The IAF regional body European co-operation for Accreditation (EA), has ejected Belarus from its membership but apparently not in response to a year-old request from the European Union itself, but for “reasons.”
Recently I was checking the EA’s website and noticed Belarus was not listed. I went back and verified, through the Internet Archive, that they were in fact a member in 2021, and listed clearly on the EA site. I then wrote to Martine Blum at EA to get clarification. Blum responded by pointing me to a formal “Resolution” from May 2023 announcing the ejection of Belarus.
Last year, in May of 2022, the European Commission (EC), representing the joint EU governments, wrote to EA and recommended they stop supporting accreditation activities in Russia and Belarus, citing EU sanctions. The EA issued a tepid statement indicating it would do so, but then — privately — took no actual steps to honor the sanctions. Right now — in June of 2023 as I write this — EA member Accredia, of Italy, continues to accredit companies in Russia. Worse, the head of Accredia holds the Chair position for the IAF itself.
So, no, EA is not only ignoring the May 2022 EC request, they are openly flouting it.
Now, the EA Resolution announcing Belarus’ ejection appears to have nothing to do with the EC’s May 2022 recommendation, further reinforcing the notion that IAF bodies really do think they exist above all laws and norms. Instead, the Resolution, numbered EA Resolution 2023 (53) 01, states (emphasis added):
The General Assembly, acting upon the recommendation from the Executive Board, notes that BSCA, the National Accreditation Body of Belarus, ceased to meet the requirements imposed for the membership in the EA Articles of Association and notes that EA cannot reasonably be required to allow the membership to continue. Consequently, the General Assembly terminates with immediate effect the EA Membership of BSCA
It’s not clear what “ceased to meet the requirements imposed for membership” means [see update below – CP], but it suggests that, no, EA did not eject Belarus to comply with any sanctions, but instead the Belarus accreditation body did something of its own that warranted ejection. I suspect this likely means they did not pay their membership dues; we are likely to find out shortly if my guess is correct. (If so — and I’m not saying it is — then it would prove that EA isn’t really interested in sanctions or humanitarian crises, etc., provided they get paid.)
Given that EA has still not ejected Accredia, we can assume they will continue to operate under a quasi-official policy of utter hypocrisy.
Meanwhile, earlier this week the European Commission confirmed it will investigate Accredia to see if Italy is violating international law by continuing to accredit the St. Petersburg certification body, TEST.
UPDATE 23 June 2023: Upon further investigation, I’ve learned that Belarus exited another organization, known as the European Partnership. That organization had been formed from former Soviet bloc nations now opposed (more or less) to Russia. Belarus’ increasingly pro-Putin posture put it at odds with EP, so it left the group. But, in a complicated twist, membership in EP was a requirement for membership in EA, and thus EA was forced to eject Belarus from its membership because of that.
So, in the end, EA did not eject Belarus for being under sanctions or for its role in supporting the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Instead., EA ejected them for a technicality, and one only prompted because Belarus itself had quit European Partnership. Meaning, had Belarus not done so, EA would have been happy to continue to take their money.
About Christopher Paris
Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001 and Surviving AS9100. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.