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Procedure : 2011/2029(INI)
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Document selected : A7-0251/2011

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PV 13/09/2011 - 15
CRE 13/09/2011 - 15

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PV 14/09/2011 - 7.1
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Wednesday, 14 September 2011 - Strasbourg
Better legislation, subsidiarity and proportionality and smart regulation

European Parliament resolution of 14 September 2011 on better legislation, subsidiarity and proportionality and smart regulation (2011/2029(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement on better law-making(1),

–  having regard to its position of 15 December 2010 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the citizens' initiative(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 February 2010 on a revised Framework Agreement between the European Parliament and the Commission for the next legislative term(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 September 2010 on better lawmaking – 15th annual report from the Commission pursuant to Article 9 of the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 November 2010 on the 26th annual report on monitoring the application of European Union Law(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 8 June 2011 on guaranteeing independent impact assessments(6),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 September 2011 on the Commission's 27th report on monitoring the application of EU Law (2009)(7),

–  having regard to the ‘Political guidelines for the next Commission’ of 3 September 2009 by the President of the Commission,

–  having regard to the Communication from the Commission on Smart Regulation in the European Union (COM(2010)0543),

–  having regard to the report from the Commission on subsidiarity and proportionality (17th report on Better Lawmaking covering the year 2009) (COM(2010)0547),

–  having regard to the Communication from the Commission entitled ‘Third Strategic Review of Better Regulation in the European Union’ (COM(2009)0015),

–  having regard to the Commission working document entitled ‘Reducing Administrative Burdens in the European Union’ – 2008 progress report and 2009 outlook' (COM(2009)0016),

–  having regard to the Commission working document entitled ‘Third progress report on the strategy for simplifying the regulatory environment’ (COM(2009)0017),

–  having regard to the Communication from the Commission entitled ‘Action Programme for Reducing Administrative Burdens in the EU – Sectoral Reduction Plans and 2009 Actions’ (COM(2009)0544),

–  having regard to the report of 17 September 2009 of the High-Level Group of Independent Stakeholders on Administrative Burdens,

–  having regard to the conclusions of the Competitiveness Council of 30 May 2011 on Smart Regulation,

–  having regard to Rule 48 of the Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report by the Committee on Legal Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on the Internal market and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (A7-0251/2011),

A.  whereas the smart regulation agenda was introduced as part of the EU2020 Strategy, which aims at achieving ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ by the year 2020, primarily through the reduction of administrative burdens for business by ensuring the improved quality and simplification of existing EU legislation,

B.  whereas correct application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality is extremely important for the proper functioning of the European Union and to enable its institutions' activities to meet the expectations of its citizens, companies operating in the internal market and national and local government, and to ensure that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen,

C.  whereas the issue of smart regulation should be considered not only in the context of the Commission's legislative programme, but also in a wider sense, in connection with the continued implementation of the new features of the Lisbon Treaty that affect legislative procedures,

D.  whereas the Lisbon Treaty has sought to redress the balance of powers between the European institutions, and considers Parliament to be equal with the Council in lawmaking under the ordinary legislative procedure,

E.  whereas, following the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, national parliaments are now formally involved in monitoring the application of the principle of subsidiarity, with over 300 submissions received so far,

F.  whereas consultations with all interested parties, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and other relevant stakeholders, are of fundamental importance in the preparation of draft legislation, including impact assessments,

G.  whereas a programme aimed at reducing the administrative burdens arising from European Union legislation has been in place since 2005 and seeks to reduce those burdens by 25 % by 2012, which would be equivalent to a 1.4 % increase in the level of GDP,

H.  whereas, according to the 2010 Impact Assessment Board (IAB) Annual Report, the Commission comprehensively quantified only 27 % of the impact assessments undertaken in that year,

I.  whereas although the Commission has proposed measures to reduce administrative burdens exceeding the target figure, the Parliament and the Council have yet to adopt prior measures accounting for around a quarter of the 25 % target;

J.  whereas one of the key elements of the programme is the baseline measurement of administrative costs based on a standard cost model,

K.  whereas the use of recasting and codification to simplify and codify existing legislation ensures greater clarity and consistency as regards the changes made,

L.  whereas correct and timely implementation by Member States is of crucial importance as regards European Union directives, as is the ongoing problem of ‘gold-plating’ legislation, i.e. the inclusion of obligations going beyond the requirements of European law,

