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16.1.

2001 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 14/1

II
(Preparatory Acts)

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE

Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on ‘Simplifying rules in the single market (SMO)’

(2001/C 14/01)

On 29 April 1999 the Economic and Social Committee, acting under Rule 23(3) of its Rules of Procedure,
decided to draw up an opinion on ‘Simplifying rules in the Single Market’.

The Section for the Single Market, Production and Consumption, which was responsible for preparing
the Committee’s work on the matter, adopted its opinion on 19 July 2000. The rapporteur was Mr Vever.

At its 376th plenary session (meeting of 19 October 2000) the Economic and Social Committee adopted
the following opinion with 86 votes in favour and one abstention.

1. Summary of the Committee’s recommendations within its own departments and by attaching the recently
created simplification unit directly to the Secretariat and
providing it with sufficient resources. The Member States and
their administrations will also have to be encouraged to adopt
codes of conduct and to help to disseminate best practice in
1.1. The Committee stresses the urgent need to embark on this area.
a process of simplifying regulations in the single market,
whilst also improving the quality of their provisions, their
incorporation into national law and the freedoms and responsi-
bilities of the civil society players.

1.4. The Committee stresses the need to improve the impact
assessments which must accompany all draft legislation: these
assessments must henceforth be carried out under conditions
1.2. To this end, the Committee calls on the Stockholm
which fully guarantee their independence and quality, they
European Council in the spring of 2001 to adopt, on a
must include a systematic examination of alternatives to
proposal from the Commission, a multiannual simplification
regulatory measures (i.e. contractual agreements, self-regu-
plan, setting out objectives, priorities and methods, and
lation and co-regulation), together with a rigorous assessment
earmarking budgets and resources for monitoring and follow-
of the contribution which the proposed legislation will make
up action. The implementation of this plan should be reasses-
to simplification, and they should be made public.
sed each year, at the spring European Council, on the basis of
a Commission report.

1.3. The Committee proposes that this plan provide for the 1.5. The Committee recommends that the Commission re-
adoption of codes of conduct by the EU institutions, ensuring assess its choice of the regulatory instruments to be employed;
that they help to promote the simplification of rules rather in addition to prior consideration as to whether alternatives
than make them more complex. The Commission will have to exist to regulatory measures, the Commission should also (a)
set an example, by inculcating a culture of simplification make more frequent use of Regulations in cases where this
C 14/2 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 16.1.2001

would appear to be necessary to achieve effective simplifi- — engage in dialogue with the economic and social councils
cation; (b) create conditions for successfully extending mutual in the Member States so as to enable them to play an
recognition; (c) reduce freedom for manoeuvre over the analogous role at national level to the role which the
interpretation and implementation of Directives, and (d) Committee has set itself at European level, in order to
consider introducing Directives which would entrust the socio- contribute to the success of the simplification process.
economic players, rather than merely the Member States, with
a share of responsibility for specifying and implementing the
fundamental requirements of the Directives.

2. Preliminary comments

1.6. The Committee, as the EU assembly representing the
‘users’ of Community rules, asks the Commission to ensure
2.1. Simplifying rules is now, more than ever, a matter of
that it is actively involved in the framing, implementation
public concern in Europe for a number of reasons:
and annual review of this simplification process, prior to
consultations with the Parliament and the Council.
2.1.1. the steady increase in the number of national rules
which is curbing the scope for freedom of action and private
and collective initiatives in the Member States, whilst at the
1.7. In particular, the Committee wishes to be consulted by same time complicating mutual recognition between states at
the Commission every year on key topics which merit coverage European level;
in SLIM projects and test panels.

2.1.2. the recurring questions over the extent of inter-
vention by the EU authorities and the complex nature of
1.8. In order to make an effective contribution to the even the harmonisation provisions, which frequently involve
simplification process, the Committee is adopting a code of inextricable overlaps between EU and national levels of
conduct, according to which it will: intervention;

— keep an ongoing strict watching brief on what has to be 2.1.3. the continued existence of superfluous specific pro-
done to achieve simplification and on the quality of the visions — and even the addition of further such provisions by
rules and their efficacy from the point of view of their the Member States when they transpose EU provisions into
‘users’; national law — not to mention the delays and difficulties in
transforming these provisions into national law.

— take the necessary steps, when organising its work, to
enable it to respond in good time to early consultations
in these fields; 2.2. This concern over the need to simplify rules is linked
to the EU public’s growing aspirations regarding the quality of
goods, services, work, living conditions and the environment.
— draft an annual report on the stage reached in the The quality of laws and rules cannot be excluded from these
multiannual simplification plan; overall expectations. The EU should be regarded in this field,
as in others, as a guarantor of positive added value. The
emergence of a ‘new’ trading economy, built on a more
— systematically examine the impact assessment for each interactive, transparent and decentralised relationship, also
draft; calls for the development of a corresponding ‘new adminis-
tration’ by citizens, based on a ‘new legislation’ better adapted
to the cultural changes in the behaviour and aspirations of
21st century Europeans. The objective set by Commission
— draw the attention of the EU institutions to the possible
President Romano Prodi, namely to build an EU administration
need to steer EU rules towards an approach based on
of excellence, can and must point the way towards the major
contractual agreements, self-regulation and co-regulation;
shift which Europeans are now waiting for.

