Brussels, 14 October 2014
The High Level Group on Administrative Burdens – Questions and Answers
The High Level Group on Administrative Burdens has advised the Commission on how to reduce the administrative burden for businesses since the end of 2007. It concentrates on how to simplify existing EU legislation and make the Member States more efficient and more responsive to the needs of companies – particularly small and medium-sized companies – when implementing EU legislation. With the help of the High Level Group, the Commission has actually exceeded its goal of reducing red tape for businesses by 25% in 13 key areas: annual savings estimated at €33.4 billion (- 27%) have so far been achieved.
What is the role of the High Level Group on Administrative Burdens (HLG AB)?
The High Level Group was set up in late 2007 as an independent body to advise the Commission on the implementation of its Action Programme for reducing administrative burdens. The aim of the Action Programme was to eliminate 25% of the administrative burdens resulting from EU regulations or the transposition of EU laws at national level, in 13 key areas by 2012. The Group's mandate was twice extended and broadened by the Commission (in August 2010 and December 2012). Its third mandate comes to an end on 31 October 2014.
The Group's support for the Commission included helping it to calculate the administrative burden for businesses, incorporating the interests of companies and other stakeholders in the Action Programme, and proposing further simplification measures. During its second mandate, the Group focused on achieving the transposition of EU law in the Member States in a way that was as unbureaucratic as possible. During its third mandate it concentrated on how the needs of SMEs and micro-enterprises could best be taken into account in the transposition of EU legislation by the Member States.
Who are the HLG AB members?
The group is chaired by Mr Edmund Stoiber, a former Minister-President of Bavaria. It is made up of 15 members, chosen for their expertise. All these members carry out their duties on a voluntary basis.
Additional information about the HLG AB and its members can be found on the Group's website and in the Register of Commission Expert Groups. A full list of members is also attached to this press release.
What has the 'Stoiber Group' achieved so far?
The Commission has made a success of its Action Programme for reducing administrative burdens for businesses in the EU: altogether, the measures adopted so far at EU level have enabled businesses to make estimated annual savings in the region of €33.4 billion, which represents an easing of the burden by 27%. The Commission has therefore exceeded its ambitious savings target of 25%, set in the Action Programme.
Edmund Stoiber and the members of the Group were of great help to the Commission in this respect. In particular, the Group supported the Commission in its successful negotiations with the Council and Parliament on the two most important Commission proposals on the reduction of red tape, namely VAT e-invoicing, which could save businesses up to €18 billion, and a proposal to exempt micro-enterprises from accounting rules, which could result in €6.3 billion in savings. The Commission has in addition also taken up and implemented many more of the Group's ideas for further administrative burden reduction measures.
The Group has held 54 meetings, at which it adopted over 45 opinions and reports. The subjects covered by the opinions have included administrative burden reduction measures in all 13 priority areas of the Action Programme (such as tax law, accounts, statistics, transport, and public procurement). They originate with several hundred suggestions by the Commission's departments, individual enterprises or business associations, national, regional and local governments or individual citizens. The Group met President Barroso and many of the Commissioners on a number of occasions and was in regular contact with the Commission's departments.
The most significant event of the second mandate was the 'Europe can do better' report (IP/12/146), which set out best practice in the Member States on implementing EU legislation in the least burdensome way.
During its third mandate, the Group conducted case studies on selected examples of the transposition into national law of eight simplification measures from the Action Programme, as the benefits of EU measures for easing the administrative burden are only felt by those they are intended to help if they are transposed successfully into national law.
On 14 October 2014 the Group published its final report and presented it to Commission President José Manuel Barroso. In addition to the Group's conclusions from its work over its three mandates, the report also contains wide-ranging recommendations for future improvements for reducing bureaucracy.
All relevant documents on the Group's activities, such as agendas and minutes of meetings, presentations, reports and opinions, including dissenting opinions, are published on the HLG AB's website (http://ec.europa.eu/smart-regulation/refit/admin_burden/high_level_group_en.htm).
What conclusions can be drawn from the work of the 'Stoiber Group'?
The Commission's 2007 Action Programme was able to exceed its goal of reducing the administrative burden by 25% at EU level. Now it is up to the Member States to ensure that businesses actually feel the benefits, by transposing the burden reduction measures into national law in the most effective and unbureaucratic way possible and by applying them rigorously: studies carried out in connection with the Action Programme1 have shown that 32% of administrative costs are due not to the demands of EU law itself, but to its being transposed in the Member States in a way that is inefficient or that goes beyond the requirements of EU law ('gold-plating').
To this end, the exchange of experiences between the Member States regarding the national transposition of EU laws must be significantly improved.
The Group's report shows that implementation of the Action Programme has led to substantial progress in many areas, although the Member States were not always able to put a figure on it. This progress was apparent in, among other things, the simplification of the accounting principles for SMEs, acceptance of e-invoices for value added tax, and intra-Community trade statistics. More savings can be made if the Member States continue to implement the reduction measures consistently. In doing so they should make good use of all the simplification options provided for by the relevant EU law.
What recommendations does the Stoiber Group's final report make for future improvements in reducing bureaucracy?
The independent group's final report contains a number of recommendations for improving legislation and cutting red tape addressed both to the EU Institutions and to the Member States. These recommendations include the setting of a firm target for administrative‑burden savings, the creation of an independent body of experts to review impact assessments on the administrative costs of Commission legislative proposals, concentration of the Commission's work on the most important questions that have to be resolved at EU level and on the needs of small and medium-sized undertakings, and more rapid and better information on European legislation.
All these recommendations can be consulted in the Group's final report. A dissenting minority conclusion is also attached to the final report.
The final report has been published in several languages on the High Level Group's website.
Visit the High Level Group's website (which includes the final report):
Visit the Commission's website on smart regulation:
Visit the Commission's website on administrative burden reduction:
MEMO/13/786: 'Commission initiatives to cut red-tape and reduce regulatory burden – Questions and Answers'
Annex: High Level Group on Administrative Burdens – List of Members
COM(2009) 544 - Action Programme for Reducing Administrative Burdens in the EU, Sectoral Reduction Plans and 2009 Actions, p. 6.