New legislation must demonstrate the added value of EU involvement

Othmar Karas says EU better regulation objectives need to be matched by better implementation at national level.

By Othmar Karas

Othmar Karas (AT, EPP) is First Vice-President of the European Parliament

08 May 2015

The sheer torrent and complexity of EU legislation has created a negative image of bloated bureaucracy in the eyes of the European people. Studies have revealed that 74 per cent of Europeans believe that the EU creates too much bureaucracy and, ultimately, this view is based on poorly communicated laws, which are ostensibly seen as diktats from Brussels.

This is not how the EU functions and it should not be perceived this way. Over the past decade, 6,100 legal acts have been repealed and 300 proposals rejected after they were proven to be outdated, no longer appropriate or superfluous.

Last year the commission announced the withdrawal of 73 legislative proposals, and this was officially confirmed a few weeks ago. The new college has set better legislation as one of its core objectives, and is designing its structure accordingly.


Since 2012, the regulatory fitness and performance (Refit) programme has identified specific measures for the simplification, reduction and repeal of legal acts and the withdrawal of proposals which have been debated for far too long and are wasting useful resources. However, in no way does intelligent regulation mean deregulation or dropping high standards.

I was the opinion rapporteur on Refit for parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee. My proposals, consisting of 11 core requirements for better EU legislation to strengthen the internal market while benefiting both citizens and companies, were adopted on 17 March. 

I believe EU legislation must show clear added value and avoid fragmentation between member states.

For each European law put in place, a national law should be abolished. Costs of compliance should be estimated well in advance, in addition to the costs of failing to act at the European level. Policymakers must also bear in mind the 'think small first' principle, and compulsory small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) tests should be carried out as part of each impact assessment.

The 'Your Europe' portal was designed to provide specific information for SMEs, but it is out of date and should be upgraded into a usable EU information tool. We should be thinking about how EU information can be more clearly presented and targeted to the right audiences.

A third of the administrative costs associated with EU law arise from individual state implementation measures, which is something that needs to be considered. 'Gold-plating' - when member states give European directives additional powers while transcribing them into national law - should be avoided.

Impact assessments should be required as standard for delegated and implementing acts if they are expected to have a considerable effect. Moreover, the interinstitutional agreement on 'better regulation' should be revised and there must be a mutual exchange of proven methods. 

We measure the costs of not being in Europe, so compliance costs should also be made measurable. Implementation of EU law at national level should be evaluated, reported and measured by the member states. 

We must use and further develop proven methods, while anyone wanting to get involved in a consultation requiring specialist knowledge should not be being discouraged by convoluted language. 

The high level group on better regulation - formerly known as the Stoiber group should also continue its work, under the responsibility of commission first vice-president Frans Timmermans, and be given an independent advisory mandate. 

Hearings and consultations with stakeholders should be timely, transparent and clear, and qualitative analysis methods should ensure that minority views are also taken into account.

While the commission has pledged further fitness checks on legislation, and this should be commended, what Europe also needs is the coherent use of existing EU law and stringent implementation of directives in the member states.