Barroso seizes control of ‘Better Regulation’ agenda

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Brussels’ bid to slash red tape by 25% is to be controlled by the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, as part of a shakeup of commissioners’ portfolios.

Responsibility for implementing the ‘Better Regulation‘ initiative currently rests with the enterprise commissioner, but Barroso said he wanted to raise the profile of cutting the administrative burden for businesses. 

“I have decided that in the new Commission the better regulation services, notably those in charge of reducing administrative burdens, will act under my direct authority, together with impact assessment and ex-post evaluation. And I will make sure that all our new initiatives are inspired by these principles of smart regulation,” he said. 

The news comes as the High Level Group (HLG) on Administrative Burdens presents its second report to the Commission, detailing regulations which should be cut in areas such as public procurement, company accounts and financial services. 

Proposals which could save businesses €40 billion per year have already been tabled by the EU executive and a further €30 billion could be freed up by additional reforms, according to Barroso. 

He urged the European Parliament and EU member states to quickly adopt all such proposals in order to help boost ailing companies, especially SMEs, which waste money trying to keep up with regulatory requirements. 

“I expect them to show the same commitment as the Commission is showing,” he said. 

The report by the HLG says reducing and preventing new administrative burdens is “a permanent task” and the European institutions should look at the organisational setup to ensure the issue does not lose momentum after the HLG’s mandate expires. 

The group will continue its work for another two years and Edmund Stoiber has agreed to stay on as chairperson for that period. 

Edmund Stoiber, chair of the HLG on administrative burdens, praised President Barrosso for making this "his personal project". Stoiber said the European institutions, which were previously the target of criticism over bureaucratic burdens, are now leading the way. He appealed to the European Parliament and member states to follow the EU executive's example by implementing its proposals as quickly as possible. 

"If the same sum of €40 billion can be cut in all member states, that would be a real achievement," he said. 

Stoiber confirmed that he was prepared to extend his mandate, which expires in August 2010, to participate in the integrated efforts of the committee and the Commission. 

Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, whose term as enterprise commissioner is coming to an end, said he was pleased President Barroso had decided to make better regulation a priority. He expressed confidence that member states would play their part in cutting red tape at national level, but he acknowledged there had been "resistance" from some countries. 

Commission President José Manuel Barroso said Europe must set aside ideological approaches to regulation and adopt "smart regulation" during the next executive's term of office. 

"We have been ambitious and serious. In less than three years, the Commission has put forward ambitious proposals that – once adopted – will reduce red tape stemming from EU legislation by 25%. We have lived up to our commitment. We will continue to have a very close look at the recommendations, since our ambitious project of getting rid of all unnecessary administrative burdens in the EU is not yet completed," he said. 

Simplifying and improving the EU regulatory environment was one of the priorities of the first Barroso Commission and is a key element of the Lisbon Strategy and the Small Business Act (EURACTIV 1/10/09). 

The EU executive is working to lower costs for SMEs by reducing the administrative burden of unnecessary regulation by 25% by 2012. In the process, it hopes to shed its long-standing reputation as an overly bureaucratic institution. 

As well as cutting back on existing regulation, new legislation is analysed to ensure that it does not add to the burden on businesses. In 2007, the Commission established an independent High Level Group of Independent Stakeholders on Administrative Burdens (HLG) chaired by Edmund Stoiber, charged with pinpointing specific areas where red tape can be cut. 

  • End of October: European Commission to present review of better regulation. 

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