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Brussels, 16 June 2004

Commission making good progress in updating and simplifying EU law

The Commission adopted today a Communication[1] on the implementation of its February 2003 initiative on “Updating and Simplifying the Community Acquis”[2] which aims to simplify the substance of secondary Community legislation and reduce the volume of the Community acquis. Overall, progress on the Commission’s ambitious framework is satisfactory. By the end of March 2004, the Commission had adopted 30 initiatives with simplification implications and new candidates for simplification continue to be identified. 20 legislative simplification proposals are pending before the Parliament and Council. Codification is progressing well at the technical level, while nearly 900 legal acts are now under examination to determine the correct approach for their withdrawal from the acquis. Consolidation of the entire EU acquis was completed, as planned, by summer 2003.

The Commission is thus delivering on the priorities of the incoming Dutch Presidency and those set out by the four Council Presidencies during 2004 and 2005 (Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and UK) in the Joint Initiative on Regulatory Reform of January 2004, and the orientations of the Spring European Council. This initiative forms part of the Commission’s June 2002 Action Plan on Better Regulation[3] to secure a clear, effective, up-to-date and user-friendly body of secondary Community law, thereby also enhancing competitiveness in line with the Lisbon strategy.

Simplifying the substance of Community legislation

Simplification aims at amending existing legislation to reduce the burdens of implementation, compliance and control. The Commission’s rolling simplification programme covers preparation of simplification initiatives for more than 60 legal acts. 25 of the initiatives already adopted by the Commission contribute directly to reducing the administrative burdens for private parties. In addition, the Commission has screened 21 policy sectors since February 2003 to identify further simplification potential.

The Commission welcomes the fact that Council will establish, by the end of 2004, its priorities for up-dating and simplifying Community legislation which the Commission will take into account in its rolling programme. The Commission hopes that full implementation of the Inter-institutional Agreement on Better Lawmaking can secure early adoption.

Reducing the volume of the Community acquis

In 2001, the Commission set itself the target of reducing the volume of the acquis by 25% (corresponding to about 22.500 pages of the Official Journal)[4]. It launched a vast programme for codification of existing legislation which, when completed by the end of 2005, could reduce the acquis by an estimated 30.000 – 35.000 pages[5].

Preparation of codified texts has increased dramatically during the last 6 months. However, formal adoption and publication of codified acts is delayed due to a pre-accession moratorium and the need for translation of the acquis into the new languages (which takes place in the respective Member States). The 25% reduction objective is therefore unlikely to be reached by end-2004, but should be achieved within a reasonable period thereafter.

Since the launch of the February 2003 initiative, removal of obsolete legislation has been gaining momentum. The Commission is considering the best way to withdraw nearly 900 legal acts from the acquis. A third of these withdrawals will be implemented within weeks.

The result of consolidation work is freely available to the public via EUR-Lex. Although not legally binding, consolidation nevertheless offers citizens and operators a hugely simplified access to consult the Community acquis.

[1] COM(2004)432

[2] COM(2003)71

[3] COM(2002)278

[4] COM(2001)726

[5] COM(2001)645

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