Conference questions effectiveness of self-regulation

A Friends of Europe Conference on 5 March 2007 highlighted the difficulties posed by business’s voluntary agreements to prevent hard-core legislation.

“One man’s self-regulation is another man’s single-market regulation,” said Giles Merritt of Friends of Europe at the start of a ‘Cafe Crossfire’ debate on self-regulation and red tape on 5 March. The debate pitted defenders of industry self-regulation against consumer and environmental lobbyists who believe that legislation is still the best way of dealing with structural market failures.

Jean-Pierre De Greve, secretary-general of Vinyl 2010, opened the discussion by highlighting the progress made by the PVC industry in implementing a voluntary EU commitment to sustainable development

Heikki Salmi, advisor to the Commission’s DG Enterprise, presented an overview of the initiatives undertaken by his institution as regards better regulation  and the prevention of “red tape”.

Jim Murray, director of European consumer organisation BEUC, questioned whether self-regulation is the best practice to regulate the relation between business and consumers. Pointing to several self-regulation initiatives that ended in failure (such as detergents, cars’ CO2 emissions), Murray thought it was time for an independent study to evaluate the EU’s self-regulation drive. “It is a triumph of hope over experience,” Murray concluded. Several members of the mostly business-oriented audience did not agree and defended their own experiences with self-regulation.

Green MEP Monica Frassoni stated that “better regulation” did not really “regulate better but was more about deregulation”. If self-regulation is needed to improve competitiveness, Frassoni said, then “I do not want competitiveness which will allow companies to pollute.” She also pointed to the need for better implementation once laws have been adopted.

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