Refit is a chance to prove EU's commitment to better law-making

Both MEPs and the commission have long worked to reduce the EU's administrative burden, but the job is not finished, says Angelika Niebler.

By Angelika Niebler

04 May 2015

European citizens are tired of an EU that is too far away, too bureaucratic, with too much regulation on too many details. The European commission, with its 'new start for Europe', is determined to change that.

Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker wants an EU that is 'bigger and more ambitious on big things, and smaller and more modest on small things' and he certainly has my full support in this regard.

The principle of subsidiarity is the building of a strong foundation for the functioning of the EU and has long been included in the treaty. In areas which do not fall within the EU's exclusive competence, the union shall act only if the objectives of the proposal cannot be sufficiently achieved by the member states – either at central, regional or local level.


Back in 2006, the commission began its ambitious work on reducing regulatory burdens created by European legislation, therefore making the EU more attractive, especially for its small and medium sized enterprises.

The key is to 'think small first'. In its action programme, the commission – together with EU member states – made a commitment to reducing administrative burdens by 25 per cent before the end of 2012.

A high level group led by former Bavarian minister-president Edmund Stoiber was set up as an independent body to advise the college. Needless to say, it was very successful, with the reduction of administrative burdens resulting in annual savings of €33.4bn, including €18.8bn in savings on invoicing costs and €6.6bn on annual accounting requirements.

Parliament has consistently called for more work to be done on improving EU law-making and cutting red tape. In 2011, I was parliament's rapporteur on guaranteeing independent impact assessments, and the house now has a unit dedicated to this, in order for independent impact assessments to be carried out on legislative proposals.

It is now well-established and the committees often go to it for advice on topics such as the cost of 'non-Europe', European added value and the economic, social and environmental impact of the legislation that features on parliament's agenda.

At the end of 2012, the commission published its first communication on the so-called regulatory fitness and performance programme (Refit). The goal back then remains unchanged today – to eliminate unnecessary regulatory costs and to ensure that the EU legislative body is fit for purpose.

However, more work needs to be done. Parliament's EPP group fully supports the college's 2015 work programme, which demonstrates Juncker's commitment to achieving his goal – only 23 new initiatives have been proposed for adoption this year, compared to an average of over 130 new initiatives featured in the annual work programmes of the previous commission.

The EPP group will call for a thorough but swift renegotiation of the 2003 interinstitutional agreement on better law-making. Since then, the Lisbon treaty has come into force and we must take into account the new legislative environment we find ourselves in, and bring the agreement up to date with the better law-making agenda.

The group will also reiterate its request to strengthen the independence of the impact assessment board and for it to report directly to European commission first vice-president for better regulation, interinstitutional relations, the rule of law and the charter of fundamental rights Frans Timmermans.

Lastly, we would like to highlight the 'one-in-one-out' approach that has already been introduced in some member states, and call for a 'sunset clause' in new legislation, so that it has an automatic end date unless a revision comes to a different conclusion. After all is said and done, we will see how committed the commission truly is to better law-making.


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