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Strategic review of the "Better Regulation" programme

In this Communication the Commission recognises that considerable efforts have been made since 2005 to make EU legislation clearer and more effective. Nevertheless, the Commission intends to pursue with determination the "Better Regulation" programme and proposes a series of actions to be taken in collaboration with the European institutions and the Member States.

ACT

Communication of 14 November 2006 from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, "A strategic review of better regulation in the European Union" [COM(2006) 689 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The European Commission launched the "Better Regulation" programme in 2005 to simplify the stock of existing and future legislation with a view to making it clearer and more effective. The purpose of this Communication is to evaluate the progress made since 2005 and the actions still to be taken. Better Regulation means first and foremost modernising the existing legislation, but it also means better preparation of proposals and making sure the European legislation is correctly applied. To this end the Commission launched six major initiatives, of which it takes stock in this strategic review.

Simplification of the legislation

The Commission considers simplification to be one of the main priorities for action in its Better Regulation programme. Substantial progress has already been made by the Commission in areas such as customs and waste recycling. In addition, the Commission has updated its strategy for simplifying the regulatory environment, extending it to numerous new areas, such as agriculture, labelling, fisheries and statistics. Nevertheless, efforts to simplify the legislation and facilitate the adoption of simplification proposals must continue. To this end, the Commission proposes:

  • integrating the simplification programme into its legislative programme;
  • strengthening the programme by adding more than 40 supplementary projects;
  • speeding up the procedure for the adoption of the Commission's simplification proposals.

Member States are also encouraged to implement their own national simplification programmes. The Commission draws their attention in particular to texts transposing Community directives, since refinements are sometimes introduced into these texts (overregulation* or "gold plating") that did not exist in the Community legislation.

Reducing administrative burdens

The Commission has set itself the objective of reducing red tape for businesses. Before drafting a proposal the Commission conducts an impact assessment to see whether the proposal will produce unnecessary administrative costs*. The Commission has recently devised a Community methodology for measuring administrative costs and has set itself the priority of reducing the administrative burden imposed by the legislation in force. Hence, it proposes an ambitious action plan for reducing administrative burdens, fixing a joint 25% reduction target to be achieved by 2012. It also suggests improving identification of the authority responsible for the costs, so as to determine those areas in which action is required at European level and those in which action is required at Member State level.

Codification and the repeal of obsolete legislation

Codification* helps to reduce the volume of Community legislation, while at the same time producing texts that are clearer and more transparent. The Commission has drawn up a codification programme involving about 500 legislative acts in all sectors (see COM(2006) 690 final, Annex 2, pdf ). These 500 codification acts should replace around 2 000 acts by 2008. In the future, acts which have been replaced or codified should be removed. The Commission intends to continue with the screening process it launched in 2003 to identify obsolete acts and requests the Council and the European Parliament to repeal these acts using a fast-track procedure.

Impact assessments

The Commission carried out impact assessments on its main policy proposals in order to determine whether regulatory improvements were needed or no action was necessary. These studies revealed that binding measures were not necessary in some areas, such as biomass, the urban environment and copyright in the online music sector. The Commission intends to improve the quality of its studies by creating an Impact Assessment Board. It proposes that the other institutions should also assess the impact of their proposals. Finally, the Commission hopes that initiatives by the Member States in the field of judicial cooperation in criminal matters will also systematically be accompanied by impact assessments.

Examination of pending proposals*

Some pending proposals are no longer in step with the Commission's policy priorities. For this reason, the present Commission has withdrawn 68 pending proposals since taking office at the end of 2004. It will continue to examine the remaining pending proposals and withdraw them where necessary. It proposes that any new Commission should carry out a similar exercise within the first six months of taking office.

Enforcing EU law

Better Regulation also means ensuring EU legislation is applied correctly in the Member States. This requires close partnership between the Commission and the Member States, notably as regards the transposition of directives. Too often, the objective of correct application of European legislation is not achieved. Instead of launching infringement proceedings, the Commission proposes adopting a more preventive approach, collaborating with Member States from the very start of the transposition procedure. It suggests that the Member States should produce correlation tables, linking provisions in directives with the provisions in their national rules. If prevention fails, the Commission will speed up its proceedings for the main categories of non-compliance. It will also undertake to put in place complementary problem-solving mechanisms, such as SOLVIT. Finally, it will improve its communication of information on the application of European legislation.

The Commission intends to pursue with determination the "Better Regulation" programme. However, the Council, the European Parliament and the Member States must also play their part in improving the regulatory environment in Europe. Member States have markedly increased their efforts to regulate better, in particular as regards measuring and reducing administrative costs. There is still considerable room for improvement, particularly with regard to simplifying legislation.

Key terms used in the act
  • Administrative costs: costs incurred by enterprises, the voluntary sector, public authorities and citizens in meeting legal obligations to provide information on their activities or production, either to public authorities or to private parties.
  • Codification: codification is the process that brings together the provisions of existing acts with all of their subsequent amendments into one legislative instrument.
  • Pending proposals: proposals adopted by the previous Commission and which are pending before the Council and the European Parliament.
  • Overregulation: overregulation occurs when an authority transposes a text and in doing so creates or extends the obligations initially provided for.

RELATED ACTS

Communication of 30 January 2008 from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Second strategic review of "Better Regulation" in the European Union [COM(2008) 32 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
The second strategic review of the "Better Regulation" programme shows that the strategy of simplifying the regulatory environment is achieving results. The Commission intends to continue in this direction and, in this Communication, presents the next steps to be taken, such as strengthening the impact assessment system or progressing with the simplification rolling programme and the action programme to reduce administrative burdens.

This fact sheet is not legally binding on the European Commission; it does not claim to be exhaustive and does not represent an official interpretation of the text of the Treaty.

Last updated: 30.05.2008
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