Reducing unnecessary red tape

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

Reducing the administrative burden on business “would really make a difference” by saving €1.3 billion a year, write Fabian Zuleeg and Marie-Hélène Fandel of the European Policy Centre.

But their September paper argues that cutting “red tape” could “make business legislation less effective,” stressing that the main concern must be meeting policy objectives. Business legislation must be used to “provide cross-border access to public contracts and encourage competition within the single market,” insist Zuleeg and Fandel. 

Indeed, cutting the administrative burden of EU leagislation on business by 25% by 2012 is the goal of a High Level Expert Group (HLG) on Administrative Burdens chaired by former Minister-President of Bavaria Edmund Stoiber. But the means of achieving this objective is a matter of debate and making progress will prove to be difficult, say the authors. 

Moreover, “the benefits of cutting red tape can be distributed quite unevenly” and facilitating progress may be seen by some as “an unacceptable watering down of policy,” says the paper. 

Public procurement exemplifies this difficulty, say the authors. One major issue is that much of the administrative burden is set by regional and national public authorities, which limits the scope for cutting red tape, they argue. 

The paper warns of the risks of “tinkering with EU legislation,” which they fear could raise costs for small and medium-sized companies. 

The authors call for “balanced use of e-procurement,” with improved databases, and a “pre-qualifying” system that would altogether increase the efficiency of procurement systems. 

The paper concludes that “without stakeholder involvement and impact assessment, the EU is in danger of missing its fundamental objective: not less regulation, but better regulation which achieves the EU’s policy objectives effectively with the minimum burden possible”. 

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