of “Organization for Standardization of Greek Products” (OTEP) was voted in the end of 1965, but did not ensure the guarantees for immediate and full activation. As a result, OTEP, three years after its establishment, , failed to take active action due mainly to the limited number of personnel. Expectations for solving the issue of Hellenic Standardization remained unfulfilled again until OTEP, even before it was activated, was abolished by the Compulsory Law 256/1968.

The same Law established in January 1968 the Directorate for Standardization of Greek Products at the Ministry of Industry, and thus throughout the years efforts were made for the establishment of a flexible, independent and far-reaching standardization body of statism, finally created a purely state agency with all the relative disadvantages.
The Directorate for Standardization of Greek Products constituted the official organization for standardization in Greece, to which the responsibilities of OTEP were delegated and it began carrying out the task of drafting “National Specifications”. From this new service a remarkable effort was made to issue the National Hellenic Specifications (NHS) based on ISO recommendations and national specifications of other countries. From 1968, when the Directorate for Standardization was established, until 1972, only 38 NHS had been issued, which had been published in the Official Government Gazette.

he organization scheme taken by Standardization as a Public Service with the establishment of “Directorate for Standardization in the Ministry of Industry”, was not a common found scheme in the countries where the status of the free economy applies and where National Bodies for Standardization are self-supported and independent.
The Directorate for Standardization of Ministry of Industry played simultaneously many roles, for instance as a mediator between the State and ENO, the Commissioner of State, the representative of Standardization in the committees of standardization, as well as the role of central service and the contact point of Greece with international/European and National Bodies for Standardization (ISO, CEN, etc) without, however, any substantial contribution in the formulation of positions both in the national policy of standardization or the international one.
The Greek government having perceived the low level of development of national standardization and simultaneously being convinced for the urgent need of qualitative improvement of Greek products for for the needs of exports in principle, but also for the preparation of entrance of Greece in the European Community which had been set as a target for 1984, decided to give the necessary impulse in the development of national standardization and simultaneously to involve industry more closely in the work of standardization.
Thus, in 1972 Directorate for Standardization of Ministry of Industry received the governmental mandate for the establishment of an independent Body for standardization. The Directorate for Standardization called for preparing the law with the contribution of UNIDO-UNDP an expert,  J. Clerc, Assistant General Director of the French Organization for Standardization (AFNOR). The law N. 199/73 “For the establishment and operation of Hellenic Organization for Standardization” was voted in 1973. The organization established on the basis of this law was never staffed and never operated, which can be attributed to the general political conditions of that period. In order to find a resolution to the problem, the Karamanlis Service Government voted in November 1974 on Law 182/74 which provided for the temporary reinstatement of the oldest existing regime, i.e. the Directorate for Standardization of the Ministry of Industry again assumed the role of coordinator of standardization work, while at the same time the draft law “On the establishment and operation of the Hellenic Organization for Standardization – ELOT” was promoted for adoption.

The Hellenic Organization for Standardization was established as legal entity governed by private law under Law 372/76 adopted unanimously by the Parliament on 10 June 1976 and published in the Government Gazette on 30 June of the same year .
The representative structure of Board of Directors as also the need for immediate decisions led to its first meeting on the 1st October of 1976.
In February 1977 the first core of the staff had already been and the ELOT office building at 15 Didotou Street had been leased.
By 2012 the three staff members of February 1977 reached one hundred, the Organization was fully equipped, while it has established close cooperative relations with all the European /International Standardization Organizations of which it is an active member.
With the separation of the activities of the Certification and the Laboratories (law 4038/2012, article 19) and the integration of the Organization as an independent functional unit in the National Quality Infrastructure System (NQIS) (according to the Founding Law 4109/2013, Article 6, Law 4155/2013, Article 46 and Law 4468/2017 on the separation of the Hellenic Accreditation System (ESYD) from the National Quality Infrastructure System) NQIS/ELOT is currently a body of the General Government and the National Quality Infrastructure of the country with the main task of developing and establishing standards.

The first European Standard

n the museum of Elefsis a stele of the 4th century BC is kept, discovered by D. Philios in 1894 and studied by the Professor of the University of Athens and for many years chairman of the Administrative Council of ELOT G. Varoufakis.

Its text refers to a decree concerning the manufacture of bronze fittings known as “empolia” and “poloi” to be used for the assembly of the column drums (as shown in this picture) and the erection of the Philonian Stoa, named after the architect Philon, a portico in front of the much older building, the Telestirion. The decree comprises strict technical specifications, and, therefore, constitutes one of the oldest European standards. It is worth noting the part of the decree concerning the chemical composition of bronze fittings: “…He (the contractor) will use copper from Marion, the alloy being made of twelve parts, eleven of copper to one of tin …” It should be noted that chemical composition is expressed on the basis of the Babylonian arithmetical system, since the number 12 is a sub-multiple of 60. Regarding the origin of the copper alloy, i.e. the bronze, the latter should be imported from Marion of Cyprus, a very important commercial and metallurgical centre at that remote time. Ostensibly the inspector was directed to apply an empirical procedure of quality control, in order to check whether the bronze composition was in conformity with the requirements of the said specifications. We must bear in mind that according to another inscription referring to the Anthemion of Goddess Athina at the Parthenon (420 B.C.),  the price of copper was 35 drachmas per talent (a talent was equal to about 25 kg), while the price of tin was 230 drs per talent, i.e. over 6.5 times higher than that of copper. The supplier would therefore be tempted to cast a cheaper and consequently poorer in tin and thus more profitable copper- tin alloy, if he knew that no control existed. It was for this reason that the required quality was so precisely dictated and a system of quality control should have put in place. Had control been relaxed, the contractor stood to make an illegal profit. Based on the number of columns, the number of drums per column, the exact sizes given by the inscription and the density of the copper alloy to be used, I calculated that the total mass of the ordered alloy was 3300 kg. Had the contractor been allowed to cheat, he would have made an illegitimate profit of between 500 and more than 700 drachmas; sums very high for the time rendering quality control indispensable.”

The above study leads to the conclusion that the inscribed column of Eleusis is not more or less the oldest European Standard.


From the Book of Mr. G. Varoufakis ANCIENT GREECE & QUALITY