A group of stakeholders and businesspeople set up by the European Commission to examine ways of cutting red tape has called for the creation of an independent body to scrutinise Commission legislation before it is proposed.
The Commission’s current system for conducting impact assessments, although “valuable”, is applied inconsistently across the institution’s departments, the group said in a report published today (14 October).
The high-level group on administrative burdens, set up in 2007 and chaired by Edmund Stoiber, former minister-president of Bavaria, added that it was too early to judge the European Parliament’s new impact assessment service and lamented the failure of the Council of Ministers to establish its own such service.
But it said that independent bodies responsible for assessing the impact of new legislation on business in the United Kingdom, Germany and a handful of other countries had proved a success.
The group also suggested that the Commission should be more systematic in exempting small enterprises and micro-enterprises from regulatory requirements.
Stoiber presented the conclusions of two years of research into how to reduce EU red tape for small companies and how to make national administrations more efficient.
In his preface to the report he called on the Commission to improve the way in which it communicates about its activities: “The Commission must become more political and improve the communication of its activities in Brussels and in the member states significantly.”
He also strongly defended José Manuel Barroso’s record as president of the European Commission in cutting red-tape generated by the EU.
“President Barroso has initiated a fundamental change which unfortunately the public has not yet been made sufficiently aware of,” said Stoiber. The new working methods within the Commission constitute a “quantum leap”.
Stoiber stressed that member states had to shoulder part of the blame for failing to properly implement laws cutting red-tape.
The inefficient implementation of EU legislation accounted for 28% of all red-tape of EU origin, said the report.
The report made reference to the group’s own track-record in advocating pro-competitive reforms worth €41 billion annually for EU companies.
“With the support of the [group], measures with an annual reduction potential of €33.4 billion have been adopted by the European Parliament and Council to date,” the report stated.
According to the group, a limited number of laws account for the vast majority of red tape, with tax and company law being particularly burdensome. “The ten most important information obligations overall account for more than 77% of the total burden of EU origin,” said the report.
Of the group’s fourteen members, 11 backed the report, while three voted against and issued a dissenting opinion.
Monika Kosinska, former secretary-general of the European Public Health Alliance, Jim Murray, former director of the European Consumers’ Organisation, and Heidi Rønne Møller, EU adviser at the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions, accused the group of having “a clear deregulatory purpose”.
“Food labelling, instructions for using medicines, environmental labelling, obligations to disclose the cost of financial services or to inform workers of their rights are all ‘administrative burdens’ within the meaning of the task given to the group, but there is little acknowledgement in the Report of the positive aspects of such ‘burdens’,” they said.
“Common rules can decrease the burden for business operating in different member states.”
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