“Better regulation is not deregulation; it is not ideologically driven. It is about reducing unnecessary ‘red tape’, especially for SMEs; it is about making it easier for people to start a business, to hire more staff, to create more jobs”, said Frans Timmermans at his European Parliament hearing on 7 October.
If given the stamp of approval, the Dutch candidate for First Vice-President of the European Commission would be tasked with overseeing better regulation, inter-institutional relations, the rule of law and the charter of fundamental rights.
The EU Commission has been campaigning for nearly a decade to reduce the impact of EU legislation on business growth. Through programmes first dubbed "Better regulation" then "Smart regulation", the Commission has been trying to cut the "administrative cost" of firms, especially SMEs, complying with EU laws.
In October 2013, the "Better regulation" programme was taken a step further with the Commission’s launch of REFIT (Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme), an initiative aimed at simplifying European social legislation. The European trade unions argue that this could drive a horse and cart through many EU directives and regulations dealing with health and safety at work, social dialogue, information and consultation, environmental issues, etc.
The ETUI released its own critical assessment report on the REFIT initiative in late September.
The report examines how the different stakeholders have reacted to the relatively recent practice of Impact Analysis of elements of EU laws and the reduction of administrative and regulatory burdens. It also looks at how far REFIT represents a continuation of earlier exercises and to what extent it signals a new departure.
Its findings show that the “smart regulation” agenda has not so much simplified as bureaucratized matters. "Far from effecting any substantial reduction in costs, the smart regulation agenda has generated a creeping bureaucratisation of the process, affecting first and foremost the Commission. The procedures and bodies created to check out the ‘ripe fruits’ for the REFIT (…) have shown a tendency to replace, to some extent, the driving role of the Commission – even if this institution insists on denying it", writes report author Eric Van den Abeele (University of Mons-Hainaut).
ETUI: The EU's REFIT strategy: a new bureaucracy in the service of competitiveness?, September 2014.
Eric Van den Abeele
Laurent Vogel (ETUI)
Eric Van den Abeele (University of Mons-Hainaut, Belgium)