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30th Sep 2022

Brussels blames member states for red tape delays

  • Businesses complain they are often overwhelmed by form-filling and accounting procedures (Photo: Flickr.com)

The European Commission on Thursday (22 October) put the blame squarely on member states and MEPs for the slow pace in reducing the administrative costs faced by companies trying to follow EU rules.

Compliance with EU laws often means regular provision of statistics, lengthy book-keeping procedures and reams of forms that need to be filled out - long a source of frustration to companies operating in the 27 nation Union.

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In 2007, the European Commission announced it would reduce running costs for businesses by 25 percent by 2012.

The move was seen as representing an internal ideological shift for the commission, which had not previously questioned the need for laws or really looked at their shape and effectiveness.

With just over two years to achieve its goal, the pace has been slow however. One set of measures has been adopted that will reduce the burden to businesses by €7.6 billion annually.

But a second set of measures - accounting for a €30.7 billion yearly cost reduction - is stuck in the legislative pipelines, while the commission has yet to propose a third set which would reduce costs by €2.1 billion a year.

"The Commission has done everything in its power to achieve the 25 percent target by 2012. I invite the European Parliament and Member States to adopt all of our remaining proposals to make them fully effective for the European economy as soon as possible," said industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen.

"It does not cost anything but would mean a boost of around €30.7 billion for our enterprises, and especially for small- and medium-sized enterprises," he added.

If all measures go through, it would mean a saving of around 33 percent - eight points higher than the commission's target. The measures apply to 72 EU texts thought to account for 80 percent of EU-level costs for businesses.

The commissioner said he shared scepticism about the "tendency to rabid legislation" something compounded, he noted, by member states adding to the laws when it came to implementation, a practice known as "gold-plating."

Gold-plating alone is thought to account for 32 percent of the administrative burden arising from EU laws.

Business groups also criticised member states for moving too slowly but said the commission needed to do more.

"More must be done for businesses to see real effects in their day-to-day operations. There are policy areas where not many reductions have been achieved, such as health and safety and the environment," said BusinessEurope.

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