— engage in dialogue with the European economic and
social players to alert them to the need for them to 2.3. Studies have been carried out at EU level into simplifi-
meet their direct responsibilities — particularly their cation requirements, one example being the Molitor Report of
contractual responsibilities — in respect of EU rules; 1995. These reports were backed up by similar reports drawn
up by international bodies, such as the OECD. Several Member
States have carried out appraisals and introduced measures to
— engage in dialogue with the Committee of the Regions curb the excessive amount of new rules and simplify existing
regarding the regional aspects of simplification; and rules.
16.1.2001 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 14/3

2.4. At EU level measures have been set in train in recent 2.5.7. there is a universal expectation that the Economic
years with a view to (a) endeavouring to improve methods of and Social Committee will actively press for simplification in
intervention, for example by drawing up impact statements, the interests of ‘users’, with particular emphasis on its natural
and (b) correcting excessively complicated rules, mainly role in ensuring the development of contractual and self-
through the use of SLIM projects. However, neither pro- regulatory alternatives to traditional regulatory measures.
fessionals nor the EU public as a whole feel that really
significant results have so far been achieved in this field.
Indeed, the EU is frequently felt to complicate matters by
2.6. The Lisbon European Council, held on 23 and
imposing further ‘technocratic’ restrictions on national rules,
24 March, provided a mandate for responding to this evident
without fundamentally altering the complexity or the quantity
desire for a new approach to simplification by agreeing to set
of those rules.
out, by 2001, a strategy for simplifying the regulatory
environment. This would address the way in which the public
administration operates, at both national and EU level, and
would pinpoint the areas in which the Member States need to
2.5. The Single Market Observatory (SMO) has made a step up their work on transposing EU law. As part of its new
number of very clear observations, which back up the above targeted measures for the Single Market, the Commission plans
analysis, on the basis of surveys and hearings which it has to put forward proposals for achieving these objectives at the
organised, in particular the hearing held on 17 May as part of beginning of 2001.
the preparations for this report. Its findings are as follows:

2.7. The Economic and Social Committee — as the rep-
2.5.1. EU rules are generally regarded as too complex vis-à- resentative of the economic and social players who are the
vis the expectations of users; ‘users’ of the rules in question — considers that improving the
quality of regulations in the EU is vital for the following
reasons:
2.5.2. simplification of the rules is regarded as being really
necessary for users; it is widely agreed that if such simplification
is carried out properly it would not be prejudicial to the 2.7.1. it directly impacts on the smooth operation of the
interests of civil society players but should rather directly Single Market;
promote their autonomy, consideration of their views and
their interests;
2.7.2. it is a determining factor in the EU public’s support
for the European venture;

2.5.3. however opinion is equally divided between those
who see harmonisation, a priori, in terms of its contribution 2.7.3. it forms part and parcel of the general issue of better
to simplification, and those who are concerned about the governance in Europe, an issue which will be the subject of a
frequent overlap of European and national provisions, which European Commission white paper to be issued by June 2001;
is felt to result as much from over-intervention on the part of
the EU as, conversely, from the maintenance or even introduc-
tion of superfluous national provisions when EU Directives are 2.7.4. it is a matter of growing urgency in the light of the
transposed into national law; preparations being made for EU enlargement.

2.5.4. an extremely large majority consider that insufficient 2.8. The Committee recognises that the successful simplifi-
progress has been made on simplification at Community level, cation of rules is a complex matter; it is essential to avoid a
whilst there is unanimous emphasis on the fact that the number of pitfalls and to adopt the right approach. The aim is
simplification process needs to be speeded up considerably not drastic and simplistic deregulation which would jeopardise
before enlargement; the quality of both products and services and the overall
interest of all ‘users’ — be they business people, workers or
consumers. Both the economy and society need rules in order
to enable them to operate effectively; a number of conditions
2.5.5. there is also universal emphasis on the need for a
parallel approach to simplification in the Member States if the do, however, need to be met:
process of simplification of EU rules is to succeed;
2.8.1. rules must be drawn up and applied at the right level
which, depending on the circumstances, may be international,
2.5.6. similarly, there is universal agreement on the need to EU, national, or regional or local. Globalisation is not so much
develop contractual dialogue and self-regulatory measures, in generating a surplus of rules at international level but rather a
preference to the exclusivity of traditional regulations, in areas shortage of such rules. This fact has been made abundantly
which are particularly sensitive for the economic and social clear by the problems being faced by the WTO at a time when
players, such as social affairs, environmental protection, con- there is a growing surplus of national rules and an overlapping
sumer policy and e-commerce; and — which needs clarification — between national and EU rules;
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2.8.2. rules must be drawn up in a balanced way, avoiding 3. The reasons for the complex nature of EU rules
the introduction of new constraints which are out of pro-
portion to the objective being pursued and allowing the
development of areas of freedom and contractual autonomy
for civil society players, who should be directly involved in the
elaboration and implementation of simplification policies;
simplification will not succeed if it is the almost exclusive
3.1. The main reason why EU rules are complex is linked
reserve of civil servants.
to economic and social needs and the heightened political
demand for action at EU level, when such action has to take
account of national situations and cultures which often differ
greatly. It is symptomatic that the call made at the Lisbon
Summit in March 2000 for the early introduction of a
2.9. The EU level is the right level for addressing the European strategy to promote simplification coincided with
simplification issue as: the establishment, at the same Summit, of an unprecedented
agenda of new economic and social measures to be carried out
jointly by the EU institutions and national governments. This
desire to simplify rules may at first glance appear to be like
2.9.1. it provides a fundamental basis which allows the trying to square the circle bearing in mind the complex
Union, bolstered by an effective and coherent single market, problems hampering harmonisation at EU level, such as the
to play its part in the vital process of drawing up rules at cumbersome decisionmaking procedures, the influence of
international level, in the context of globalisation; forces opposed to administrative change and the pressure
brought to bear by the various lobby groups in Brussels and
Strasbourg.

