EU falls behind on cutting red tape

Plans to simplify 54 laws by the end of 2006 are unlikely to be completed, pushing up costs for European businesses, says Enterprise and Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen.

In another outburst against Brussels bureaucracy (see EURACTIV 5 October 2006), Verheugen has blamed officials inside the Commission for ‘obstructing his campaign to streamline or scrap legislation’, according to the Financial Times. 

He said that some officials have failed to adapt to the “new political culture” and that they still believe that ‘more rules’ mean ‘more Europe’. “I don’t share that view,” he said. 

According to new estimates of the administrative costs of EU legislation, the annual burden for business will be double original estimate of 320 billion euro. “I’m impatient because I feel it is a matter of urgency,” said the commissioner, citing the new figures. 

Denmark and the Netherlands, which have embarked on ambitious schemes to simplify their business regulation, are also concerned about the slow pace of EU bureaucratic reform. “The Commission’s plan was to simplify 54 laws this year, but only five have been tackled. That is alarming,” said Dutch finance and Danish business ministers in a joint letter. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also backed the drive and has pledged to make it one of the top priorities during her country’s EU presidency in 2007. 

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