M.  whereas divergences due to differing implementation pose great challenges to the efficient and effective functioning of the Single Market, with the resulting three-tiered group of Member States, comprising those with incorrect implementation, incomplete implementation or inaccurate implementation, disadvantaging European businesses and consumers at the cost of further growth,

N.  whereas the SME Test was introduced in the Small Business Act, but has only been applied in a minority of possible cases so far,

O.  whereas the Vice-President of the Commission, Mr Maroš Šefčovič, expressed a strong commitment to the smart regulation agenda at the exchange of views held at the meeting of the Committee on Legal Affairs on 27 January 2011,

P.  whereas the new system under the Lisbon Treaty of delegated and implementing acts, in Articles 290 and 291 TFEU, is now subject to a common understanding and a regulation respectively,

General comments

1.  Stresses the vital importance of making simple and clear laws that are accessible and easily understood with a view to safeguarding the principle of transparency of European legislation and guaranteeing more effective implementation thereof, and to ensuring that EU citizens are able to exercise their rights more easily;

2.  Emphasises that European institutions must respect the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality when formulating proposals and observe the criteria laid down in Protocol No 2 annexed to the TFEU;

3.  Endorses the strategic approach adopted by the Commission in its communication on Smart Regulation in the European Union, which places smart regulation at the centre of the entire process of policy formulation, from the drafting of a legal act to implementation, enforcement, assessment and revision;

4.  Points out that all European institutional actors have a role in promoting and delivering better lawmaking, in accordance with the principles and guidance contained in the Smart Regulation agenda and the Interinstitutional Agreement on better law-making; considers that renewed commitment to these principles should be shown by all the parties involved;

5.  Stresses that, pursuing the same approach as was adopted in the Monti report, greater use should be made of regulations in legislative proposals, as part of the move towards less and better legislation;

6.  Urges the upcoming Presidencies and the Commission to set in motion the process of renegotiating the Interinstitutional Agreement on better law-making; draws attention, in this regard, to the relevant paragraphs of its resolution of 9 February 2010 on the Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the Commission, especially to the joint commitment by the two institutions to agree on key changes in preparation for future negotiations with the Council of Ministers on adapting the Interinstitutional Agreement on better law-making to the new provisions of the Lisbon Treaty;

7.  Stresses that every effort should be made to ensure that Parliament and the Council are treated as equals in the law-making process, thus implementing the principle of equal treatment of the two institutions deriving from the Lisbon Treaty;

8.  Welcomes the European citizens' initiative as a new form of public participation in European Union policy shaping; looks forward to its entry into operation in April 2012, and encourages the Commission to ensure that citizens are made aware of the rules and regulations applicable so as to enable them to use this instrument effectively from the outset;

9.  Calls on the Commission to give an undertaking regarding the deadlines by which it will meet requests made by Parliament pursuant to Article 225 TFEU, with specific reference to the commitment under the Framework Agreement to draw up a report on the concrete follow-up of any request within the three months following the adoption of a legislative initiative report in plenary and to submit a legislative proposal at the latest after one year;

National parliaments

10.  Welcomes the closer involvement of national parliaments in the European legislative process, in particular in the process of verifying the compliance of legislative proposals with the principle of subsidiarity;

11.  Points, in the context of the use made of the instruments for raising objections and actions on grounds of subsidiarity, to the lack of material criteria for establishing that there has been a breach of the subsidiarity or proportionality principle, and underlines the need for the material conditions for the application of those principles to be specifically defined at EU level;

12.  Stresses that the national parliaments will be better able to comply with their responsibility under the Treaty to test the compliance of legislative proposals with the subsidiarity and proportionality principles if the Commission for its part complies fully with its obligation, as laid down in Article 5 of the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, to give detailed and comprehensible reasons for its decisions;

13.  Highlights, in this context, the need for the national parliaments, when submitting an opinion, to distinguish between the aspects of subsidiarity and proportionality as far as possible;

Reducing administrative burdens and ensuring proper implementation

14.  Expresses concern that the programme to reduce administrative burdens may not reach its target of reducing administrative burdens by 25 % by 2012 and points out that Parliament and the Council should act promptly in order to consider and approve proposed measures; notes in this regard the value of increased use of fast-track procedures to adopt these proposals; undertakes to give prompt consideration to legislative proposals relating to such measures, and calls on the Council to do all it can to ensure that the reductions in administrative burdens identified by the programme are adopted;

15.  Notes the positive contribution made by the High-Level Group of Independent Stakeholders on Administrative Burdens to the programme to reduce those burdens that is being carried out by the Commission; emphasises, however, that the composition of the group should be better balanced, with the inclusion of more experts representing civil society and experts from other Member States;