2.9.2. one of the intrinsic aims of EU legislation is — and
this needs always to be borne in mind — to simplify things,
since it seeks to harmonise and unify 15 different sets of
national rules in order to enable the single market to operate
effectively, whilst not being above criticism as regards the 3.2. The abovementioned factors are aggravated by a failure
to carry out a systematic and reasoned appraisal of the cost of
areas and content of EU intervention;
having such complex rules, since neither the EU institutions
nor the national governments have so far established real ways
of pursuing the EU regulatory process while also simplifying
it; they have confined themselves to carrying out a number of
2.9.3. national rules should not disregard the needs of an ad hoc measures which are of limited effect in the absence
effective single market by applying EU rules too freely or by of a general, coherent political framework for promoting
failing to recognise their vital role in simplifying the operation simplification. Cost needs to be understood in a comprehensive
of this major market. way; in other words, equal account must be taken of issues
such as the cost of the time unduly lost by members of the
public as a result of excessive bureaucracy, the economic cost
of the excessive burden imposed on enterprises, particularly
SMEs, by the need to respond to complex rules, and the
2.10. The purpose of the present own-initiative opinion is budgetary and therefore fiscal cost of an over-bureaucratic
not to set out a new list of simplification measures in specific distribution of administrative expenditure, when this money
areas of intervention but rather to: could be better used for the public benefit.

2.10.1. get to grips with the reasons behind what is
generally regarded as a failure, by analysing why EU rules are
so complex and making an appraisal of both the main positive 3.3. Institutional procedures are partly to blame, even
points and also the real limitations of the simplification though in their case they impose constraints rather than giving
measures already set in train; rise to systematic obstacles to simplification. All too often, the
only way to achieve agreement which enjoys majority (or
better still unanimous) support — firstly from members of the
Commission and subsequently at the Council and in the
co-decision and conciliation procedure with the European
2.10.2. propose that a more coherent and more in-depth Parliament — is by accepting a complex political compromise,
approach be adopted in order to bring about successful in which the clear interest of users often goes by the board.
simplification; this means reviewing the responsibilities of the The — in itself — praiseworthy desire of the half-yearly
various European players under the simplification policy and presidencies of the EU Council to adopt a good tally of
introducing more effective methods and criteria for appraisal, decisions may also lead to sacrifices as regards the intrinsic
consultation and follow-up action. quality of particular decisions.
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3.4. The choice of legal instrument is frequently unsuitable. 3.6. Consultative bodies, such as the Economic and Social
Some Regulations are unduly cumbersome and complex when, Committee, which represent the full range of economic and
with a little more give and take, they could have been simplified social players, by no means always have sufficient institutional
without becoming any the less effective — indeed rather the clout vis-à-vis the tripartite joint decision-making structure
opposite. Some Directives give Member States excessive room represented by the European Commission, the European
for manoeuvre without imposing any proper checks either on Parliament and the Council. As it is consulted at a late stage, at
the level of complication which this leeway could cause to the very moment when the co-decision making bodies take up
‘users’, or on the resulting level of harmonisation which will the matter, the Committee faces real institutional problems in
be inadequate to ensure proper operation of the Single Market. bringing sufficient influence to bear to enable EU rules to
In some cases, the very freedom which Directives leave reflect the views of the ‘users’ by moving more towards
Member States to introduce or retain national provisions simplification. If the quality of EU rules is to be improved,
which go way beyond the common provisions may unduly consideration must also be given to upgrading the role played
complicate relations, when the use of a uniformly applied by consultative bodies.
Regulation would have simplified them under terms that
would have been acceptable for all the parties concerned. In
still other cases, mutual recognition clauses cannot be applied
because there is no legal follow-up or monitoring to enable 3.7. There are frequently problems of alignment between
them to operate properly in practice. EU rules and national rules. The increasing recourse to
Directives, rather than Regulations, means that the provisions
agreed at Brussels are often simply ‘tacked onto’ national laws
without changing them in a substantial way, let alone taking
their place. Sometimes Member States also bolt on much
more far-reaching national provisions when transposing EU
Directives.

