The real agenda behind cutting red tape
One of the worrying issues that emerged from last week’s European Council in Brussels is the ‘cut red tape’ initiative promoted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron.
The proposal, which was welcomed by other EU leaders, is cause for alarm and threatens the protection of European citizens and the environment.
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The initiative is based on a report prepared by a UK Business Task Force specifically appointed by Cameron to advise him on identifying burdensome EU regulations.
Red tape, by definition, refers to regulations and policies that are unnecessary and do not serve society’s interests. The recommendations of the Business Task Force to withdraw, change, or weaken EU regulations have very little to do with addressing red tape.
The measures targeted include important pieces of regulation such as food labelling, safeguards against chemical poisoning, rules on greenhouse gas emissions from engine fuels, the rights of communities to be informed about industry activities affecting their environment, and rights to be able to take a company to court when it violates the rules.
What is under attack are essential measures to protect people and the environment in areas such as health and safety, data protection, climate change and labour and consumer rights.
We should be alarmed that European leaders do not recognise the social and environmental benefits of the safeguards business is trying to undermine, nor that these are an essential component of a positive economic environment.
Few businesses stand to benefit long-term from a world of depleted resources, environmental damage, and an unhealthy workforce.
A consultant report commissioned by the European Commission High-Level Group on reducing administrative burdens already found that more than 80 percent of EU red tape originates from a couple of policy areas – taxation and company law.
Only 1 percent of the burden relates to environmental rules such as the ones that ‘Cut EU Red Tape’ would like to get rid of.
This is revealing of the real agenda behind this initiative. When regulation serves the direct profits of big business, it is welcomed. When not, it is labelled red tape.
A real reform agenda would initiate an urgent transition away from the drive for short-term profits that has led us into the current crisis situation and towards a new economy based on sustainability principles.
The writer is Director at Friends of the Earth Europe