16.  Encourages the High-Level Group of Independent Stakeholders on Administrative Burdens to enter into a dialogue with SMEs from across Europe, to identify the barriers most frequently referenced for preventing them from trading with other Member States within the Single Market, and propose measures to remove or reduce these obstacles to increased growth;

17.  Stresses the need for the programme to continue post-2012 to cover the life of the current Commission, with a more ambitious and clearly defined target and an enhanced remit to enable the programme to extend beyond simply administrative burdens and to address regulatory burdens and costs arising from EU legislation as a whole, including regulatory ‘nuisances’;

18.  Calls on the Member States to work consistently to reduce administrative burdens, and looks forward to continued constructive cooperation with national parliaments on this matter;

19.  Points out that, to ensure that the existing, and future, programmes to reduce burdens are successful, active cooperation between the Commission and the Member States is necessary in order to avoid discrepancies in interpretation and the ‘gold-plating’ of legislation (adding more stringent requirements to domestic implementing legislation that are not derived from EU law);

20.  Calls on the Commission and Member States to introduce more information in reporting requirements after implementing specific legislation to tackle the problem of ‘gold-plating’; considers that discrepancies can be significantly reduced if Member States are required to provide reasoned opinions explaining their decision to go beyond the standards set in the directives being implemented;

21.  Urges the Commission to continue to implement sectoral plan measures to reduce administrative burdens;

22.  Considers that the process of reducing administrative burden and simplifying legislation should not lead to a lowering of the standards laid down in the current legislation;

Policy formulation

23.  Calls on the Commission to make better use of White Papers presenting draft legislative proposals for consideration; considers that this would reduce the frequency with which proposals have to undergo substantial, if not wholesale, revision during the legislative process; further considers that this would aid evaluation of the proportionality of suggested legislation, which is often difficult when only outline proposals are presented initially in Green Paper form;

24.  Considers that, in order for European legislation to function better, communication about the legislative process and legislative proposals should be improved, because the reports emanating from the institutions often make it unclear to businesses and the public exactly what legislation has ultimately been adopted;

25.  Welcomes the Commission's commitment to review its consultation procedure, and endorses the decision taken to extend the minimum period of consultation to 12 weeks; stresses, however, that there is a need to better involve all stakeholders and considers that the Commission could explore methods of introducing inclusive awareness-raising procedures; considers that such a procedure could include identifying national and European stakeholders of interest to relevant policy fields and proposals and seeking to involve them directly in the consultation process;

26.  Stresses that open, transparent and regular dialogue is a basic precondition for greater involvement of civil society in the process of shaping legislation and governance;

27.  Suggests that a systematic method such as this would allow all interested parties and relevant stakeholders to provide a broad analysis of possible social, economic and environmental impacts of proposed legislation, to the benefit of policy formulation, adhering to the principles of an integrated approach;

28.  Considers that the current asymmetric methods and forms of consultation do not encourage responses from all interested stakeholders; notes the dissatisfaction often expressed by respondents regarding the form and content of online questionnaires; suggests that a common approach involving a standard form for responses to consultations would simplify matters for respondents and encourage receipt of a more detailed and reasoned selection of responses, covering the variety of potential policy issues and options consulted upon;

29.  In particular, calls on the Commission to effectively mainstream multilingualism in the running and publication of the results of public consultations, as a prerequisite for extensive involvement of all the European stakeholders;

30.  Expresses concern at the increasing complexity of consultation documents, and considers that efforts should be made, including the increased use of White Papers, to simplify them so as to aid and encourage responses from the relevant stakeholders, while increasing their accessibility for citizens; suggests that the Commission should investigate whether a ‘clarity test’ could be introduced, to ensure that consultation documents are easy to understand and reply to;

31.  Regrets that currently the response and feedback given by the Commission to consultations is frequently seen as unsatisfactory by respondents; urges the Commission to improve its communication after the consultation period has closed, and to provide feedback on the main issues raised by all respondents;

32.  Underlines the importance of guaranteeing the independence and credibility of the analyses carried out in the Commission's impact assessments so as to secure the overall goals of the smart regulation agenda, and reiterates Parliament's position on the issue as set out in its resolution of 8 June 2011;

33.  Suggests in the context of strengthening European competitiveness that impact assessments should identify the particular effects – both positive and negative – that measures will have on competitiveness and growth within the European Union; considers that these effects should as far as possible be fully quantified;

