by Sir Christopher Audland, former Deputy Secretary General of the European Commission///
The debate in the UK has for a while now been revolving around the notion of “reforming” the EU. A lot has been said about improving the way the EU operates but, as it is often the case, the rhetoric ignores existing initiatives undertaken by the European Commission to make EU laws perform even better.
In its Communication on EU regulatory fitness of December 2012 the Commission committed to strengthening its various so-called smart regulation tools (in other words impact assessments, evaluations, stakeholder consultations). It also launched the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT).
Through REFIT, the Commission’s services have mapped the entire stock of EU legislation, looking to identify burdens, gaps and inefficient or ineffective measures and possibilities to simplify, reduce or repeal them. Initial results of the mapping were published on 1 August 2013. The Commission published a Communication to the other EU Institutions in October which reviewed and set out the next steps in the REFIT.
REFIT systematically reviews EU legislation in order:
- To see if its aims are being met efficiently and effectively
- To detect regulatory burdens, gaps and inefficiencies
- To identify opportunities for simplification, and
- To enable the Commission to propose that Council and Parliament revise or repeal legislation where appropriate.
Two concepts are at work in the EU’s efforts under REFIT:
- simplification – making EU laws clearer and easier to understand
- reducing regulatory burdens – lessening the reporting, monitoring and other requirements imposed by EU laws and making it easier for businesses to meet them.
EU regulation is often accused of applying too many requirements and stifling businesses, especially the smallest ones. In response to that concern, the Commission has made a concerted effort over the past few years to streamline legislation and reduce regulatory burdens. Since 2005, the Commission approved 660 initiatives aimed at simplification, codification or recasting. More than 5.590 legal acts have been repealed. The New Legislative Framework for products entails important regulatory simplification and burdens on business are being reduced in many fields – agriculture, statistics, animal and plant health, VAT, transport, public procurement, annual accounts, to name but a few.
There is also legislation that is no longer needed in light of developments and where the Commission plans to propose their repeal. Nine such proposals are planned. These include legislation on the promotion of clean and energy-efficient road transport vehicles, the supply of crude oil and petroleum products, the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous preparations and steel statistics. Furthermore, there are a number of proposals which the Commission will later propose to withdraw. Seven proposals identified in this category include access to justice in the environmental field; a proposal for a Directive simplifying VAT obligations, a proposal on the statute of a European private company, the regulation on statistics on steel and the retrofitting of mirrors to heavy goods vehicles.
The Commission will continue discussions with the European Parliament and the Council with a view to making use of consolidated texts as an efficient way of reducing the volume of the acquis.
The Commission’s drive to reduce regulatory burden is closely related to the full respect of the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity. Efforts to reduce regulatory burden and to ensure that legislation is proportionate and respecting subsidiarity are closely related. That is why the aims of the REFIT programme intersect with those of the Member States in their reviews of EU legislation. The Commission and the Member States share the aim of EU legislation which is fit for purpose and proportionate, fully respecting the principle of subsidiarity. Careful consideration is being given to Member States’ suggestions, some of which will be acted on now and some of which will form part of the ongoing REFIT assessment process.
The EU is an ever evolving organisation, constantly reforming and improving the way it operates and delivers for its citizens. All those that share the ambition to see it succeed in offering added value for EU citizens should join forces and work to strengthen the EU, for the collective good of all its members.Author : European Movement UK