3.5. Attention is also drawn to the fact that virtually all EU 3.8. The lack of ‘euro-compatibility’ of many national
rules derive exclusively from the close circle of EU institutions provisions also impedes the smooth operation of mutual
which have decision-making or co-decision-making powers, recognition schemes, as was clearly shown in a report issued
namely the European Commission, the European Parliament by the Commission in June 1999.
and the Council. Although there has been an extensive
European debate on subsidiarity, it has hitherto focused too
exclusively on the vertical aspects of the concept (i.e. the
distribution of functions between European and national or
regional level) and has largely neglected the horizontal aspects
4. The consequences of having complex rules
(i.e. the distribution of functions between rules and areas where
contracts or codes of conduct can be applied). Consequently,
although this horizontal dimension is firmly entrenched at
national level in many Member States, it has not been extended
4.1. From an economic and social standpoint, the existence
or given rise to comparable measures at European level. With
of overly complex EU rules is damaging to economic competi-
the notable exception of the European social dialogue (under
tiveness which, in the current extremely competitive inter-
which three inter-sectoral agreements — subsequently trans- national context, is, more than ever, a necessary, though not
formed into Directives on parental leave, part-time work and always sufficient, condition for job creation and growth. It
fixed-term work — have so far been concluded — thereby penalises entrepreneurial spirit and creativeness and hampers
making it an instrument which remains under-utilised), togeth- the establishment of small businesses, including the types of
er with a number of voluntary agreements and codes of start-up which are essential if the EU is to have a dynamic ‘new
conduct (e.g. on environmental conservation — under the economy’. On a more general level, complex rules impede the
European Auto Oil Programme — and the reduction of energy capacity to innovate and curb the ability to adapt to changing
consumption), the socio-economic players directly concerned circumstances and carry out reform. The current situation
by the introduction of EU rules benefit from few areas of represents a major handicap to a Europe which is in the
contractual freedom. This failure to establish a proper culture throes of change and has to contend with the demands of
of partnership — based not only on consultation but also, globalisation and the need to find a new creative dynamism.
where appropriate, on co-decision-making powers — with the
socio-economic players, combined with the adoption of an
essentially political and administrative approach to decision-
making, makes it difficult for civil society representatives to 4.2. Complex rules also have a detrimental effect on the
play a responsible role in the simplification drive. Instead, freedom and social life of the people by imposing time-
this failure prompts them to intensify pressure of a highly consuming procedures and costs. They also increase inequality
corporatist nature — which is not conducive to simplification as not everyone is able to understand them, and they heighten,
— on political and administrative decision-makers. rather than reduce, the factors which cause social exclusion.
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4.3. From a political standpoint, the complexity of EU rules, out. Whilst constituting a praiseworthy initiative, this measure
for which the Member States refuse to accept direct public has had limited impact in its current form since no strict
responsibility, fuels the concerns, not to say the alienation, of guarantee can be given as to the independence of the
a large part of public opinion vis-à-vis ‘eurocracy’ at a time assessment, it fails to include a prior examination of alterna-
when the EU should rather be regarded as offering an tives to EU rules, makes little or no effort to carry out a
additional guarantee of freedom, democracy and security. The systematic verification of the real degree of simplification
lack of scope for contractual dialogue between the socio- resulting from the proposed provision and, finally, since no
economic partners directly concerned is also sapping the external publicity is given to the impact assessment.
vitality of collective democracy at EU level at a time when
major economic, technological and social challenges make it
necessary to expand direct public participation in the EU.
5.2. In the 1990s the European Commission paid consider-
able attention to drawing up (a) green papers, designed to
stimulate public debate before a start was made on drafting EU
provisions, (b) white papers, setting out an overall programme
4.4. The existence of complex rules in the internal market of rules for a particular field, and (c) communications, which
reduces the EU’s ability effectively to remove barriers at a time identify problem areas and provide analyses in the run-up to
when it needs a new dynamism to complete the essential tasks the presentation of specific proposals. With technological
facing it in the run-up to enlargement. A number of simple backup provided by the Internet, which the European Com-
legal instruments have yet to be introduced at EU level, such mission now rightly utilises to a large extent, particularly
as a real European company statute, a reliable and inexpensive through its ‘Europa’ site, the abovementioned practices have
Community patent and a simplified EU VAT regime. made it possible to trigger an interactive public dialogue on
proposed EU action. The impact which this extended prior
consultation has on the simplification of rules is, however,
bound to remain limited as long as the Commission confines
4.5. From the legal standpoint, having complex EU rules itself to launching a debate on the proposed contents of EU
also serves to amplify the number of cases of failure to provisions, rather than making a systematic appraisal of
incorporate EU provisions into national law and the number possible alternatives to EU rules, such as codes of conduct and
of legal disputes with the Commission and the Court of Justice. forms of self-regulation.
One of the key goals of simplification should be to achieve a
higher level of transcription of EU provisions into national
law and a marked improvement in the enforcement of EU 5.3. In 1995, in response to a request from the European
provisions. Council, a working party was set up under the chairmanship
of Mr Molitor to consider ways of simplifying EU rules.

4.6. This issue is of major importance in the light of the 5.3.1. In addition to a number of proposals for the
preparations for EU enlargement. The simplification of EU redrafting of several technical rules, the report set out 18
rules will help the applicant states to fulfil the heavy demand general recommendations. Many of these have since been
placed upon them of having to incorporate into national law largely put on the backburner and it is worth recapping them:
the whole body of EU legislation, whilst also facilitating
transposal in the existing 15 Member States, who have hardly
— to speed up the consolidation of rules at both EU and
shown the best example to the applicant states up to now.
national level;
Simplification of the rules will also help to improve the
operating conditions for the single market in an enlarged EU.
— to set in train a programme of simplification covering all
existing EU laws and their incorporation into national
law;

— to ask the European Commission to submit reports
5. Appraisal of the simplification measures already on the rules which should be retained, amended or
carried out withdrawn;

