The European Union's 27 nations have supported a move to reduce the burden of EU paperwork for companies by 25 percent by 2012, while stopping short of making promises on national bureaucracy.
The European Union has a reputation as a paper-spewing monster
The move will lead to a 1.5-percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP), according to the European Commission, the EU's executive arm. The body is calling for the red-tape busting measure to be adopted at an EU summit in Brussels next month.
Convinced of the "political" importance of the initiative, national ministers in charge of competition enthusiastically backed the scheme at a meeting in Brussels this week.
However, the Commission would also like to see the red tape cut on a national level.
Verheugen was hopeful that bureaucracy would be cut at a national level as well
"Studies show that between 50 percent and 60 percent of administrative costs arise at the national level," said EU Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen. "We therefore feel it is essential to act on two levels, the community level and the national level."
15 member states opposed
Austria and Sweden, heeding the appeal, are promising to reduce national administrative charges by 25 percent by 2010.
Greece, along with Italy, Spain and Portugal, has stressed that any cut in business forms at a national level "should be left to the discretion of member states."
Many EU states said they wouldn't agree to rules that required them to cut red tape
"They must have the power to fix their own objectives, according to their individual situations, which differ from state to state," said a Greek spokesman.
Faced with such opposition, the Commission said that it would propose only that member states work towards a 25 percent reduction, with each doing what it can to cut "the administrative structure."
Despite the non-binding nature of the proposals, the Commission has identified 13 areas for special attention, including company, law, employment relations, taxation, statistics, agriculture and transport.