Message for the next mandate: One in, four out!

MEP Nils Torvalds calls for Parliamentary successors to simplify incoming legislation, ensuring it replaces defunct law and doesn’t add complexity to the bloc’s ever-growing administrative burden

By Nils Torvalds

Nils Torvalds (FI, RE) is a member of the delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee

04 Apr 2024

In the European Union we have had the tendency to promise a lot. In fact, we tend to be the best continent at promising to become the best at pretty much everything.

Already, during the Lisbon Process, a promise to be the most competitive and dynamic economy in 2010 was coined. The target was never reached but no one has been willing to admit that we failed. It is still part of the dogma of the European Parliament.

Before I continue my criticism, let me start by underlining that the EU has, in many fields, not just talked the talk, but also walked the walk. We have the world’s fairest labour markets, the first functioning vaccine against Covid was developed here, and without the efforts of the EU there would be no credible green transition on a global level, to name just a few positive examples.

However – and this is where I start what I call a constructive criticism for the future of the EU – we have, for a long time now, fallen behind China and the United States in the development of vital industries. Looking into the reasons why this has gone astray, we need to understand that the EU has filled the gap with very detailed, and sometimes very burdensome, legislation.

While well intended, the detailed proposals from the European Commission countered by an equally detailed but different position by the Parliament often clash with the Council’s wish to keep things more flexible for member states. Even if the nice speeches always ask for less administrative burden, most agreements from trilogue negotiations end up increasing that very burden.

In several of these speeches, the importance of the “one in, one out” principle for new legislation also gets its fair share of attention. New legislation should not create a new complex layer but instead clearly replace existing legislation. Many political leaders have repeated the importance of this principle throughout the years, not least the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

The number of new layers, as well as the level of detail and contradiction between existing legislation, has kept on growing

Yet, the reality during this Commission has been contradictory to the principle. The number of new layers, as well as the level of detail and contradiction between existing legislation, has kept on growing. Our solution has once again been to increase the level of complexity, leading to further administrative burden and insecurity for those who are trying to implement the change we are demanding.

My proposal for the next mandate would therefore be: “One in, four out!”

First, the upcoming five years will be about making sure that this mountain of legislation is actually implementable. Where this is not the case, we need to take a good look and see if we aren’t the victims of wishful thinking.

We also need to ensure that the new legislation coming out of the EU machinery focuses more on increasing the stability of the legislative frameworks, thereby enabling different paths to our ultimate goals.

Everything starts with the silos of the Commission, but the Parliament also plays a crucial role here. In my worst nightmares, I wake up with a feeling that the Parliament is on a path to more burdensome, unimplementable legislation. We as parliamentarians need to be able to stop requesting for more complexity. Our attempts to solve the challenge of lagging behind on the global stage have not delivered the right results.

This summer, I’m saying goodbye to the Parliament, but I sincerely hope that I’m not forced to take leave of my European dreams. In the next mandate the margins for a constructive majority in the Parliament will be very thin. That is going to demand of those taking over more stamina and more realism; stamina to blow up the silos of the Commission, and realism to understand what Europe needs for the future.