— to raise a number of questions prior to the introduction
of draft rules (whether the proposals are appropriate,
5.1. During the 1980s, in the middle of the subsidiarity whether the subsidiarity principle has been respected, the
debate, the Commission agreed to draw up an impact assess- cost-benefit ratio, alternatives to public action, pro-
ment on all draft EU provisions, designed to justify EU action portionality, time restrictions);
and analyse its cost-benefit ratio. These impact assessments
follow a common pattern, comprising justification in the light
of the subsidiarity principle, an assessment of the economic — to ask the European Commission to carry out public
and social impact — including the consequences for SMEs — investigations into the incorporation of EU measures into
and an indication of the consultations which have been carried national law;
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— to observe a series of criteria for the introduction of all measures to ensure simplification policy which was viable in
new measures: the need for provisions to be readily the long-term and was constantly strengthened;
understandable, to have well-defined objectives, be con-
sistent with existing laws, the need to define the field of
application, to set a realistic timetable, and to make
provisions for review procedures;

— to publish prior studies;
5.3.2.2. secondly, the Council which commissioned the
— to consult interested parties (consumers, businesses, Molitor report did not take practical action at the time since it
workers) in an effective and systematic way and in good was not able to use the report as a basis for adopting a genuine
time; political programme on simplification, although the report
explicitly recommended that it did so; for its part, the
— to set out explanatory memoranda in respect of employ- Commission has built on several of the report’s recommen-
ment, competitiveness, costs and innovation; dations, but mainly in ad hoc and partial initiatives.

— to make public the reasons why Member States support
or oppose the proposed measure;

— to introduce systematic, public procedures for assessing
the outcome of the measures; 5.4. Of the ad hoc initiatives introduced by the Com-
mission, particular mention must be made of its Simplification
— to pursue simplification at national and local levels, and of Legislation in the Internal Market (SLIM) programme,
also when transposing EU law into national law; introduced in 1996. This initiative has already resulted in
fourteen projects designed to simplify various rules adopted
— to monitor enforcement of the provisions by the national earlier by the EU. The SLIM working parties, comprising an
authorities more closely; equal number of experts representing national administrations
and representatives of users, put forward proposals for simpli-
— to fine Member States which drag their feet over the fying EU rules adopted at least five years ago. These projects
enforcement of EU rules; cover a very wide variety of fields (including ornamental plants,
dangerous substances, prepackaging, construction materials,
— to make use of Regulations rather than Directives if this fertilisers, electromagnetic compatibility, banking services,
can further the goal of simplification; insurance, company law, recognition of diplomas, social
security provisions, VAT, intrastat statistics and external trade
— to apply mutual recognition wherever possible; statistics). As the Commission pointed out in its most recent
assessment report issued in March 2000, these projects have
— to ask the European Commission to give advance notice made good progress in formulating recommendations for
of its proposals and to make increased use of green simplification and have enabled it to present a large number
papers and white papers; of new simplified drafts. The outstanding problem remains the
final adoption of these new proposals, very few of which have
so far been adopted by the Council and the European
— to ask the Commission to present progress reports on
Parliament (e.g. proposals dealing with ornamental plants,
simplification; this could involve giving one of the
variables in intrastat statistics and combined nomenclature
Commissioners responsibility for simplification and set-
with regard to external trade). With a view to revitalising the
ting up a small central coordinating unit to provide
SLIM initiative, in March 2000 the Commission presented 15
backup.
reform proposals aimed at increasing accountability and
improving coordination between the various players.
5.3.2. Five years after its publication the Molitor report
remains highly topical, particularly since its recommendations
have achieved few really significant results. Two main reasons
may be advanced for this:

5.3.2.1. firstly, the report could have been improved by 5.5. In 1998 the Commission also launched a number of
taking its analysis and proposals still further: it could have pilot projects involving European Business Panels; the aim was
highlighted more clearly the reasons behind the administrative to make prior assessments, with a direct input from the
complexity (e.g. a general culture amongst decision-makers business world, of the justification for and the cost of a number
and administrators which does little to encourage simplifi- of proposed rules. This procedure has been used in three cases,
cation) and consider how the situation could be remedied. The concerning respectively the simplification of tax representation
report concentrated on tackling the symptoms and effects of for VAT, the harmonisation of accounts and electrical and
having complex rules; it was difficult to propose effective electronic equipment waste (in the latter case, reactions were
solutions since the necessary prerequisite was missing; more- sought from 1 744 enterprises). However, this procedure
over, the report failed to make explicit provision for the remains entirely experimental, and the Commission does not
introduction of monitoring, audits and other budgeted yet have any plans for using it more widely or systematically.
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5.6. In 1997 the Commission also set up the Business meeting in spring 2001, the time has come to consider a
Environment Simplification Task Force (BEST) with the aid new approach bearing in mind the lessons learnt from the
of representatives of socio-economic interest groups and abovementioned partial failures/partial successes.
universities. This task force submitted a report containing
19 recommendations in 1998. These focused on the business
environments in the Member States in a wide variety of fields
(administrative procedures, education and training systems,
labour flexibility, finance and taxation and innovation). The 6. The Committee’s proposals for helping to build a
Commission is due to present an appraisal report in the new approach to the simplifying of rules
autumn of 2000 on the implementation of these recommen-
dations.
6.1. As was clearly brought home by the hearing organised
by the Single Market Observatory (SMO), a change of approach
5.7. An interinstitutional agreement on drafting quality was is needed if progress is made more quickly and more effectively.
published in March 1999, following on from the Treaty of The Committee therefore advocates a genuine ‘simplification
Amsterdam; this agreement is binding upon the Commission, process’, comprising:
the Council and the European Parliament. It is as yet too early
to assess the impact of this agreement.
6.1.1. a multiannual simplification plan, which will enable
the simplification process to be conducted in Europe within a
coordinated framework;
5.8. Each year the Commission now publishes a report on
‘better lawmaking’ in which it reports on the contribution it
has made to simplifying EU rules. The most recent report, 6.1.2. codes of conduct for the EU players in the regulatory
published in November 1999, outlined the progress of a process; these codes of conduct should also apply to the
number of recent simplification measures and drew attention Member States;
also to the work being carried out to codify, recast and
consolidate EU rules, avoiding overlaps and deleting outdated
provisions. 6.1.3. more effective use of the impact assessment which
needs to be extended and made into an integral part of the
regulatory process; and
5.9. In addition, as part of the internal administrative
reforms which it set in train in the autumn of 1999, the
Commission established a unit for the simplification of 6.1.4. active involvement of the economic and social
regulations in its Enterprise DG. Though this is a welcome step partners and all the various civil society players, without whose
forward, the action taken by this unit will remain limited until assistance no simplification policy can succeed.
such time as it is directly attached to the General Secretariat
since simplification has to become a requirement for all the
DGs and other departments of the Commission. 6.2. The ESC above all urges the Council to act upon its
Lisbon mandate by adopting, at its meeting in spring 2001, a
genuine multiannual plan for the simplification of rules. This
5.10. For its part, the Internal Market Council of 25 May plan, which should be based on the detailed draft which the
2000 emphasised the need to coordinate the various existing Council asked the Commission to submit to it at the beginning
simplification initiatives (SLIM, BEST, test panels, impact of that year, should set out priorities and a timetable for action
assessment) more effectively in the framework of a coherent and should be backed up by innovatory methods, budgetary
strategy, which the Commission is to present to the European funding and effective means of appraisal. The Committee
Council in the spring of 2001. recommends that the plan be conceived in such a way as to
ensure that the major changes in this domain are completed
by 2005 at the latest, as this is the year in which the current
terms of office of members of the European Parliament and
5.11. It is therefore clear: the Commission come to an end. The plan should make
provision for:

