NNR: Smart approach to the single market

09.02.2012 / 05:01 CET

The differing way that EU directives are transposed and implemented is a problem for the EU.

Your Europa column last week suggested that, at their 30 January summit, EU leaders gave their ministers a clear signal to reach swift agreement on single-market initiatives (“Emerging from the doldrums?” 2-8 January). Twenty years after its launch, it is high time to complete the single market.

One problem that needs attention is the differing way that EU directives are transposed and implemented. The result is the opposite of a level playing field. Often, this comes in the form of ‘gold-plating’, the practice of implementing rules tougher than the minimum required by the EU.

Our research shows that the UK is the only member state that has defined gold-plating and given civil servants specific guidelines on how to deal with it. The Commission has its own, different definition.

Finding a universal definition of gold-plating is the starting point for a process that will either end this practice, which causes businesses significant unnecessary costs, or oblige governments to justify its use.

We are pleased to see the European Parliament being a trail-blazer by establishing a unit to assess the impact of substantive amendments during the transposition of EU directives. The Council of Ministers should follow suit.

Another priority should be for the Council and the European Parliament to complete the Commission’s flagship programme to simplify regulation, which ends this year. The Commission put forward proposals that it estimated would save business €38 billion; the Council and the Parliament have yet to decide on €11bn of those proposals.

The end of that programme – the ‘action programme for reducing administrative burdens’ – begs another question: what will come next? We will need a new target. It would be a genuine success for Denmark’s presidency of the Council if it brokered agreement on a target to reduce the overall burden of EU regulation.

The crisis has brought ‘smart regulation’ to the top of the political agenda. Let smart regulation stand for regulation that is simple (to understand and comply with), meaningful (pro-growth), aligned (with EU regulations and trade rules), realistic (feasible at reasonable cost) and timely (dealing with current issues and providing adequate time for adaptation).

Jens Hedström
Board of Swedish Industry and Commerce for Better Regulation (NNR)

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