34.  Strongly endorses the proposal that, where new laws impose a cost on businesses, equivalent cost offsets should be identified, which would reduce as far as possible the regulatory burden elsewhere; considers this to be a key aspect of future programmes which will reduce burdens and improve the regulatory framework for businesses as a whole;

35.  Points out that the assessed weight of administrative and regulatory burdens should be expressed in net rather than gross figures;

36.  Urges the Commission, when formulating new legislation, to place the utmost importance on its possible impact on small and medium-sized enterprises; calls on the Commission to seek to exempt SMEs from regulation where provisions would disproportionately affect them and there is no robust reason for including them in the scope of the legislation; strongly believes that such mitigation provisions would have a positive effect on the implementation and usability of regulation, particularly for small and micro-sized enterprises; calls on all EU institutions to abide by Article 153(2b) of the TFEU, which requires them to avoid passing laws which impose administrative, financial and legal constraints that hold back the creation and development of SMEs;

37.  Takes the view in this regard that the SME test adopted in the Small Business Act has a key role to play, and expects the Commission to make full use of the test; stresses the need for the Commission to ensure consistent application of the SME test across Directorates within the Commission, and encourages the Member States to include similar considerations in their national decision-making processes; calls on all the parliamentary committees to apply the principles of the SME test to legislative reports when they have been voted on by the relevant committee and are being submitted to plenary for approval;

38.  Notes the Commission's intention to submit later in 2011 a legislative proposal on the use of alternative dispute settlement mechanisms, with a view to securing rapid and effective access to the out-of-court settlement of disputes.

Simplification and ex-post evaluation

39.  Demands that the Council, in accordance with its own statement in point 34 of the Interinstitutional Agreement on better law-making, require Member States to draw up and publish tables illustrating the correlation between directives and national transposition measures; stresses that such correlation tables are essential in order to provide transparency on how national law transposes the obligations in EU directives; emphasises that the use of correlation tables can play a useful role in identifying discrepancies and cases of gold-plating;

40.  Calls on the Commission to build on the successful programmes of better lawmaking and of administrative simplification in the Member States, including the extensive use of electronic procedures;

41.  Stresses that the recasting technique should always be used when amending legislation; at the same time recognises and respects the Commission's rights in the legislative process;

42.  Calls for the EUR-Lex database to be improved in order to make it more transparent and ‘user friendly’;

43.  Calls on the Council and the Commission to work together with Parliament in a constructive manner in order to ensure that the new system of delegated and implementing acts works smoothly in practice;

44.  Welcomes the wider use of ex-post evaluation of implemented legislation; emphasises, however, that such evaluation should be used for all significant legislation, not only in key sectors; notes in this regard that implementing and delegated acts should also come under consideration; calls on the Commission to expand ex-post evaluation as far as possible to all policy areas, and suggests that increased inclusion of ‘sunset’ clauses – primarily in the form of obligatory prescribed review dates, with the option, if appropriate and desirable, of designating automatic expiry of provisions contained in the legislation – could be a useful means of guaranteeing that regulations still in force are necessary and proportionate;

45.  Asks the Commission to review, in particular, all the funding regulations in order to reduce the administrative burden for applicants for EU subsidies with a view to making the whole application procedure more efficient;

Ensuring leadership and continued vigilance

46.  Welcomes the personal support the President of the Commission has given to the Smart Regulation agenda; considers the issue to be of sufficient importance that real political leadership is required from the Commission to keep this issue high on the political agenda, and in this regard suggests that the agenda be brought forward as a key part of the portfolio for one of the College of Commissioners; notes that, for its part, Parliament should investigate methods to increase the importance attached to better law-making within its committees, and considers that the use of inter-committee meetings to address this issue requires further consideration;

47.  Appreciates the Commission's continuation of its practice of examining the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality by the Union institutions and the national parliaments on the basis of individual ‘key cases’, thus improving the clarity of the ‘Better Lawmaking’ report;

48.  Undertakes to remain vigilant in monitoring the Commission's implementation of the smart regulation agenda, and looks forward to the progress report scheduled for the second half of 2012;

o   o

49.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the national parliaments.

(1) OJ C 321, 31.12.2003, p. 1.
(2) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2010)0480.
(3) OJ C 341 E, 16.12.2010, p. 1.
(4) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2010)0311.
(5) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2010)0437.
(6) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2011)0259.
(7) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2011)0377.

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