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The EU is looking to save some treesImage: Bilderbox

EU Tackles Its Own Bureaucracy

Bernd Riegert (jb/dre)
September 27, 2005

In a concerted drive to slash excessive red tape, the EU Commission on Tuesday abolished 68 rules the body believes are not only superfluous, but also harmful to the EU.


The harmonization of Sunday driving bans, flight attendent qualifications and the packing of coffee are only three of the almost 68 proposed regulations the EU Commission views as senseless and detrimental to member states.

On Tuesday, the commission pulled the laws and proposed bills -- all of which had been on ice for several years because of disagreement by various member states -- from the negotiating table.

"We want to fight bureaucracy and over-regulation on all fronts," said EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in announcing the move.

In March, EU industry commissioner Günther Verheugen, announced the rehauling of the EU's excessive bureacracy and drew up a blacklist of rules that he said should be consigned to the rubbish bin.

Verheugen: Porträt, EU-Kommissar
Guenter VerheugenImage: AP

"We know that EU citizens look at Brussels as a bureaucratic monster," said Verheugen (photo), who's taken on the role of dragon slayer and plans to cut the superfluous bits.

"I'm going to make it my personal quest," Verheugen said. "And after five years, one will be able to say that it was the commission that truly managed to do it."

Business not impressed

The blacklist contained, among other things, a "guideline for the harmonization of rules about limiting cross-border goods transfer." The EU wanted to abolish Sunday driving bans for trucks with the help of the regulation.

Business interest groups appeared unimpressed by the commission's steps.

"This list of laws for withdrawal must not be regarded as a panacea for the better regulation agenda. For one thing it is fairly limited -- most of the texts mentioned are anachronisms that would have been shelved anyway," Hans-Werner Müller, secretary general of UEAPME, representing small firms told the EU Observer.

The need for more accountability

A recent study by the British government showed that improving the consultation process before approving new legislation would help keep needless bureaucracy out and make the EU more accountable to its citizens.

Zwei Lkw passieren am 8. Juli 2003 eine elektronische Mautstation DEU VERKEHR MAUT BGL
Off the table is a law that harmonizes Sunday driving bansImage: AP

Britain, which holds the rotating EU presidency, established the Better Regulation Task Force as part of the push for better regulations in the EU.

The study also emphasized that the impact of rules needs to be assessed. Regulation is estimated to cost 10 to 12 percent of gross domestic product, with about a third of this due to unnecessary bureaucracy, officials said.

Needlessly burdening businesses

Even Verheugen, the self-appointed crusader against EU bureacracy, said that EU officials often ended up needlessly burdening businesses.

"The businesses that need to fill in a two-page form in order to participate in a European contract, first need a 200-page manual to read how to correctly fill out the form," Verheugen said.

He added that it was completely incomprehensible for a politician and showed that one needed to carefully examine the bureacratic maze generated by the political side itself.

"It shows me that we have to better assess the impact of legislation on business," Verheugen added.

To make matters worse, the affected commissions are resisting the attempt to throw out several of the rules pertaining to their areas. Of the 900 laws currently in the works in the EU, not even 10 percent of them will be dropped -- a fact that's bemoaned as 'too little' by some in Brussels.

EU citizens called on for suggestions

The new drive to cut red tape in the EU isn't the first.

In the past years, there have been several attempts to tame the bureaucratic monster that consists of around 80,000 pages of legislation.

And EU citizens can do their bit to help too. They can send recommendations to their representatives in Brussels about where they can cut cumbersome rules.

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