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SLIM: NEW METHOD TO SIMPLIFY SINGLE MARKET LEGISLATION

European Commission - IP/96/990   06/11/1996

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Simpler legislation  for the internal  market is not  just desirable;  it can
become a reality, even  in the short term. That is  the conclusion drawn from
the  first phase of the SLIM  project, in which a  working method was devised
that  brought together  experts from  national administrations,  users of the
legislation and  the European Commission in  an attempt  to identify specific
measures for simplifying legislation in  four areas: the Intrastat  system of
statistics for intra-Community trade, construction  products, the recognition
of diplomas and ornamental  plants. In its report to the Council  of Minister
and to  Parliament the  Commission describes the  exercise as a  positive one
but adds that the success  of the entire operation will depend  on the extent
to which the Council will be willing to  review current legislation and adopt
the changes  the Commission  is about  to propose  on the  basis of  concrete
suggestions  put forward  by the SLIM  teams. Emphasizing that overregulation
at  national  level   is a  major obstacle  to the  completion of  the Single
Market,  the   Commission    calls  on   Member  States   to  simplify  their
legislation.

"The  work we have  undertaken as part of  the SLIM  project," said Mr Monti,
"is encouraging. The results  of the first phase have been  fruitful, confirm
the validity of the method used and could  well justify extending the project
to other areas. For its part, the  Commission will vigorously pursue the  aim
of simplifying and improving legislation,  but invites the Council  to commit
itself fully  to the  same task.  Clearly, the  success of  the venture  will
depend on the ability  to accept change towards simpler legislation.  We look
forward   to  the   Council  meeting   on  the   internal   market  scheduled
for 26 November putting  out a strong  clear signal in  favour of what is  an
effective means of promoting competitiveness among firms: simplification." 

The SLIM  project was proposed by  the Commission  on 8 May following growing
calls from firms and  industry for legislation that was effective but did not
impose  unnecessary  constraints. The  Council  endorsed the  project in  its
Resolution of 8  July on legislative and administrative simplification in the
field of the  internal market, and the  Commission was asked by  the European
Council to report before the end of the year. 

Summary of the results of the pilot project 

The SLIM project is based on a new working method: small teams of experts  in
the fields concerned scrutinize current  legislation and draw up  options for
simplification. The  Commission then indicates how  it intends  to proceed in
order to implement the recommendations made. 

1. Intrastat 

Intrastat is  a system for the  compilation of  statistics on intra-Community
trade  since the  abolition  of checks  at internal  borders  in 1993. It  is
costly, both for  firms and for  administrations, and  the statistics,  which
take  a long time  to produce, are not  of sufficient  quality. Proposals for
simplification are aimed at: 

. reducing data requirements to the strict minimum 
. using a simplified goods nomenclature 
. adjusting the collection system in  such a way as to reduce the burdens on
  business 
. supporting measures designed to modernize the system. 

The Commission is in  favour of a simplified  nomenclature,  limited to 7 000
commodity codes (instead of  the present 10,500),  which would be operational
from 1 January 1998  onwards.  It  is in  particular  willing  to  adapt  the
legislation in a  way that enables Member States to introduce the single-flow
system if they wish to do so. 

2.   Construction products 

All  construction products  are  governed by  a single  Directive (89/106/EEC
of 21 december 1988) which  requires adoption of technical specifications, be
they  harmonized  standards,  European  technical  approvals   or  recognized
technical specifications.  The fact that, eight  years after  the adoption of
the Directive, those  standards have  not been  adopted shows  that, in  this
field, the Single Market has yet to become a reality. 

The Commission will  support measures that follow the SLIM team's guidelines:
in the short term,  it will  endeavour to improve  the working procedures  of
the European standardization bodies;  in the longer term, its aim will  be to
introduce a complete  and coherent system  for the  construction sector as  a
whole and  re-examine the  Directive  with a  view to  aligning it  with  the
principles of  the  "New Approach"  and to  put an  end to  the binding  link
between the implementation of the  Directive and the existence  of harmonized
standards. 

3.   Recognition of diplomas 

A total of  seven sectoral directives relating to doctors, nurses, veterinary
surgeons,  dental practitioners,  midwives,  architects and  pharmacists  and
adopted between 1975 and   1985 are  aimed at creating  a "European  profile"
for  education. Contrary to  the systems  that, since  then, have  followed a
"horizontal  approach", this  system  requires  constant scrutiny  of  common
rules  by  advisory  committees and,  consequently,  adjustment  of  national
standards. 

In 1997 the Commission  will put forward proposals to  streamline the working
of the advisory committees and to simplify the  updating of lists of diplomas
eligible for automatic recognition. It will  also examine whether it would be
advisable  to transfer  the  professions  concerned  to  the  general  system
following the review of that system which is due in 1999. 

4. Ornamental plants 

The Community rules on the marketing of ornamental plants are contained in  a
Directive  that  lays  down  minimum  quality  standards and  conditions  and
specifies   supporting   accreditation   procedures   and  the   keeping   of
written records.  Transposal  into national law  has given  rise to  numerous
inconsistencies  and   problems   of   interpretation.  Rapid   and   uniform
implementation  of  the  Directive  has  not  proved  possible,  despite  the
publication of an interpretative note by the Commission . 

Opinion  among the members  of the SLIM working  team was  divided on whether
Community  legislation  was actually  needed  in this  field. The  Commission
will, by May 1997, come forward with  proposals to clarify the  Directive and
reduce the burdens on  business. It will also look into whether the Directive
should be repealed. 

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