NGOs launch watchdog to keep an eye on the Commission’s ‘Better Regulation’

Frans Timmermans at his Parliament hearing [European Parliament / Flickr]

Frans Timmermans at his Parliament hearing. [European Parliament]

Ahead of the expected announcement of the European Commission’s ‘Better Regulation’ reforms, more than 50 civil society organisations have joined forces to create a watchdog to protect the rights of citizens, workers and consumers.

The network was launched on Monday (18 May) and is concerned that the Better Regulation agenda, under the direction of Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, will “weaken or undermine essential regulations and subordinate the public good to corporate interests”.

The European Commission’s 2015 Work Programme sets out 23 new initiatives proposed by the Juncker Commission, following political guidelines presented to the Parliament. The executive intends to withdraw or amend 80 existing proposals for political or technical reasons.

>> Read: European Commission’s ‘Better Regulation’ has killed 100,000, say unions

The Work Programme presents actions which the Commission will deliver in 2015. In addition, in many areas, the Commission will also continue to work to ensure that existing policies and rules are fit for purpose.

“We observe a lack of willingness from the new Commission to take the measures necessary to protect consumers from unhealthy food, dangerous chemicals in consumer products or to provide for better labelling. Several initiatives have been delayed or are not being pursued anymore. The Better Regulation Watchdog network which unites civil society interest groups from various sectors is a clear signal to the Commission not to jeopardise legislation protecting public interests,” said Monique Goyens, Director General of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC).

The new network comprises a wide range of public interest groups including consumer, environmental, development, financial, social, and public health organisations and trade unions. Together they represent tens of millions of European citizens.

Last week, more than 100 environmental NGOs also said that they feared that the Commission may use its Better Regulation programme to cut nature protection laws.

The network will examine actions taken under the Better Regulation initiative to identify possible risks to existing and future social, labour, environmental, consumer, financial regulation and public health standards.

>> Read: NGOs fear ‘better regulation’ could hurt environment

Afterwards, the watchdog will inform civil society, media and decision makers of these risks by for example organising public debates.

Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe, stated what has been a common accusation among NGOs lately, that the Commission’s Better Regulation agenda is essentially a deregulation measure.

Frans Timmermans, and the Commission, have repeatedly denied this claim.

>> Read: Commission wants to vet changes to draft EU law

Christophe Nijdam, Secretary General of Finance Watch said: “Growth and jobs need financial stability. The completion of a solid regulatory framework for the financial sector is one of the "big things" that Europe should focus on. As a member of this network we will watch the outputs of the Better Regulation initiative closely.”

Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa commented: “The idea to create the Better Regulation Watchdog was formed in a conversation between a small group of people. Now we are over 50 organisations! Together we will share intel, watch the Commission, and united react to safeguard the interests of workers, civil society and consumers.”

Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, pledged to refocus the EU executive on the bigger political issues of the day and cut regulations seen as unnecessary or hampering business activity.

Juncker appointed his First Vice-President Frans Timmermans to a new role, watching over the subsidiarity principle, whereby the EU should only intervene where it can act more effectively than national or local governments.

The Council of the EU and European Parliament make amendments to draft law. The better regulation strategy calls for substantive amendment to be scrutinised by experts.

  • 19 May: Expected announcement of the Commission’s so-called ‘Better Regulation’ reforms.

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