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Brussels, 25 October 2005

Simplifying EU legislation makes life easier for citizens and enterprises

The Commission has tabled a three year action programme for simplifying the existing thousands pages of EU legislation (“acquis”). This programme covers 222 basic legislations and over 1,400 related legal acts. It will be regularly updated. Simplification is no Trojan horse to water down essential regulatory protection in relation for instance to consumer protection or the protection of the environment. The real question is, whether the approach originally chosen is the most effective to reach the objectives set. Simplification can therefore mean everything from a simple codification to a modification of the regulatory approach chosen. It could also in some cases mean repealing existing legislation. But it will be made sure that the objectives will be reached. Better regulation is however not de-regulation. Simplification of legislation means making regulation at EU and national level less burdensome for citizens and operators. It should lead to legislation that is easier to apply and therefore more effective while preserving the policy objectives of the EU.
The full list of legal acts to be simplified is available at:

This memo provides the following information

  • Types of simplifications
  • Simplify
  • Repeal
  • Codify
  • Recast or modify
  • Regulation as a simplification tool
  • Standardization
  • Substitute directives with regulations
  • Reinforce the use of information technology
  • A good deal of public reaction relates to red tape in national rules

1. Types of simplifications: simplify, repeal, codify, recast or modify

The new rolling programme specifies the pieces of legislation that the Commission envisages to simplify, repeal, codify, recast or modify in the coming three years:

1. Repeal of irrelevant or obsolete legal acts

The Commission is intending to repeal about a dozen items of legislation (see list in annex II to the communication on simplification). Furthermore, to help prevent obsolescence, the Commission will in future introduce, as appropriate, a review clause in all its legislative proposals. These will force the legislator to reconsider the law after a certain period of time, whether it is still needed and whether its implications still create obligations, the need for which may have become obsolete in the meantime.

Examples for legislation to be repealed:

Knots in wood: A legislation dating from 1968 stipulates the method of measurement of knots (Directive 68/89/EEC) to classify wood. The Commission proposes to repeal this directive and to leave the definition of the quality, the size of the knots, the diameter of the wood in the rough to standardisation organisations.

Car sector - Replacement of EU directives by UNECE regulations

Currently, EU car manufactures have to undergo two overlapping procedures (UN and EU rules) to get approval to bring products like fuel tanks, direction indicators or headlamps on the market. The Commission intends to recommend a significant reduction in the volume of EU legislation by referring directly to international measures and developing flexibility for conformity assessment and test procedures for vehicles. Half of the legislation will be repealed (from 56 to 28 directives) by replacing EU directives by United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) regulations. However, for issues of political significance, the EU will reserve the right to continue using the EU co-decision procedure.

The Commission’s view is that the choice of UNECE regulations over EU legislation should be done in all those areas where the EC has acceded to a UNECE regulation for which in parallel an EC directive exists, and where the latter does not provide a higher level of safety or environmental protection. In such cases the UNECE regulation should replace the corresponding EU directive (which will be repealed).

2. Codify to reduce the volume of EU legislation

Codification contributes greatly to the reduction in volume of Community legislation. To codify means to assemble an original legal act plus all subsequent modifying acts in one new legal text. For example EU rules for cosmetics or chemical products need to be amended constantly, sometimes even twice a year as new substances appeared on the market. If these rules are laid down in directives, Member States have to implement, i.e. 25 subsequent laws or more. For example, in Germany also the 16 Länder have to adopt their own implementation legislation in some cases (see below: modification of the regulatory approach).


Cosmetics – turn 45 directives in one: Council Directive 76/768/EEC relating to cosmetic products and 7 subsequent amendments as well as 37 adaptations to technical progress directives will be codified and simplified in one new directive.

Transport of dangerous goods: In the transport of dangerous goods, due to the development of international cooperation, some 2000 pages defining technical specifications will be eliminated from the EU legislation.

