Eight questions for the new EOTA president

On 10 December, the EOTA General Assembly appointed Mr. Sebastian Wall from ITB Poland as the new President of EOTA. The EOTA news team took the opportunity to ask the new President eight questions.

Sebastian, you have just been appointed President of EOTA. Congratulations! How does it feel to be the new EOTA president?

I’m very proud and honoured to take on this role. I feel a great responsibility for the future of the whole organisation, which represents more than 45 members from almost all EU, EFTA member states and Turkey. I also look forward to further developing the ETA route to CE marking, which is very relevant for large parts of the construction industry.

In which way is the ETA route relevant to the construction industry?

The ETA route makes it possible to CE-mark any kind of construction product not covered or not fully covered by a harmonised standard. The ETA route is open to products for which standards cannot be developed due to their nature or maturity, including specialty products, novelties and innovations. As such, the ETA is an important complement to CEN standardisation.

The EOTA route is also industry-driven as it is initiated by the ETA request of an individual manufacturer. To date, over 500 EADs have been adopted and more than 8600 ETAs have been issued by the EOTA network at the manufacturers' request. ETA holders range from small, family-run companies to large international consortia.

In order to develop European Assessment Documents that answer their needs, EOTA can draw on the wide geographical coverage of its member TABs from all over Europe as well as deep knowledge of local technical requirements.

Finally, we can offer European Technical Assessments to the industry that express product performances in a comparable and harmonised way and can be used as a basis for the Declaration of Performance and CE marking that is accepted throughout Europe and even outside the EU.

According to your way of seeing things, what are EOTA’s core values?

Expertise, knowledge and co-operation in the first place. EOTA was established in 1990 in order to create an environment for technical assessment experts to share best practices and form technical judgements together that would be accepted on a European level. These values have been maintained and strengthened ever since. Then there are impartiality and confidentiality; EOTA and the TABs pay great attention to preventing any kind of conflict of interest in order to ensure a high level of trust, which has always been a key feature of the ETA route and is also the basis for its high standing internationally. As the whole system is based on individual applications by specific manufacturers, confidentiality is key to ensure the protection of intellectual rights and sensitive business information.

What will be EOTA’s biggest challenges in the coming years?

For sure, this will be the review of the CPR announced by the Commission. The revision process will establish the future framework for the European harmonisation of construction products. As EOTA, we support future solutions that will allow manufacturers to continue to use the two harmonisation instruments they are familiar with, hENs and ETAs. As a complementary route to CEN standardisation, the ETA route has proven to be a valuable tool for the construction industry that has contributed efficiently to the EU common market.

With the experience gained from 277 cited EADs, 518 adopted EADs and more than 8600 ETAs issued by TABs, as well as the insights from an independent study that takes into account the voice of the stakeholders, we have developed a lot of ideas about how the current EOTA system could be improved in order to provide an effective and fair background for the marketing of construction products. Meanwhile, we are constantly increasing EOTA’s performance in order to shorten EAD development times and increase the speed of OJEU citation.

What do you feel is EOTA's biggest strength right now?

As I said before, it’s the high technical competence of the EOTA network of experts that serves the European and international construction sector. This combined with well-honed procedures developed for 30 years, makes us very effective altogether. EOTA is also equipped with a modern IT system that enables the management of a high number of procedures at very different stages. Therefore, the organisation offers a quick time-to-market tool, allowing CE marking for construction products that cannot be standardized due to their nature or maturity in accordance with the CPR.

This year EOTA celebrated its 30th anniversary. Would you like to share a message about this milestone?

First of all, I would like to thank all stakeholders for the fruitful cooperation with EOTA over the last three decades. Of course, all of this wouldn't have been possible without the great involvement of past and present generations of highly qualified technical experts.

I sincerely believe that as an organisation we have contributed in an efficient and positive way to the implementation of the CPD and then the CPR. ETAs have become trusted documents, widely used and accepted not only in the European Union, but also in other parts of the world.

This is the result of the EOTA route's capacity to answer the triangle of regulatory needs, users’ demands and high economic potential for the industry, I’m convinced that technical assessment of product performance carried out by independent Technical Assessment Bodies will continue to provide added value to the construction sector as an important part of CPR acquis.

What are priorities for EOTA in the next few months?

Supporting the swift entry into the market of innovative construction products through the ETA route is and remains our first priority. For us, clearing the backlog of EAD citation in the Official Journal is a must to be handled in the short term with the support of the European Commission.

EOTA also plans to continue signing Cross Licensing Agreements with international organisations to facilitate market access of CE-marked construction products internationally. 

Apart from this, a major step for EOTA and its members will be to come back slowly to normal life, as it will be for everyone. Let's hope this will still be in 2021. During the pandemic we have benefitted from a powerful IT infrastructure which has allowed us to deliver EADs and ETAs to a high standard in almost the same time as before. We have also enhanced our communication activities to keep stakeholders and SMEs informed about the latest developments in EOTA and make up at least in part for the loss of face-to-face communication. We look forward to the time when in-person meetings and discussions become possible again.

One last question, if I may. How did you come to in EOTA in the first place?
Ms Jadwiga Tworek, the former EOTA Technical Board Chair and my first boss at ITB said many years ago that EOTA brings together interesting, intelligent and competent people. So, when I had the opportunity to join the EOTA group on sustainability, I didn’t think twice. Then everything went pretty quickly.

I became a member of the Executive Board in 2013 and when the challenge of the Treasurer’s role arose in 2015, the EOTA Office was already my second home (laughing). Now, in 2020, I’m taking over the presidency from Karsten Kathage after his successful four- and-a-half year run.

Thanks for sharing this with us!