5.11.1. firstly, that a large number of measures have been
introduced in recent years with a view to taking Community 6.2.1. remedial measures to correct the major shortcomings
action on simplification, but that, however commendable their in the existing rules as regards the need for simplification;
aims and scope and the methods involved, they have not had
a sufficient impact to dispel the general feeling that not enough
6.2.2. preventive measures to ensure that draft Community
has been achieved in this field;
rules currently in the pipeline and future rules pursue a new
approach to simplification;

5.11.2. secondly, that now that the Council has instructed
the Commission to submit a simplification strategy for its 6.2.3. back-up measures in the Member States.
16.1.2001 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 14/9

6.3. The plan should trigger a genuine process of simplify- 6.7.2. pressing for the introduction of new areas of contrac-
ing European rules, which will complement and amplify the tual freedom, self-regulation or co-regulation and areas which
impact of the energising of the economy, the internal market may be covered by codes of conduct at European level,
and employment already initiated at Luxembourg, Cardiff and particularly in the fields of environmental protection, con-
Cologne. It has been agreed to hold a special European Summit sumer interests, e-commerce and the information society;
each spring to review the progress made on the economic and
social initiatives decided at Lisbon, and this annual review
should include an assessment of progress on simplification, 6.7.3. signalling their readiness to participate directly, as
based on a Commission report containing scoreboards. partners, in the implementation of a new type of Directive,
under which it would be their direct responsibility, rather than
that of the Member States, to enact a number of fundamental
requirements through agreements and the use of labels and
certification and self-regulation procedures;
6.4. Turning to the contents of proposed new rules, the
Committee would draw the attention of the EU’s institutions
to the need to avoid jeopardising the added value of such 6.7.4. playing an active part in SLIM projects for which
proposals through excessive compromise which, when added they are in a position to make an equal contribution to that of
to specific national features, would be detrimental to the experts appointed by the administrations;
interests of users. Directives should also not contain too many
options regarding implementation at national level since that
6.7.5. facilitating the development of test panels comprising
would undermine the whole purpose of harmonisation. All
representatives of the players directly involved, namely enter-
legal instruments, whether Regulations, Directives or mutual
prises, trade unions and consumer associations.
recognition schemes, must contribute to simplification. The
Committee also stresses the need to continue work on (a)
consolidating rules in order to avoid overlapping provisions
and (b) ensuring that the language used is readily comprehen- 6.8. The Committee urges that this multiannual simplifi-
sible and straightforward in accordance with the inter-insti- cation plan be backed by the introduction of codes of conduct
tutional agreement of December 1998. for the EU institutions and the Member States, which should
commit themselves to:

6.8.1. adopting a general pro-simplification culture, thereby
6.5. The Committee underlines the need for Member States supporting the expectations of socio-economic users and
to show greater discipline in transposing EU rules, since the representatives of civil society;
latest Commission scoreboard showed that 13 % of single
market directives which had reached their deadline, i.e. 194 6.8.2. playing an active part in the simplification process as
out of a total of 1 489, had still not been transposed by all well as in the regulatory process by adopting new methods for
Member States. This is a clear deterioration of the situation preparing rules, defining their contents and implementing
and makes it increasingly unlikely that the target figure of them;
1,5 % will be achieved by the end of the year 2000.

