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EU plans for cutting red tape, with less but better regulation

Posted by Nick Prag at 21 May 2015, 17:15 CET |
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As the United Kingdom begins to gear up for its referendum on EU membership following the Conservative win in the general election, the European Commission addressed what has been one of the main complaints of Mr Cameron's government – too much red tape in EU legislation and a lack of transparency about the EU decision-making process.

The package of reforms unveiled by Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans in the Better Regulation Agenda covers the entire policy cycle of EU legislation, and is designed to boost openness and transparency in EU decision-making, and improve the quality of new laws through impact assessments of draft legislation and amendments. It will also review existing EU laws to ensure EU policies are achieving their objectives in the most effective and efficient way.

Mr Timmermans says the Commission has responded to the concerns of citizens and businesses - especially SMEs - who worry that Brussels and its institutions don't always deliver rules they can understand or apply.

Specifically, the proposals push for a strengthening of the role of REFIT (Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme) initiatives; a Regulatory Scrutiny Board with three external people and a de-facto veto power; a lighter legislative regime for small and medium-sized and companies and outright exemptions for micro-businesses; and less power for the European Parliament and more power to business lobby groups.

As the eurozone struggles to come out of recession, the need to boost economic growth in the EU is clear. Cutting red tape is essential to small businesses. It will also be welcomed by the UK government especially.

However, industry bodies have already complained about the threat to health and safety, and environmental standards of cutting red tape.

Friends of the Earth Europe, for example, in concerned that the proposal is about “introducing more and more barriers to prevent new environmental, labour and health and safety standards that protect citizens. The new initiatives proposed also risk weakening existing standards on food, chemicals and biodiversity.”

While many will be worried about any weakening of EU legislation in these areas, it is difficult to argue against the Commission's assertion that fact that many citizens in the 2014 European elections were concerned with what they perceive as an undesirable level of EU involvement in their daily lives.

The UK election reflected similar concerns, and it is no surprise that Mr Cameron has welcomed the EU plans.

Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker responded with his Political Guidelines, which he says are the basis on which the Commission was elected by the European Parliament.

"I want a European Union that is bigger and more ambitious on big things, and smaller and more modest on small things,” he says.

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Nick Prag

Nick Prag

Nick Prag is founder and managing editor of Prior to EUbusiness, he was senior editor at Europe Online SA in Luxembourg, where he played a major part in the launch of Europe Online International.