Quantitative targets and member state irresponsibility

Tuesday 1 December 2015

By Christina J. Colclough, Head of EU Affairs, UNI Europa

On 26 November 2015, First-Vice President of the EU Commission Timmermans, received a letter signed by 19 EU member states. In it, the member states praise Mr Timmermans’ Better Regulation agenda and its focus on competitiveness, on the removal of ‘unnecessary burdens’ and on the Commission’s ‘think small first’ principle, ie that all EU regulation should be designed to cater for the small and medium sized companies.

But the 19 countries go even further. They demand a quantitative target for the reduction of regulation; in other words for every new regulation that is put in place, a certain number of other regulations have to be removed. The signatory countries do not specify in the letter what this target should be. Sources in the higher echelons in Europe have though told me that their aim is that for every regulation put in place, 2 or 3 current regulations have to be scrapped.

The whole agenda of reducing regulatory burdens is not new, and dates back to the establishment and recommendations of the Stoiber Group. However, what is new is that the UK has succeeded in persuading 18 other EU countries to push for this quantitative target of regulatory reduction. Admittedly, there are a number of cases across Europe where different regulatory texts resemble one other, and therefore could be reduced to one coherent regulation. There are also examples of regulation that could be mainstreamed across Europe reducing 28 different laws with one thus simplifying cross-border actions.

The problem is that it makes absolutely no sense to have an agenda that despite the contents of regulation aims to limit regulation. It is simply absurd. How are the politicians going to decide what two – or three – regulations should give way for say, a new regulation on fuel emissions? Will they pick and choose from any type of regulation, removing or reducing, for example, health and safety standards for tighter rules on the monitoring of fuel emissions?

The 19 countries are paying lip service to supporters of the free market ideology in a way that is both irresponsible and damaging for Europe’s long-term success. They even go as far as to demand that any and all target reduction measures put in place from now on cannot be rolled back in the future. Come hell or high water. All 19 countries conveniently forget that the costs of regulation is often far outweighed by the benefits of regulation – some analyses even showing by 6 times[1].

UNI Europa will work with our trade union colleagues and through the Better Regulation Watchdog to stop this irresponsible demand. Stay posted for more!

[1] Read the ETUI analysis here (especially page 28-30)