Every year, the European Commission adopts a plan of action for the next twelve months. The Work Programme is prepared in dialogue with the European Parliament and with the European Council.
In the year 2015 the Work Programme has set its focus on a series of proposals and existing legislation, which will be reviewed for the benefit of Europe’s citizens and entrepreneurs. The EU’s regulations play a key role in creating growth and jobs, which is the Juncker Commission’s top priority. While all political forces support this objective in principle, the key challenge is how exactly to achieve it, through more or less regulation? The new EU Executive believes that the answer is to keep EU legislation simple – not to go beyond what is necessary to achieve policy goals and to avoid overlapping layers of regulation.
The Commission’s Regulatory Fitness Programme (REFIT) seeks to cut red tape and remove regulating burdens. The goal is to make EU law simpler, therefore contributing to a clear framework supporting growth and jobs. Core actions of the REFIT are the legislative amendments, fitness checks (a joint evaluation work between the Commission and the Member States) and evaluations of the existing legislations.
These initiatives include the simplification of the EU legislation on identity and travel documents and the repeal of legislation in energy labelling, transport conditions and the Common Agricultural Policy.
Within the framework of REFIT, the Commission regularly withdraws proposals that are outdated or do not have the support of the legislator. Since October 2013, a number of important proposals for simplification and burden reduction have already been adopted, or are planned for adoption this year, by the Parliament and the Council.
For example, the EP and the Council repealed and recast the Common commercial policy, which was originally adopted in March 2012 (click here to see the vote). Also, the directive regarding the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances and mixtures (click here to see the vote in the EP) will be repealed in June 2015.
Work has started on the Fitness Checks in the legislative areas of waste, the protection of birds and habitats (Natura 2000), passenger ship safety and the General Food Law.
Political groups argue over cutting the red tape
The framework of REFIT has been approved by both the Council and the EP, which acknowledges work already undertaken in recent years and proposes further steps to make the EU regulations lighter. Nevertheless, the political groups in the EP had diverging opinions about the Commission’s plan to cut the red tape.
The Socialists strongly opposed the Commission’s intention to withdraw a number of legislative proposals, in particular the air-quality legislation, the waste package and the Maternity Leave Directive. The S&D group also proposed a resolution which was blocked by the majority of the MEPs (click here to see how each MEP voted).
Greens and far leftists stated criticism towards REFIT, saying that the better regulation agenda must aim to ensure the prioritisation of legislation that responds to citizens’ demands, for example better air quality and a safer waste management system. Instead of withdrawing these proposals, the Commission should be fighting to ensure these crucial laws are adopted. Greens and leftist proposed their resolution as well, but it didn’t stand a chance either (click here to see the vote).
Liberals and Democrats expressed reservations to the withdrawal of files, stating that simplifying certain laws may be useful, but the Commission hasn’t explained how it will tackle gold plating by the Member States, which is a major cause of excessive red tape. The group proposed a resolution, which was rejected by the majority of the MEPs (click here to see how each MEP voted).
Christian Democrats supported the Commission’s work plan, stating that less bureaucracy at all stages, at the national and Union level, will create all the conditions needed for more jobs and growth. The Conservatives and Reformists agreed with cutting the red tape as well and pointed out that instead of focusing on creating new laws, it is important to make sure the existing ones work, and if they do not, then change them.
Eurosceptic EFDD group stated that the EU has to start getting rid of excessive regulation, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. In any free market economy, small and medium-sized enterprises should not be expected to maintain the same standards for everything, like the giant multinationals. The resolution by the far right group was, again, blocked by the majority of the MEPs (click here to see the vote).