It is essential in a rapidly changing world to review laws, streamline and remove overlaps to ensure that EU legislation is clear and as unburdensome for operators and citizens as possible. The EU has progressively developed a broad strategy to improve the regulatory environment and thus provide a more effective, efficient and transparent regulatory system for the benefit of citizens and reinforce competitiveness, growth and sustainable development, contributing to the Lisbon programme’s objectives.
The simplification programme aims to produce benefits for market operators and citizens and thus enhance the competitiveness of the European economy. It is geared to stimulate innovation and reduce administrative burden stemming from regulatory requirements as well as to move towards more flexible regulatory approaches and to bring about a change in the regulatory culture.
The Commission's simplification initiatives are integrated into the Commission's Annual Legislative and Work Programme.
The Commission also reports on a monthly basis on what has been achieved and what is planned as regard these initiatives. See: execution report and forward programming.
In parallel, the Commission is also codifying the the existing EU legislation (acquis), bringing the basic law and subsequent amendments into one text. This makes laws clearer and reduces the volume of legislation.
By the end of 2008, the Commission had codified 227 acts. Of these, 142 acts have already been adopted and published in the EU Official Journal.
By simplifying and codifying legislation, the Commission has reduced the acquis by almost 10% since 2005 - about 1 300 legal acts and 7 800 pages of the Official Journal have been removed from the Community statute book.
In its strategy to simplify the regulatory environment, the Commission uses the following methods:
At the end of 2008, the Commission completed a comprehensive screening of the existing stock of EU legislation (acquis). All major regulatory instruments, in total about 3 600 acts across different policy fields, were examined to determine wether they are up to date or whether there is scope for simplification.
The Commision has compiled the screening results by policy area. They provide an overview of the Commission's simplification efforts to date and prepare the ground for simplification activities beyond 2009. A further 81 actions (cf. "Third progress report on the strategy for simplifying the regulatory environment" - annex 1) could be incorporated in future simplification activities.
In parallel with the co-ordinated simplification programme, the Commission's simplification efforts rely on a sectoral approach and specific simplification actions are on-going in specific policy domains, for example:
Once the legislative proposals for simplification are delivered by the Commission, then it is for the co-legislator, the European Parliament and the Council, to take the effort to its final stage by ensuring that the simplification proposals are adopted as quickly as possible and retaining the simplification effect intended by the Commission. See the section on inter-institutional coordination.
Simplification of national measures is the responsibility of the Member States. When transposing directives into national law, refinements and add-ons occur (such as technical requirements, labelling obligations, deadlines, authorisation procedures and other administrative requirements). These, sometimes referred to as 'gold plating' can go well beyond the requirements set out in EU law, resulting in extra costs and burdens for citizens and market operators. Gold-plating may put national businesses at a competitive disadvantage compared with other countries.
To avoid gold-plating, EUregulations may be a powerful simplification tool. The use of a (directly applicable) regulation removes the scope for Member States to elaborate on the EU rules, enables immediate application and guarantees that all actors are subject to the same rules at the same time.
The National Reform Programmes in the Member States are part of the new governance structure of the EU Lisbon strategy. They set out the economic reform policies at national level on the basis of EU guidelines. They are, therefore, of key importance in creating a better business environment in the EU. All Member States have included measures to promote Better Regulation in their national programmes. The national programmes should also ensure that the advantages of a lighter EU regulation are not cancelled out by new national rules or technical barriers.
The Commission regularly monitors pending legislation to make sure that it is relevant and up to date and subsequently withdraws those which are no longer topical, for example, where new proposals have been presented by the Commission and scientific or technical advances have made them obsolete (technical withdrawals).
The Better Regulation action plan 2005 provided for screening of proposals pending before the European Parliament and the Council, with regard to their relevance to the EU's Growth and Jobs priority and Better Regulation strategy ('political withdrawal'). All pending proposals made before 2004 were screened and as a result, 68 pending proposals were withdrawn in early 2006.
This initiative was an innovation, as it went beyond the regular withdrawal exercise of proposals no longer topical. Without prejudice to the possibility for the Commission to withdraw a pending proposal of any given moment, as of 2007, the Commission integrated a regular withdrawal exercise into its annual work programme.
To complete the 2005 screening, the Commission has carried out a similar exercise on pending proposals made before 2006. The outcome was 10 withdrawals in 2007 and 30 in 2008 raising the total to 108. The withdrawal of an additional 20 pending proposals is included in the 2009 Commision work programme.
legislation in itself represents simplification by replacing
legislations in the Member States (“one in, 27 out”).