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Smart Regulation in the EU - making EU law lighter

14 October 2014
by eub2 -- last modified 14 October 2014

The European Commission is taking stock of its efforts to make EU law lighter, simpler and less costly. Under the title "Smart Regulation in the EU – Building on a Strong Foundation" politicians, stakeholders and experts have been examining the achievements and persisting challenges in the field of smart regulation, administrative burden reduction and better implementation of EU legislation. On this occasion, Dr Edmund Stoiber, the Chairman of the independent High Level Group on Administrative Burdens advising the Commission since 2007, will hand over the group's final report to EC President José Manuel Barroso.


Top 5 achievements of the European Commission's smart regulation efforts:

  • The European Commission focused its actions on a number of priorities.It tabled proposals to address key political challenges that required a European response: legislation to regulate and supervise financial markets, the reinforced Stability and Growth Pact, the new coordination of economic policies under the European Semester, the Europe 2020 growth strategy, the ambitious climate and energy proposals, completion of and better interconnections in the Single Market, the Common European Asylum System, a modern and growth- and jobs-oriented EU budget 2014-2020, trade and investment agreements, support to Ukraine, etc.
  • In preparing its proposals, the Commission ensured that smart regulation principles were followed. It also improved its tools for this purpose: stakeholder consultations, impact assessments and evaluations are carried out systematically and contribute to evidence-based policy making. All proposals with significant impacts are accompanied by an impact assessment that identifies different policy options and assesses their potential economic, social and environmental impacts. Over 680 impact assessments have been produced since 2007. A two-page summary of the impact assessments is also published to make the results even more accessible. Independent quality assessment and control are guaranteed through the Commission's Impact Assessment Board, which has over the past two years sent back over 40% of all draft impact assessments for improvement by the departments. The Commission extended stakeholder consultation from 8 to 12 weeks and has consulted over the past year on guidelines for evaluation, impact assessment and stakeholder consultation. In addition, the Commission also invites citizens and businesses to help identify areas where regulatory burdens can be reduced and legislation simplified through a continuous online consultation. Since 2010 the Commission has been progressively enforcing the 'evaluate first' principle to ensure that its proposals are backed up by ex-post policy evaluations.
  • Since 2012, the Commission's REFIT programme for Regulatory Fitness and Performance has become the focal point of all smart regulation efforts. Based on a regular screening of the EU's legislative stock, this rolling programme has so far identified about 200 individual actions, including proposals for simplification and burden reduction, repeals of legislation that is no longer necessary, withdrawals of proposals that do not meet with the agreement of Parliament or the Council and evaluations of policy areas in order to identify further opportunities for simplification and burden reduction without undermining public interest protection. Overall, since 2005, the Commission repealed over 6100 legal acts and withdrew almost 300 proposals. Under REFIT, the Commission also committed not to table proposals unless a clear EU added value is proven. This applies to proposals such as those in the area of occupational health and safety for hairdressers or muscular-skeletal disorders which are currently undergoing a full assessment of their EU added value. An annual REFIT scoreboard assesses progress in all policy areas and for each of the REFIT actions.
  • The 25% reduction target for administrative burdens in thirteen priority areas identified under the EU's Administrative Burden Reduction programme has been exceeded. With the support of the "Stoiber-Group", the initiatives proposed by the Commission and adopted by the co-legislator amount to an estimated reduction of around 27%, equivalent to more than €33.4 billion of savings per year for business. This includes €18.8 billion in savings on invoicing and €6.6 billion on annual accounting requirements.
  • The Commission applies the 'think small first' principle, considering the impact of legislation on small and medium-sized enterprises. Whenever justified, SME exemptions and lighter regimes for legislative requirements are also applied whenever this is possible. Small and medium-sized enterprises have been consulted about their main regulatory concerns through the Top Ten exercise. Extensive follow-up has been organised under the REFIT programme, for instance a reduction of registration fees under REACH (chemicals legislation) for SMEs by 35%-95%, a simplification of VAT returns and fewer formalities for participating in public procurement exercises etc.

The final report has been published in several languages on the High Level Group's website.



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