Radioactive contamination of foodstuffs following a nuclear accident: Regulation (Euratom) No 3954/87 laying down maximum permitted levels of contamination and 4 subsequent amendments will be merged in one new directive.

Asbestos at work: Directive 83/477/EEC of 19 September 1983 on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work and a series of related legal acts (partially going back to 1980) will be merged in one new directive.

Insurance: In the context of the Solvency II project, recast of nine Insurance Directives into one single instrument.

State aid rules for agriculture: the seven directives in force will be simplified and reduced to three: the exemption regulation, one set of guidelines, and the de minimis regulation.

3. Recast with a view to clarifying and improving consistency

With a view to clarifying and improving consistency, the Commission will intensify the recasting of existing legal acts. The Commission is committed, when revisiting the legal acts concerned, to implementing fully all the instruments enshrined in its better regulation policy, taking into account the objectives of the Lisbon Agenda. In particular, clear priority will be given. and not less than 22 Community acts regulate the labelling of foodstuffs.

The Waste Framework Directive dating back to 1975 (amended since then on various occasions and no complete codified version ( is available)

sets the definition of waste in Community law.

From stakeholder consultations it emerged that there would be significant benefits from clarifying when a waste ceases to be a waste. For example, there is need to clarify the point at which compost has been sufficiently processed so that it no longer needs to be covered by the waste legislation. This could help raise environmental standards and stimulate the market for such recycled products.

Similarly, clarifying when certain construction and demolition wastes are of a high enough environmental quality to be used again as aggregates without falling under waste legislation could help increase the use of such recycled products and reduce the need for primary aggregates. The proposal revising the Directive will therefore put in place a procedure that will allow for the setting of clear end of waste criteria, thereby improving the situation for both businesses and the competent authorities applying the legislation and leading to both an environmental and an economic benefit.

The Waste Oil Directive sets a priority for the regeneration of waste oil that dates from the seventies. As recent scientific information indicates that regeneration is no longer more environmentally advantageous than other treatment methods such as combustion, the Waste Oil Directive will be repealed and the regeneration priority abolished. This will allow the various businesses involved in the treatment of waste oils to compete on a level playing field.

Construction products (Directive 89/106/EEC): Under current rules, approval and norms for construction products used on building sites (including windows) are extremely cumbersome. The Commission proposes simplification, clarification and reduction of administrative costs and burden, in particular for small and medium-sized enterprises, through more flexibility in the formulation and use of technical specifications, lighter certification rules, and elimination of the implementation obstacles that so far have hampered the creation of a full internal market for construction products.

Safety and health of workers at work is governed by Directive 89/391/EEC and 19 further directives. The revision of these texts will harmonise the periodicity of reporting and possibly replace the several reports with a single one covering all aspects.

Statistical reporting puts a considerable administrative burden on EU enterprises. This is why the Commission intends to simplify the rules for trade statistics (Regulations 638/2004 and 2658/87) to reduce the number of subheadings by reassessing the needs of detailed statistical information with a view to lighten the statistical reporting of economic operators.

Recast and modernisation of the EU customs code (Council Regulations 1207/2001, 3925/91, 82/2001, 2913/92). In the context of the Electronic Customs Initiative, the modernized Customs Code will create the legal basis for electronic data exchange between all stakeholders involved in customs operations (traders, Member States’ customs administrations, border agencies such as police or veterinary authorities). International trade will be facilitated by streamlined and simplified customs procedures and rules, automated and interlinked customs systems, and the close cooperation of all authorities and agencies involved in the movement of goods across Community borders.

