Analysis: Europe needs a subsidiarity early-warning mechanism

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Edmund Stoiber, Minister-President of Bavaria, writes in Europe’s World‘s summer edition that a subsidiarity early warning mechanism would – along with an improved regulatory impact assessment system – constitute a major step towards a stronger, more competitive EU.

Acceptance of the EU by its citizens is on the decline and Mr. Stoiber points to a lack of knowledge about the EU, enlargement anxiety and “increasing regulation and bureaucracy from Brussels” as sources of the problem. He goes on to give examples of violations of the subsidiarity principle and areas of overregulation recorded by Germany’s Bundesrat. Among them are aspects of the EU’s directive on flood risk management, the Flora, Fauna, Habitat (FFH) directive and the REACH proposal on safer chemicals management. Mr. Stoiber argues, “strict observance of the subsidiarity principle and improvements in EU level legislation are crucial to reinvigorating citizens’ acceptance of the European project.”

These issues are particularly important in an enlarged EU according to Mr. Stoiber, and immediate action should be taken. He suggests:

  • Installing a system of procedural safeguards for the subsidiarity principle: The constitutional treaty included an early-warning mechanism for subsidiarity control that should be revived. “With the early warning mechanism for subsidiarity control the national parliaments would be directly involved in the European legislative process.”
  • Using the system so the Commission would be obligated to “transmit proposals directly to the national parliaments” and giving them six months to determine if there is a violation of subsidiarity. If a third of parliaments decide there is a violation, the Commission would be required to reconsider the proposal.

Mr. Stoiber sees an enforceable subsidiarity system along with improved regulatory impact assessment as “key contribution(s) to Europe’s competitiveness”.

  • “National parliaments will no longer be required to implement provisions that they may, sometimes for very good reasons, believe to be wrong.”
  • Simple regulation can act as an “anti-recession package” by reducing costs for business and society in general, as well as “giving a clear political signal that Europe intends to introduce a comprehensive simplification of EU rules.”
  • He notes that Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen calculated simplified regulation can lead to a 25% reduction in bureaucracy costs.
  • Concerning regulatory impact assessment, he suggests creating “a kind of Austro-German standardisation organisation, like ‘Norms Review TÜV,’ but at EU level to examine the reasons for each new piece of regulation and to assess whether it would impose an excessive bureaucratic load.”

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