6.8.3. ensuring that national laws are compatible with EU
laws and regulations.
6.6. The Committee would also draw attention to the
question of the duration of validity of EU rules; it urges that in
6.9. The Committee highlights the key role to be played by
all cases, and particularly in areas undergoing major change,
the Commission in ensuring the success of simplification
new rules have a limited lifespan with deadlines being set for
policy. With this aim in view, the Committee makes a number
the compulsory review of the text in question or, should this
of recommendations:
condition not be met, the repeal of the measures.

6.9.1. The Committee considers that the Commission
should draft an ambitious and innovative simplification plan
for the Stockholm European Council in the spring of 2001,
6.7. The Committee wishes to draw very special attention covering the Commission’s current term of office, namely the
to the direct role to be played by the economic and social period 2001 to 2005. This plan should enable the European
partners in bringing about a successful simplification policy in Council to initiate a comprehensive process for simplifying the
the EU. This means: rules, as recommended by the Committee in this opinion. The
Committee also considers that the Commission should submit
an annual report to subsequent spring European Councils,
reviewing the progress made, together with scoreboards, and
6.7.1. taking advantage of the areas of contractual freedom outlining proposals for new initiatives or for reorienting
made available to them under EU legislation, in particular in existing initiatives to respect the 2001-2005 multi-year time-
the social field; table.
C 14/10 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 16.1.2001

6.9.2. The Committee considers that the Commission 6.9.4.4. Lastly, the Committee proposes that the impact
should place particular emphasis on the need to simplify rules assessments be made public and that they should accompany
in connection with its own internal reform aimed at creating draft provisions throughout the legislative process so that at
an administration that excels; priority should be given to the each stage the joint decision-makers can assess the extent to
central simplification unit which should be provided with all which the amended draft conforms to the impact assessment
the requisite resources in view of the priority to be given to its criteria. Publicising the impact assessment will also help to
role, and attached directly to the General Secretariat of the evaluate, on a regular basis, whether a given draft provision
Commission since the need for simplification concerns all of has become obsolete and no longer actually meets the criteria
the Commission’s departments, irrespective of the fields in which originally justified its adoption.
which they operate.

6.9.3. The Committee considers it vital that budgets be 6.9.5. The SLIM projects should be continued and extended,
allocated for the simplification plan to give it sufficient ensuring — as the Commission has expressed its intention to
resources to succeed, and that representatives of civil society do — that draft rules which are revised in the light of these
also be involved, in order to provide a more reasoned and projects are submitted no later than six months after the
well-founded response to the issues raised in the impact publication of recommendations in a SLIM report.
assessment.

6.9.4. The Committee highlights the importance of the
impact assessment, which must remain a prerequisite for all 6.9.6. Greater use should be made of ‘test panels’ which
new draft rules. The Committee calls for this assessment to be should also involve, depending upon the subject matter,
strengthened by introducing the four innovations set out representatives of the social partners and consumers; steps
below: should be taken to ensure that the panels receive all the logistic
support they need to work properly.

6.9.4.1. The Committee draws attention to the need to
make the impact assessments more independent and to
6.9.7. The Commission must promote a general environ-
enhance their quality by ensuring adequate funding, use of the
ment which encourages a culture of simplification by (a)
right methodologies and effective consultation of the socio-
alerting elected representatives to this requirement, (b) training
economic players directly concerned. One good approach
officials (primarily in its own departments), (c) organising
would be for the Commission to entrust the impact assess-
seminars in this field, (d) encouraging benchmarking of
ments to an external body having the requisite qualifications
national best practice (and publishing the results on the
and meeting the necessary criteria of independence.
Internet), (e) developing cooperation with other international
bodies, such as the OECD, and (f) supporting initiatives by civil
society, foundations and think tanks which may help to instil
6.9.4.2. The Committee proposes that the preliminary this new culture of simplification at EU level and national
monitoring of respect for the subsidiarity principle be backed level.
up by a further test to determine whether there are alternative
courses of action: this implies that, rather than simply seeking
to justify the case for action at EU level, checks should also be
made to determine whether the desired goal can be achieved
by other means than the adoption of new rules by the EU 6.10. As the only assembly which represents the full range
institutions. The possible alternatives could be codes of of ‘users’ of EU rules, the Committee recognises the important
conduct for enterprises or socio-economic interest groups, role which it is called upon to play in a new European policy
contractual approaches as used in the social dialogue (in on simplification; from the standpoint of the ‘users’, the
fields such as the environment, consumer protection and e- Committee certainly has a key role to play here.
commerce). Where appropriate, these alternatives could also
take the form of measures which are neither regulatory nor
contractual, such as training measures, more systematic use of
legal procedures or the provision of support to civil society
associations which could help to achieve a given objective. 6.10.1. With a view to enabling it to exercise this role
satisfactorily, the Committee asks the Commission:

6.9.4.3. The Committee proposes that the impact assess-
ment should in future include an explicit analysis of how the
proposed new rules will improve simplification, including in
terms of the cost or time saved by the public. The assessment 6.10.1.1. to consult it, wherever possible, at an earlier stage
should cover the aim and contents of the proposed measure in the procedure so that the added value provided by
and also its implementation; this would justify attaching the Committee’s advice on simplification is not seriously
considerable importance to the way in which the measure is compromised by the fact that the co-decision making insti-
actually implemented. tutions are consulted at the same time;
16.1.2001 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 14/11

6.10.1.2. in particular, to consult it each year, on the 6.11.6. to speed up, prior to EU enlargement, the adoption
occasion of the presentation of the Commission’s annual of a number of simplified measures not yet provided for the
indicative programme of referrals to the Committee, on the users of the single market, such as an EU patent, an operational
preparation of the report for the spring European Council on statute for a European company, a straightforward VAT system
progress with simplification; this will enable the Commission for intra-community trade, the removal of double taxation
to involve the Committee in the definition of new priority within the single market, and the introduction of Directives to
initiatives, such as the scope of new SLIM projects or issues facilitate mergers and the restructuring of enterprises at
that merit the use of test panels; European level.

