REFIT – EU Commission making EU law lighter, simpler and less costly

Just a few days ahead of the European Council, the Commission pushes the EU’s smart regulation agenda further. A Communication adopted today shows that the implementation of the Commission’s Regulatory Fitness and Performance programme (REFIT) is in full swing and that EU law is indeed becoming lighter, simpler and less costly. In addition, the Commission is stepping up the momentum of smart regulation by presenting a number of new initiatives for simplification, withdrawals of pending proposals and repeals of existing legislation. The first edition of an annual scoreboard assesses the progress made in all policy areas and for each individual initiative, including on the side of Council and Parliament. (For details see below and MEMO).

President Barroso said:

“The Commission is extending its smart regulation agenda. REFIT is important for economic growth and jobs in Europe. We want to facilitate the lives of our citizens and businesses by focusing EU law on those issues that are best dealt with at European level, while making it lighter, simpler and less costly. We are making good progress. But results do not come over night. Success demands continued efforts, clear political priorities and ownership by all EU institutions and in particular the Member States. It is crucially important to continue this work in the next legislature.”

Today’s REFIT Communication and Scoreboard highlight progress in the following areas:

Action taken by the Commission

Most of the legislative proposals for simplification and burden reduction identified in October 2013 have been adopted already or are planned for adoption this year. The Commission formally approved and published 53 withdrawals of pending proposals after consultation of Parliament and Council, including all nine REFIT initiatives. The Commission also decided not to present a number of proposals, for example in the areas of occupational safety and health for hairdressers. The Commission is preparing repeals of existing EU legislation as foreseen and work has started on evaluations and Fitness Checks in areas such as waste, occupational safety and health and the General Food Law.

Action taken by Council and European Parliament

Since October 2013, the legislator (Parliament and Council) has adopted a number of important proposals for simplification and burden reduction including legislation on the recognition of professional qualifications, procurement and the digital tachograph.

Action taken by Member States

According to estimates, up to 1/3 of administrative burden linked to EU legislation stems from national implementation measures1. Member States therefore have the important responsibility not only of the timely implementation and full application of EU Law but also of doing so in the least burdensome way. In that regard, it is up to Member States’ authorities to use simplification options offered by EU legislation and ensure that EU laws are applied on the national, regional and local level as effectively and efficiently as possible.

New REFIT actions announced by the Commission today

Keeping EU legislation ‘fit for purpose’ requires continuous efforts. For this reason, the Commission implements REFIT as a rolling programme and has recently updated the mapping and screening exercise of the EU’s legislative stock which was first carried out under REFIT in 2013. The comments and suggestions by various stakeholders to the Commission’s REFIT agenda received since October 2013 were also taken into consideration.

On the basis of this analysis, the Commission considers that new initiatives for simplification and burden reduction are warranted in several areas. These initiatives include the simplification of EU legislation on identity and travel documents, the development of a new comprehensive architecture for business statistics, the extension of the one-stop-shop in the area of VAT to all business to consumer supplies together with the development of an EU VAT Web portal to inform businesses about national and EU VAT rules and the codification of legislation on third country listings for visa requirements.

The Commission will prepare repeals of legislation in further areas: energy labelling, transport rates and conditions, the Common Agricultural Policy and in relation to standardized reporting in the area of environment. In addition, the Commission is also screening the acquis in respect of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters to identify acts which could be repealed in the context of the expiry of the transitional period set out in the Treaties.

The Commission considers it good legislative management to withdraw proposals that do not advance in the legislative process, in order to allow for a fresh start or for alternative ways to achieve the intended legislative purpose. A close scrutiny of all pending proposals before the legislator has resulted in the identification of further proposals which are either outdated or without support by the legislator and should therefore be withdrawn.

These include proposals on investor compensation schemes, pregnant workers, aviation security charges and on a compensation fund for oil pollution damage. A proposal on exempting micro companies from certain food hygiene provisions, pending in legislative procedure since 2007, will also be suggested for withdrawal.

Given timing considerations relative to the new legislature, the current Commission will focus on key items in 2014. The Commission is screening its planning agenda and will retain only the most essential items.

Finally, the Commission envisages launching over the medium term several new evaluations and Fitness Checks of the performance of existing EU regulations and the application of Treaty law.

A joint endeavour

Regulatory fitness can only be achieved jointly by European Institutions, Member States and stakeholders in business and civil society. Regulatory fitness should be given priority and all EU institutions should assess the impacts of their policy choices whether at the preparation stage or in the legislative process. Today, obstacles to smart regulation still regularly arise because of lack of commitment and ownership on the side of the other institutions, Member States and stakeholders in business and civil society.

The Commission will monitor the implementation practice by Member States of these and all other REFIT actions and include the state of play in the next edition of its scoreboard planned for 2015. The Commission continues to work with Member States and stakeholders to produce more sound information on the impacts of EU regulation. The results of this work will feed into the next REFIT scoreboard.

A new High-level Group

Until now, two High Level Groups on Better Regulation and Administrative Burdens have supported the Commission in implementing its smart regulation agenda. The Commission considers that this support and expertise can most usefully be combined in one single group, with a revised mandate to assess the impact of EU regulation on the ground in Member States. The Commission will make the proposal for creating this new High Level group in the coming months.

Next steps

The Commission will continue to implement all REFIT initiatives as outlined in its Work Programme for 2014.

All new initiatives presented today are set-out indicatively in the Staff Working Document and are subject to confirmation in the Commission Work Programme for 2015.

Further information: EU Commission


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