EU axes regulation in competitiveness drive

EU ministers agreed to scrap “unnecessary” EU laws on wood- and product-packaging and to lower application costs for EU-wide trademarks, saying that this would help bolster the Union’s competitiveness.

  • Better regulation

Ministers committed to pushing ahead with the EU’s better-regulation agenda, notably with plans to slash the administrative burden placed on businesses by 25% by 2012 – a move that it claims could give a €150 billion boost to the European economy. 

Confirming their resolve, they agreed to scrap EU legislation regulating the quality and size of wood and to abolish rules, dating from the 1970s, determining nominal quantities in which products can be sold, such as the size of bread loaves. 

  • Intellectual property

Ministers agreed that the EU would “significantly” reduce its fees for registering trademarks and designs for goods and services for EU-wide protection at the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market, with a view to encouraging innovation and protecting companies from counterfeiting and piracy. 

They also agreed to commissioning a study on the further development of the EU trademark system, which remains costly for applicants due to burdensome translation requirements. 

  • Strengthening the single market

Ministers broadly supported Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen’s plan to give fresh impetus to the internal market for goods by sorting out some of the problems encountered in the implementation on the “mutual recognition principle” (EURACTIV 14/02/07). 

The idea is to make it more difficult for member states to block imports of specific products under false health or environmental pretences, by transferring to national administrations the burden of proving that a product is unsafe if they wish to remove it from their market. 

Currently, it is up to companies to demonstrate that their products, which are not subject to Community harmonisation, comply with a country’s rules and standards. This can dissuade small- and medium-size enterprises from operating outside their home markets because the costs of additional tests required by some countries surpass the profit that they could earn by marketing the product. 

Nevertheless, member states have yet to agree on how to treat a number of specific products, such as high-quality metals. Ministers hope for a compromise text by the end of June. 

European Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen welcomed the agreement to repeal EU legislation on wood standards, saying that the directive had "become a symbol of unnecessary regulation". He said that the Council's decision to repeal this directive and simplify rules on pre-packaging, which fixed the quantities in which products could be sold, showed that the Commission was "working hard to cut unnecessary red tape on all fronts". 

The Commission welcomed this "first tangible withdrawal of a European law since [it] announced its Better Regulation Programme in 2005". 

German Federal Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries welcomed the reduction of fees collected by the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market, which is in charge of registering trademarks and designs, saying: "This fee reduction strengthens Europe as an economic location. In the future, it will be possible to register trade marks and designs through OHIM at significantly lower cost. This helps all those who wish to protect their rights against unauthorised counterfeiting, not only within their own countries but also throughout all of Europe." 

The European Union's 27 ministers in charge of competitiveness met on 21 May 2007 to debate industrial and innovation policies.

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