6.12. The Committee also highlights the role to be played
6.10.1.3. to directly involve it in discussions on improving
by the legal authorities at both EU and national level and also
and strengthening the impact assessment.
by the Ombudsman, in helping to promote simplification by:

6.10.2. With a view to making an effective contribution to 6.12.1. helping to bring pressure to bear on the EU
the simplification policy, the Committee is ready to play its institutions, governments and parliaments to take steps to
full part in the codes of conduct which it is proposing that the properly clarify the legal provisions and rules which they have
EU institutions adopt. To this end the Committee signals its the task of interpreting and enforcing; and
readiness to follow the guidelines set out in the conclusion to
this opinion.
6.12.2. contributing to the debate on the increased consoli-
dation of texts with a view to achieving greater simplification
for the benefit of courts, legal practitioners and all other ‘users’
6.11. Turning to the role to be played by the co-decision-
of the rules.
making bodies in the simplification policy, the Committee
calls on the European Parliament and the Council to:

6.13. The Member States have a key role to play in
ensuring the success of a simplification policy. To this end the
6.11.1. support its demand to be consulted at an earlier Committee calls upon them to:
stage, thereby enabling these two bodies to benefit from its
opinion at the beginning of the co-decision-making stage;
6.13.1. adopt codes of conduct for the simplification of the
operation of the single market and that they ensure that
national provisions are ‘euro-compatible’;
6.11.2. to entrust it, where appropriate, with exploratory
consultations in areas linked to the simplification of rules; this
could include asking the Committee for its views on complete
or partial alternatives to the introduction of rules which are 6.13.2. adopt a more disciplined approach over the time
currently in the pipeline and its views on the prospects for taken to incorporate EU provisions into national law, recognis-
involving economic and social players in the implementation ing that they now have a duty to show a clear example to the
of a particular Directive; applicant states;

6.11.3. to authorise funding to enable the Commission to 6.13.3. create more propitious conditions for the proper
formulate analyses and methods which could further the functioning of mutual recognition;
success of a simplification policy;

6.13.4. accept direct responsibility for facilitating the oper-
ation of the single market, following on from the initiatives
6.11.4. to undertake to reach a decision no later than already taken in the 15 Member States to set up coordination
12 months after the submission by the Commission of revised centres for the internal market. The Committee calls upon the
draft rules under the SLIM programme; Member States to engage in a joint management of the single
market in partnership with the Commission and other Member
States; to this end, harmonised administrative procedures,
certified by the European Union, should be followed in the
6.11.5. to verify, throughout the conciliation procedure, following fields: the removal of technical barriers; more
that their endorsement of draft legislation respects the criteria effective mutual recognition schemes; product safety; the
set out in the impact statement i.e. that it meets the expec- environment; anti-corruption measures; and customs cooper-
tations of users; and ation; and
C 14/12 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 16.1.2001

6.13.5. formulate national measures to help further simpli- to contribute to the Commission’s annual assessment for the
fication policies, including the development of their own Spring European Council.
central simplification units, and to notify best practice to
the Commission to enable it to introduce and disseminate 7.4. The Committee agrees to introduce systematic moni-
permanent benchmarking. toring of the impact assessment for each piece of draft
legislation.

7. ESC code of conduct designed to make a contribution 7.5. The Committee agrees to draw the attention of the EU
to the simplification process institutions to the possible need to steer EU rules towards an
approach based on contractual agreements, self-regulation and
co-regulation, under the supervision of the European legislator,
In order to make an immediate contribution both to the with the onus being on the socio-economic partners in the
simplification process and to the codes of conduct which it is fields and sectors concerned to take appropriate steps to
recommending to the EU institutions, the Committee has respond to this expectation within a reasonable period of time.
adopted the following code of conduct:
7.6. The Committee agrees to establish a dialogue with the
7.1. First and foremost, the Committee undertakes to European economic and social players to encourage them to
keep a watching brief on what has to be done to achieve take on the kinds of responsibilities — particularly contractual
simplification, and on the quality and efficacy for users of the responsibilities — that will enable them to make a direct
draft regulations referred to it. contribution to Community provisions.

7.7. The Committee agrees to establish a dialogue with the
7.2. The Committee undertakes to take the necessary steps,
Committee of the Regions in order to establish ongoing
when organising its work, to enable it to respond in good time
cooperation in this field, particularly with respect to the
to any early consultations by the Commission, the European
regional aspects of simplification.
Parliament or the Council, when the latter wish in this way to
take greater account of the Committee’s opinions on questions
relating to simplification of the rules. 7.8. The Committee agrees to establish a dialogue with the
economic and social councils in the Member States so as to
enable them to play an analogous role at national level to the
7.3. The Committee decides to draft an annual information role which the Committee has set itself at European level, in
report on the progress of the multiannual simplification plan, order to contribute to the success of the simplification process.

Brussels, 19 October 2000.

The President
of the Economic and Social Committee
Göke FRERICHS