Speech: Opening remarks at the Commission workshop with national experts on One in-One out [CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY]
Good morning. It’s a pleasure to be talking with you today, even though we are not yet able to meet in person. I know this format has its limitations compared to physical meetings, but I do believe it is important we continue to discuss these issues.
Hopefully, the lifting of restrictions forced upon us by the Covid-19 crisis will continue in the coming weeks and months. But in the meantime, the pandemic has helped to focus our minds on how best to move forward.
We are determined to emerge from this time of unrelenting crisis with a brighter future. Our unprecedented and far-reaching recovery plan is designed to kick-start the European economy, boost the green and digital transition, and make Europe fairer.
In order to maximise the effects of our actions, however, we need to ensure that they do not unnecessarily burden our citizens and businesses. We need to strengthen and refine our ongoing work on better regulation – we cannot afford to adopt a business-as-usual approach to policymaking.
The Covid-19 crisis has served to reinforce our conviction that we need legislation only when it brings clear benefits to Europeans; and that it should do so at minimum cost. Our overarching aim should be to cut red tape and write simple, targeted and easy to implement laws.
The one-in, one-out approach is essential in this context, as is the Fit-for-Future Platform we launched last month, and our renewed focus on consultation. In committing to one-in, one-out, President von der Leyen stressed the need to take political decisions that are necessary, do not create unnecessary burden for citizens and business and are based on evidence.
Working with stakeholders such as yourselves will be a vital part of this work in the coming months and years. But we are not starting from scratch. The Commission has a long history of reducing regulatory burden. Indeed, such simplification efforts have been part of our annual work programme since 2005.
For example, recent Annual Burden Surveys have identified several areas for improvement, such as the European Market Infrastructure Regulation where there are estimated savings of up to €6.9 billion in one-off costs and €2.66 billion in operation costs.
Or in VAT for SMEs, where a one-stop shop for traders selling goods online to deal with their VAT obligations is expected to reduce compliance costs by nearly €12 billion a year.
Let me reassure you that our commitment to reducing legislative burden has not wavered. Despite the turmoil which Covid-19 has caused, including in our legislative agenda, we will move forward with one-in, one-out in order to improve the everyday lives of Europeans and avoid subjecting businesses to burdens that limit their ability to function and grow.
I know you are all experts in this field, but I would like to briefly outline what our objectives are. The purpose of our approach to one-in, one-out is to compensate any burdens associated with new EU legislative proposals by eliminating equivalent existing burdens in the same policy area.
Given that EU legislation is implemented at national level, it is key to reinforce our cooperation with Member States and other stakeholders.
One-in, one-out will help us achieve our goal of producing high-quality legislation which reaches its objectives at minimum cost without lowering our social and ecological standards – ensuring that those on the ground can really feel the benefit of EU legislation.
In order to make one-in, one-out work at EU level, we cannot enforce it in a mechanical way. There needs to be close cooperation between the EU Institutions and the Member States, particularly when it comes to digitalisation and innovation. This was acknowledged at the meeting with the national oversight bodies held on 30 March. Some of those present even felt that simplification and digitalisation might be more important than cost reduction targets. In any case, we will continue to apply the digital-by-default principle in preparing EU legislation.
But it is also worth remembering that one-in, one-out at EU level will not be a simple copy-and-paste of a national approach. In our recent survey, 15 out of the 17 Member States which responded reported having a systematic policy in place to simplify existing legislation and reduce unnecessary costs. Much of this effort is targeted at reducing the costs of entrepreneurship and doing business.
But different Member States have implemented one-in, one-out in very different ways, and none of these national approaches can be applied in the same way at EU level.
We cannot develop a European-level approach to one-in, one-out alone, however. We need to draw on the vast experience in the Member States – a lot of which is represented here today. That is why we are having technical meetings with you and your national oversight bodies to understand how you apply regulatory simplification and explore ways to exchange data.
This is especially true when it comes to the difficult challenge of quantifying the different burdens of EU legislation. This cannot be done without the help of those at national level, where the real-world effects of legislation can be determined. And by working together and pooling information, we can build a shared culture of better regulation to better reduce burdens and costs of new legislation.
At the same time, we must not forget the need to streamline existing legislation and ensure it remains fit for purpose, removing unnecessary burdens wherever possible. That is why we are stepping up our REFIT platform to better consider cumulative costs for businesses in any given policy area based on evidence and contributions from stakeholders.
Building on that, we also launched the new Fit for Future platform last month. It will see a high-level expert group advising the Commission on how best to cut red tape and modernise EU laws, making them more future-proof. These experts will examine existing legislation to determine whether it still delivers on its aims in a changing world – for example, whether it provides enough opportunity for digitalisation. We hope that SMEs in particular will benefit from the platform.
It is only part of our work to engage more closely with stakeholders, however. The OECD considers the EU’s consultation system to be amongst the best in the world – for example, we carried out 417 public consultations between 2015 and 2018. But our recent better regulation stocktaking exercise showed us that the level of awareness among stakeholders on the opportunities to participate in the Commission’s policymaking process is still too low. Increasing this awareness is crucial to ensuring improved and less burdensome legislation. That’s why we are promoting and updating the Have Your Say web portal to keep stakeholders informed about the launching of initiatives and consultations.
We are also stepping up our collaboration with our partners, including the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Commission’s representations in Member States, national authorities and other representative associations – in part to help us identify which policies can be simplified and their burdens reduced.
To conclude, I can tell you that all of this work will come together in a Communication on better regulation in the autumn, which will have four main prongs:
• Taking account of burden reduction, notably one-in, one-out and the Fit for Future platform.
• Including foresight in our better regulation work.
• Improving our system of consulting stakeholders.
• And adapting our tools to current and future challenges.
This will be a key moment in our work on better regulation in general and one-in, one-out in particular, and your input will be extremely valuable. I am therefore very glad to be having this discussion with you today and I look forward to hearing what you have to say.