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Brussels, 6 March 2000

Commission moves to simplify single market legislation

A series of recommendations to simplify national and EC legislation affecting the Internal Market have been made by the European Commission in a review of the SLIM initiative Simpler Legislation for the Internal Market. SLIM has resulted in clearer rules but more could be done to target complex sectors and enhance transparency, according to the report. The report recommends that the Commission should set itself a target of coming forward with proposals within six months of a SLIM report.. SLIM is a cornerstone of EU efforts to simplify and improve Internal Market rules to make cross-border transactions easier and improve competitiveness. The importance of simplified legislation for market integration and economic growth was clearly identified in the Commission's most recent report on product and capital markets and in the Commission's submission to the special Lisbon European Council to be held March 23-24. Regulatory costs and red tape, mostly due to national and regional regulation rather than EC rules, are estimated at 3-5 % of the European Union's Gross Domestic Product.

Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein commented "Clear and simple regulation is essential for the success of the Internal Market. Unnecessary bureaucracy costs businesses time and money and stands in the way of closer market integration. The SLIM initiative has been a useful tool but it needs constant sharpening if we are to cut away useless red tape."

The review sets out ways of improving transparency and proposes principles to guide the selection of sectors for inclusion in SLIM. It calls for parallel efforts to simplify Member States' rules in the sectors concerned and calls on the European Parliament and the EU's Council of Ministers to adopt proposals to simplify legislation as quickly as possible.

In all, SLIM teams have analysed the practical application of existing legislation in 14 areas since 1996. The teams consist of up to five experts from national administrations and the same number of "user" representatives (the business consumer or other interest groups affected by the rules). They work over about six months before proposing suggestions for simplifying and improving the legislation. These suggestions may or may not be endorsed by the Commission. In each successive phase, three or four sectors are examined, each by a separate team. All Member States have participated in at least one team in each phase.

The review looks at progress achieved in the first three phases. Legislative proposals have been made arising from SLIM recommendations in some six sectors. These include a 1997 proposal to amend legislation relating to the mutual recognition of diplomas. In other sectors non-legislative action has been taken. However, the rate of progress in implementing recommendations accepted by the Commission has varied. The review attributes this to factors such as whether SLIM is the first step towards simplification or complements work already done. The need to consult more widely before formulating proposals and delays in the adoption of earlier legislative proposals also influence results. The delay in adoption of proposals by the European Parliament and the Council has also varied. Several proposals from earlier phases are still under discussion.

The review suggests the following key action points:

  • Creation of a group of "better regulation" specialists, working under the auspices of the Internal Market Advisory Committee (IMAC comprising Member State representatives and chaired by the Commission) which would help to steer SLIM and provide a forum for discussion of "candidate" sectors.

  • IMAC to be consulted at the beginning and end of each phase.

  • Involvement of some of these specialists as designated "regulatory quality correspondents" to specific SLIM teams.

  • Commission to consider feasibility/desirability of appointing independent experts to assist SLIM teams.

  • Consultation of Member States and European Parliament on the selection of sectors.

  • A requirement that any party putting forward a sector for review should state clearly the areas needing simplification and the expected benefits, while the Commission would agree to explain its reasons for rejecting suggestions.

  • Preparation by the Commission of a guide for SLIM chairpersons and team members, including a clear definition of the overall objectives.

  • Clear definition of the objectives of individual teams in the working document setting up each phase.

  • More transparency with regard to the work of teams, including "flash" reports to be provided on relevant web sites within two or three days of each meeting.

  • IMAC "better regulation" representatives of the Member States with officials on a particular SLIM team to report on the situation regarding national legislation in the sector in question; at least one such report per sector to be based on a parallel national SLIM exercise.

  • The Commission to set itself a target of coming forward with proposals within six months of a SLIM report.

  • Council and Parliament to develop mechanisms to ensure that simplification proposals are adopted quickly.

  • Member States to report regularly to IMAC and the Internal Market Council on independent national simplification programmes.

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