The Brief: Is ‘better regulation’ getting better?


Is the European Commission’s ‘better regulation’ strategy getting, well, better?

The REFIT program, where EU laws are called in for “fitness checks”, was touted as Brussels’ response to the accusation it was drowning Europe in red tape.

Better regulation would allow existing and pending EU rules to be scrutinised, tweaked, and improved, we were told.

Unfortunately the idea got off to a rocky start. The hugely controversial withdrawal of the Circular Economy Package, and the calling in of the Birds and Habitats Directive raised fears the strategy was a ploy to destroy environmental protection rules.

The outcry overshadowed the fact the Commission had called in many more pieces of legislation, some of which needed re-tuning or dumping.

Today, the Commission said it had used REFIT to look at rules on the use of fingerprint registration and biometrics in visa applications. Its report warned that the system needs to be developed further to cope with future pressures.

This is techy stuff but highly relevant when Europe is struggling with the migration crisis. Whatever the wrongs or rights of EU migration policy, this is of real practical use to member states.

The Commission was quick to slap down any suggestion that rules such as the Dublin Regulation on asylum – which couldn’t cope with the refugee crisis – could be brought under the better regulation microscope.

That’s probably right. The Commission should not use REFIT to call whole pieces of EU law into question.

It should analyse the law, identify specific issues, and propose surgical strikes on the specific parts of EU legislation that don’t work.

Everybody loves a good plumber. One who comes in, fixes a leak and leaves with a minimum of fuss. That’s what REFIT and better regulation should aspire for.

This Brief was powered by acumen public affairs.


Wallonia has propelled itself onto the international stage. Despite warnings that voting down CETA would turn the region into the ‘Cuba of Europe‘, the Walloonatics went ahead and did it anyway. It’s a blow but the deal isn’t dead quite yet.

Sadly, the Commission had no comment on the Cubanisation of Belgium’s French-speaking region, which isn’t quite as popular a tourist destination as the Caribbean socialist paradise.

The European Court of Auditors has been asked to scrutinise the travel expenses of Kristalina Georgieva to see if she was using EU cash to campaign for UN Secretary-General.

Europe and Russia are working together to explore Mars! Maybe take a quick look at Syria first guys…

Tusk, Juncker and Schulz talked Brexit, Putin, Trump and populism last night. In more populism news, Geert Wilders is facing trial for inciting racial hatred.

The German elections are no excuse to forget about Greek debt and German industry has warned against excessive open data requirements.

Nicola Sturgeon’s major Brexit demand is that Scotland remains in the single market. Alain Juppé came out top in the TV debate between the centre-right presidential candidates in France.

France wants elections to be held in Eastern Ukraine and EU ministers plan funding cuts on a successful youth unemployment scheme.

Merkel’s trip to Africa to talk migration has drawn mixed reviews and the EU has reduced clam size restrictions to help Italian fishermen.


Environment ministers in Luxembourg will debate the effort-sharing regulation, which governs the member states’ share of the EU emissions reduction target. Expect grumbling from Poland and Italy.

The European Parliament’s Dieselgate inquiry committee will on Monday and Thursday hear from Fiat/Chrysler, the German Federal Minister of Transport, and Lower Saxony’s Transport Minister, who is the very aptly named Olaf Lies


Subscribe to our newsletters