4. Modification of the regulatory approach

a. Co-regulation

‘Soft law’ instruments such as co-regulation are widely regarded as alternative means of addressing certain policy objectives more cost-efficiently and more expediently than the classical legislative tools. The development of co-regulation methods will facilitate the incorporation of innovation in the production techniques or in products and services by referring the definition of technical specifications to the actors themselves


Biodegradability of polymers: In Spring 2005, and encouraged by the Commission, a consortium of manufacturers has voluntarily committed themselves to using environment-friendly polymers in the packaging sector (e.g. for plastic bags, cups, plant pots or wraps) and thereby guaranteeing an efficient biodegradability standard for their products. See IP/05/170.

b. Standardisation

Standardisation is a well recognised ‘soft law’ instrument. For many industrial and consumer products, the CE marking (so-called new approach) attests that a product is safe and has been certified and can be marketed in the EU. The Commission considers extending standardization to other domains such as cosmetics, machinery’s noise and emissions or health and safety at work or in services.

It is worth underlining the key-role played by standardisation in this regard. Every day, EU standardisation experts meet to agree on technical specifications to facilitate equipment interoperability, product performance and quality, or consumer protection. There are currently about 17.000 European standards. This stock considerably reduces the need for regulatory interventions. Therefore, the Commission will continue to actively support the European standardisation activity believing that industry and stakeholders are in a better position than legislators to design and enforce decisions in their area of expertise.

Furthermore, as identifiable in the list in annex II to the communication, several initiatives have been taken aimed at reviewing the present approach to technical harmonisation with a view to strengthening the interface between regulation and private standards. One example of this will be in the case for cars and construction products (see above).


For cosmetic products, the Commission can abstain from making a proposal on good laboratory practices thanks to the adoption of a European standard by CEN.

In the 80s vinegar producers asked for a common rule; the appropriate specifications have finally been agreed in a European standard without any EU regulation.

c. Regulations as a simplification tool

One of the simplest but at the same time most powerful simplification tools consists in substituting Directives with Regulations, Furthermore the complexity of the Community decision making process delays the updating of rules, for instance, regarding uniform application of standards in the Member States (see above 2. codify to reduce the volume of EU legislation). The use of regulations instead of directives will help to avoid the trap of the diverging interpretations in the implementation phase in the Member States.

A regulation is directly applicable. Furthermore, if the regulation is likely to change in the future to keep up with the constant development of scientific knowledge it can easily be amended. Thus the lengthy implementation procedure imposed on each Member State by directives, and the repetition of this each time there are technical amendments, will no longer be necessary.


New approach: All new approach directives will become regulations (see above b. standardization).

Public procurement: The directives on the use of standard forms in the publication of public contract notices will be replaced by a regulation.

d. Reinforce the use of information technologies

Secured integrated IT-solutions at EU level can considerably reduce costs for business and administration by accelerating the procedures trimming down the paper flows, making the application of the law more uniform and reducing the risks of errors. The development of electronic tools in the customs, public procurement or excise duties fields will speed up the administrative procedures and facilitate cross border activities. These tools will save money for companies and public budgets.


Customs formalities will simplify import operations: In the context of the Electronic Customs Initiative, the modernized Customs Code will create the legal basis for electronic data exchange between all stakeholders involved in customs operations (traders, Member States’ customs administrations, border agencies such as police or veterinary authorities).

International trade will be facilitated by streamlined and simplified customs procedures and rules, automated and interlinked customs systems, and the close cooperation of all authorities and agencies involved in the movement of goods across Community borders.

Maritime Transport: Directive 95/21/EC and five modifying directives on international standards for ship safety, pollution prevention and shipboard living and working conditions (port State control) will be merged in one new directive. At the same time it will be reviewed with a view to set up a new IT information system and modify the reporting requirements accordingly.

Public procurement: Update and modernisation of the Common Procurement Vocabulary (CPV) transforming it into a tool for fully electronic procurement procedures.

A good deal of public reaction relates to red tape in national rules

Preliminary analysis of the on-going internet consultation shows that a good deal of public reaction relates to red tape in national or local rules, rather than EU legislation. The most frequently raised problems relate to rules with taxation and employment issues where national legislation plays the prominent role.

Member States and the main business associations sent detailed contributions, typically consisting of a description of the difficulties they encounter and suggestions how to address these. The most frequently mentioned policy area was environmental protection, followed by agriculture and food safety, company law, transport and consumer policy.
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