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Brussels, 28th January 2009

Radical simplification of EU law continued in 2008

The European Commission simplification programme continues to deliver tangible benefits for citizens and companies, in particular small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) in 2008. Some 1,300 acts, representing around 10 % of the acquis, the large body of EU legislation, have been removed since the launch of the strategy for simplifying the regulatory environment in 2005. The European Commission’s “Third progress report on the strategy for the simplification of the regulatory environment” shows that 132 simplification initiatives have already contributed to streamlining the regulatory framework, improving working procedures (wider use of information technologies) and ensuring a well functioning of the internal market. Today’s report complements the Commission “Strategic Review on Better Regulation” and the “Reducing Administrative Burdens in the EU 2008 progress report and 2009 outlook” which are also tabled today.

The third progress report highlights success stories achieved by this Commission and a set of ambitious further measures to be presented in the course of 2009.

Overall, this Commission has taken action since October 2005 to reduce the acquis by almost 10% - about 1,300 legal acts and 7,800 pages of the Official Journal

  • The simplification rolling programme contains 185 identified initiatives for the period 2005-2009 concerning all policy areas. About 132 of these initiatives have already been adopted by the Commission and 73 have finalised their legislative process. 36 by the Commission as autonomous acts (Commission decisions) and 37 by the legislature (approved by EP and Council). 52 simplification proposals are pending before the Council and the European Parliament.
  • The Commission has already proposed about 800 legal acts for amendment or repeal under the simplification programme. As a result, the acquis will be reduced by about 600 legal acts or around 6,500 pages of the Official Journal. In parallel, the Commission has also codified the acquis with a view to making it more compact and readable whilst ensuring legal certainty. The 142 newly codified acts have replaced 729 previous acts, corresponding to about 1,300 pages of the Official Journal.
  • As well as simplifying legislation, the Commission also codifies it, combining the basic law and all subsequent amendments into one text. This makes laws clearer and reduces the size of the acquis whilst ensuring legal certainty. The Commission has finalised 217 codification acts. The 142 newly codified acts have replaced 729 previous acts, corresponding to about 1,300 pages of the Official Journal.

The results show the wide range of simplification measures, as the following examples will illustrate. The achieved success stories concern the following areas:

1. A streamlined regulatory framework

For example:

  • The new General Block Exemption Regulation harmonising and consolidating five legal acts into one text allows Member States to approve a range of aid measures without first notifying the Commission which enables faster processing of cases. This revision, aimed to promote job creation and competitiveness, covers aid for SMEs, research, innovation, regional development, training, employment and risk capital.

2. Improved working methods and simplified procedures

The Commission actively promotes the wider use of IT as a way to improve working procedures. For example:

  • The new Common Procurement Vocabulary (a standard EU product description) facilitates the identification of public procurement opportunities anywhere in the EU, irrespective of the language of the country of procurement. The forms used by public authorities to publish notices in the EU Official Journal have been standardised and automated, reducing publication time from 12 to 5 days.

3. A well functioning Internal Market

The Internal Market is a driving force for simplification in the EU, allowing a vast set of national laws to be concentrated into a single piece of legislation, replacing 27 different national laws by one single European text.

  • The common rules for the operation of air services should contribute to more consumer choice, lower fares and more competition.
  • The ‘VAT package’ introduces new rules for services which will mean that business-to-business services will be taxed in the Member State of the customer. This should act as an incentive for businesses to provide services throughout the EU. The package also includes a mini one-stop shop for telecom, broadcasting and e-commerce services for businesses established within the EU and a new procedure for claiming VAT refunds for businesses not established in the Member State in which the VAT was incurred.

Continuation of a success story

The number of simplification measures adopted by the Council and the European Parliament has gone up from 16 in January 2008 to 37 in January 2009. However, 52 simplification proposals are still pending before the Council and the European Parliament. It is important that the institutions progress in their consideration of these proposals so that even more benefits are enjoyed by business, citizens and public administration. Such pending proposals are for example:

  • The new EU directive, which will replace 10 existing directives, on investment funds, known as 'UCITS' (Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities) will provide consumers with access to professionally managed investments on affordable terms.
  • The new "Car Safety Package" proposal will simplify the existing regulatory environment by repealing 150 directives on the type-approval of vehicles; and introduce mandatory fitting of safety features and tyre pressure monitoring systems on passenger cars, dramatically improving vehicle safety and reducing CO2 emissions.
  • The Consumer Rights Directive will contribute to the better functioning of the business-to-consumer internal market by enhancing consumer confidence in the internal market and reducing business reluctance to trade across borders. It will decrease fragmentation and simplify the existing regulatory framework by repealing 4 directives. The Directive will provide consumers with a high common level of consumer protection and adequate information about their rights and how to exercise them. A standard set of consumer contract terms will cut compliance costs substantially.
  • The package of energy efficiency proposals aims to make energy savings in key areas, for example by reinforcing energy efficiency legislation on buildings and energy-using products. Average annual energy savings can easily amount to over € 1,000 per household.
  • The simplification of the single payment scheme of the Common Agricultural Policy introduces, notably, more ‘decoupling’, doing away with two application procedures and dual controls under two parallel systems (representing a € 0.64m reduction in costs to farmers in the UK alone).

Initiatives for 2009

The Commission has included 33 simplification initiatives in its Legislative and Work Programme for 2009 such as the revision of Directive 2000/35/EC on combating late payment in commercial transactions which is part of the “Small Business Act for Europe” and the "European Economic Recovery Plan"; Further initiatives are the simplification of EC legislation on agricultural and forestry tractors by replacing 24 Directives with one Regulation or the modernisation of Regulation (EC) N°44/2001 to adapt Regulation to new international instruments and to ensure recognition and enforcement of judgements in civil and commercial matters.

Screening of the entire acquis

The Commission has carried out a comprehensive screening of the Community acquis and a further 81 actions could be incorporated in future simplification activities during the next Commission. For example:

  • the alignment of 15 technical harmonisation Directives with the Decision setting out a common framework for the marketing of products;
  • the revision of legislation on health threats (communicable diseases and chemical, biological and radio-nuclear threats) animal health, welfare and feed or a further burden reduction in the statistical area thanks to the MEETS (Modernisation of European Enterprise and Trade Statistics) programme. This will improve the methods of data collection in Member States through more use of administrative and accounting data and improved sampling schemes and also better and more intensive use of available sources.

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