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European Commission

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso at the event with EU leaders on Regulatory Fitness, 24-25 October 2013


25 October 2013

I really believe this is an important agenda for Europe to have simpler, cheaper and lighter regulation, 'common sense' regulation. Let's be honest about this, there are some regulations we need; in the internal market if every country has its own regulations it's a problem, not only for the SMEs but even for big companies. So there is, I think, a point to be made here: we need common regulations at European level but of course these regulations should be lighter, simpler and cheaper.

Very often EU action replaces at least 28 different sets of national regulation with just one set of rules.

And in areas like the digital economy, that the European Council discussed yesterday, business wants European action, they want more common rules for the European Union, namely on the trade or services. At the same time, I know many entrepreneurs, especially SMEs, feel they are being caught up in too much red tape. That's why we have to slash this red tape.

Since 2005, I've been pushing for a change of culture in Brussels and also in the national capitals. We have come a long way. 6000 legal acts repealed. 32 billion euros already saved.

And our regulatory fitness programme – REFIT - is the next phase in the roll-out. So this is our programme that we have already adopted. I thank David Cameron and business representatives for the positive remarks you have made about this important programme. Now we have to consider what else can be done, I want to make very clear here with you: it's great that business, with this initiative, takes a very strong role in these discussions. And at the same time there are other important stakeholders that we have to listen to as well, from those expressing environmental concerns to workers and trade unions. And I think you understand that this is critically important for the success of this programme. This is my political point today. We have to see what is the best way of delivering on better regulation, how can we better get results?

I believe we should not call into question established policy goals at European level. It is not about lowering standards in areas such as the environment, that are so important for many of our Member States, or lowering standards in terms of workers health and safety or consumer protection.

This also should not be seen as an ideological debate between Member States or between the Member States and the European institutions. It should not be a ideological debate about competences. I like to see this as a pragmatic agenda. I think that’s the best way to deliver, to have results.

How can we, in all matters of the European Union, reduce unnecessary regulation? As I quoted the French philosopher Montesquieu recently, "Les lois inutiles affaiblissent les lois nécessaires", I can also repeat here today in English "useless laws weaken the necessary ones". And I think this is the right spirit to achieve positive results.

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