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24.10.

2000 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 303 E/27

commuting. The Commission has recently published the manual ‘Cycling: the way ahead for towns and
cities’ (2).

This publication for local decision makers presents various examples of good practices in the field of
bicycle promotion and underlines the advantages to the business community of promoting bicycle use.

In its own capacity as an employer, the Commission is promoting, through its ‘green housekeeping’ policy
of 1997, the use of sustainable forms of transport as an alternative to private cars. As part of this policy, it
is creating cycle parking spaces in staff car parks, with internal cycle paths, taking space away from car
parking. So far, 250 of these spaces have been provided.

(1) See communication ‘Developing the Citizens’ Network’: COM(98) 431 final.
(2) ISBN: 92-828-5725-5  Catalogue No: CR-17-98-693-FR-C.

(2000/C 303 E/023) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2079/99


by Giles Chichester (PPE-DE) to the Commission

(12 November 1999)

Subject: EU legislation and exemptions for small businesses

The important contribution which SMEs make to employment, growth, competitiveness is widely
recognised. Commissioner Liikanen at the European Parliament hearing in September this year expressed
his unequivocal support for a coherent enterprise strategy, especially for the creation of a genuine
European spirit of enterprise and the support of SMEs as the most important job-creating sector. The
setting up of the BEST task force to make proposals to improve the quality of legislation and eliminate
unnecessary burdens on SMEs is welcomed. But still many legislative burdens exist.

Is the Commission aware that the US has produced details of the extent to which small firms in the USA
are exempt from employment regulations? Does the Commission have comparable information?

If not, will the Commission, together with BEST, follow the US best practice and compile a comprehensive
list of all policy areas of legislation which have an effect on small businesses?

Is there a list of legislation containing exemptions for micro enterprises? If not, why not?

Will the Commission review all business and employment legislation to see if further exemptions for micro
enterprises are possible?

Will the Commission produce in the interim, within two months, an assessment of every item of
legislation which has an effect on business by type, turnover, number of employees etc?

Answer given by Mr Liikanen on behalf of the Commission

(20 January 2000)

Regulation must strike a balance between widely different interests. Community businesses have to be
competitive. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in particular need a business environment in
which they can be innovative and achieve their potential to create growth and jobs.

The Commission welcomes the Honourable Member’s suggestions regarding simplification and exemptions
for small businesses. In the new Directorate general for enterprise aspects of better regulation and
administrative simplification will play a key role. A specific unit will be created and charged with
simplification of the regulatory business environment and reducing the administrative burden in particular
of SMEs. One of its key functions will be to evaluate the impact of Community legislation on businesses,
C 303 E/28 Official Journal of the European Communities EN 24.10.2000

including through an improved business impact assessment system and direct consultation of businesses.
In improving the regulatory impact assessment the Commission will, among other things, draw upon the
work of the Organisation for economic cooperation and development (OECD) on regulatory reform and
on examples of good practice from other countries. The unit will also consider existing practice in the
United States with a view to developing appropriate information tools in the Commission. The work
foreseen in the BEST action plan on improving employment and working conditions will also be taken
forward by both the Member States and the Commission.

The Commission will also consider the idea of a list of legislation containing exemptions for micro
enterprises. The existing business impact assessment already contains information on derogations and
thresholds for certain businesses, in particular small firms.

The Commission has noted the Parliament’s call for the results of business impact assessments to be
published. These are already available as part of the COM-documentation and therefore available to the
public.

The Commission also manages two other initiatives designed to improve the quality of the regulatory
environment within which European businesses operate. The creation of the business test panel pilot
project was envisaged in the single market action plan. The panel is composed of European business
representatives which review proposed new Community legislation. Much of the panel’s work concentrates
on identifying compliance costs and likely administrative burdens of proposed legislation. The novelty of
the approach lies in the direct feed-back from businesses. The test panel has so far been consulted three
times and its overall effectiveness will be evaluated in early 2000.

The SLIM initiative was launched in 1996 with the objective of identifying ways of simplifying internal
market legislation. Since then it has reviewed 14 different areas of legislation and SLIM teams (composed
of national experts and users) have issued a wide range of recommendations which include reducing costs
and administrative burdens arising from Community rules. The operation of the initiative is now being
examined by the Commission in order to strengthen its overall capacity to deliver recommendations and
proposals aimed at improving the implementation of internal market rules, simplifying procedures and
reducing costs and administrative burdens on businesses.

(2000/C 303 E/024) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2119/99


by Jaime Valdivielso de Cué (PPE-DE) to the Commission

(22 November 1999)

Subject: Foreign affairs

The United States Government believes that the impact of the change to the year 2000 may cause
complications in some secondary security systems at Russian nuclear power stations. In order to prevent
possible disasters, the United States and Russia are cooperating on nuclear plant safety projects.

What specific programmes has the Commission launched in this field, given that Europe has even greater
cause than the United States to be concerned about ensuring the safety of these installations?

Answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission

(3 January 2000)

The Commission is very aware of the implications of the year 2000 (Y2K) for nuclear plants in the New
Independent States (NIS) and Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC). Despite constraints arising
from the lack of a mandate for the Community to take direct initiatives in this area, and the tight time-
scale, the Commission has, like the United States, made efforts to help Russia and surrounding countries
meet the challenges posed by the Y2K issue.