The regulatory fitness and performance programme (Refit), launched by the commission in December 2012, is important for jobs and growth in Europe, as it aims to make EU law lighter, simpler and less costly so that citizens and businesses benefit.
Some might argue that this puts into question the EU's policy objectives, but this is far from true as it seeks more effective ways to achieve them. Under Refit, the commission regularly screens the entire stock of EU legislation for burdens, inconsistencies and ineffective measures, and identifies corrective action accordingly. The aim is to make sure that the policy objectives are achieved and the benefits of EU legislation are enjoyed at the lowest cost and with the least administrative burden possible.
The Refit: state of play and outlook report published last June is the most recent of its kind and, I believe, has a number of key aspects. The annual statement of costs to business of regulation is one of these, which asks for the commission to produce a statement of this kind.
Vicky Ford: Businesses 'must be freed from the shackles of burdensome regulation'
I feel this is essential if we are to tackle burdens, because without a measure of how we are adding or subtracting costs or burdens, we cannot judge our success. We can be hugely successful in cutting existing burdens, but if we are only replacing them with new costs and regulatory hurdles, we are not doing a good job for businesses and our citizens, who often ultimately bear the costs.
We have also improved impact assessments significantly. There is now the possibility to comment on draft impact assessments, including via a notice and comment approach, and also extending this to secondary legislation. This is most important to ensuring that our legislation tackles the problems identified, in the least burdensome and most effective way possible.
This is particularly important when we talk of secondary legislation, which is having an increased impact on the internal market and which until now has not always been properly assessed. By improving the transparency and evaluation of all proposals coming from the commission, draft laws will correspondingly be improved, as too often we have poorly justified and poorly designed proposals coming to the European parliament.
One of the most crucial achievements to date is our burden reduction target, which we have asked to be set at 25 per cent for a stakeholder forum. This is an idea that I am very supportive of and that already works well in Denmark and was replicated recently by the UK government.
I believe involving the actual 'end users' of legislation - the businesses or the citizens who have to comply with the regulations - in assessing them and suggesting improvements is a powerful idea that can help us really tackle the problems that exist in our regulatory environment.
Finally, I am very pleased that there was a majority for the 'comply or explain' principle to apply here, which will help make sure that the commission treats these ideas seriously and oblige the college to respond if they don't take on the forum's recommendations. This way, the commission will be transformed from another 'talking shop' into something that could be very useful in our drive to cut red tape - a key aim of the Conservative party in the EU.