This independent blog collects news about projects or achievements in regulatory reform / better regulation. It is edited by Charles H. Montin. All opinions expressed are given on a personal basis.
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27 December 2010

Morroco registers success in regulatory reform

In its bid to become an ever-more business friendly country, the Kingdom of Morocco has scored several points in recent weeks, some of which are listed in this post.
According to  the 2011 Doing Business report, Morocco's ranking rose by 14 places, from 128th to 114th. In comparison, Tunisia is in 55th position, and Algeria 136th. Recent business climate reforms were listed and discussed at a recent French Chamber of Commerce and Industry conference by the minister Mr. Nizar Baraka: cutting red tape and simplifying administrative procedures, improving infrastructure (road and rail investment public investment has doubled this year), reducing the rate of corporate tax, reforming higher education to make it more responsive to the needs for skills.
Public service reform in Morocco is well documented on the website of the ministry of modernisation of the public sectors under the responsibility of Mr. Mohamed Saad El Alami . The Programme for modernisation and improvement of the management of Moroccan administrations comprises several pillars such as development of human resources, better local government and administrative simplification.
On 20 December, the Comité national de l'environnement des affaires (CNEA), which brings together key stakeholders, published the results of its first year of operation, listing 8 major reforms in the pipeline for adoption by May 2011, all aimed at making life easier for companies to register and operate, including commercial law and public procurement.
Its 2010 working programme lists four strategic priorities, the first being the simpler and more transparent administrative procedures.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has been supporting Morocco's public administration reforms since 1993. In 2006, a loan of 85 million euros was granted to finance the implementation of the second phase of the Public Administration Reform Support Programme (PARSP), launched in 2003. PARSP II seeks to improve the government's efficiency in budget and human resources management and to consolidate and control the public payroll.
The World Bank Group funds and delivers projects contributing to the economic and social development of Morocco, which are agreed with the Government in a Country Partnership Strategy (CPS). Covering a 4 year period (2010-2013), the CPS proposes  projects to enhance growth, competitiveness and employment, which require inter alia policies supporting a stable macroeconomic environment, an improved business environment and a trade policy that supports the competitiveness of Moroccan products. A second set of projects seek to improve service delivery to citizens, including a closer attention to the effectiveness of the public administration and the outcomes of public policies and investments.
Morocco is a participant to the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The current agenda of EU-Morocco relations is spelled out in an Action Plan which includes mutually agreed priorities and objectives for cooperation in the political, economic, commercial, justice, security and cultural spheres. The table summarising the projects and programmes to be financed in Morocco between 2007-2010 within the framework of the National Indicative Programme includes an appropriation of 20 million euros for public service reform.
Morocco also cooperates closely with OECD. At its ministerial conference in November, the Public Governance Committee of the OECD approved the membership of Morocco as a permanent observer, inter alia in recognition of its role as chair of the Good Governance for Development (GfD) in Arab Countries Initiative  (working group on civil service and integrity) and recent progress recently made to improve governance.
International experts, such as Scott Jacobs, have been assisting the implementation of these reforms by the development of regulatory reform tools and the training of officials in key ministries.
A Manual of Procedures (available in four languages) has been developed with the support of USAID to inventory and simplify investment procedures and bring them into line with international standards. A network of 16 Regional Investment Centres (CRI) ensures a consistent implementation accross the territory and offers, alongside one-stop-shop facilities, economic information relevant to business. Several websites provide practical information about setting up a business in Morocco, for instance "Esprit d'Entreprise" and the electronic portal "e-invest'".
E-government solutions are actively pursued under the aegis of the Plan Maroc Numeric 2013, managed under the personal supervision of the King. On 16 December, the Moroccan e-Government Forum took stock of the first year of the programme, which comprises a total of 89 projects, 15 key of which are expected to deliver by end 2011.  

France: business secretary announces measures for SMEs

On 20 December, newly appointed business minister (in charge of commerce, crafts and SMEs) Frédéric Lefebvre detailed an action plan to facilitate administrative support to SMEs, which in summary includes:
- the appointment of an SME contact point in each département who will be required to stay in touch with business realities by spending time in companies;
- the appointment of dedicated officials to specially assist 2000 high potential SMEs in their paperwork;
- a major conference ("Assizes") to address cutting red tape issues for SMEs, in the first quarter of 2011.
In application of the same policy, on 1 January 2011, a major simplification of VAT reporting on intracommunity exchanges of goods will take effect, as per a décret signed on 13 December. The relevant declaration will no longer be required for exchanges (not imports nor exports) up to 460k per year.

16 December 2010

The red tape trail (in the US)

Another way to look at the accumulation of administrative procedures, provided by an insightful article in the Portland Press Herald, is to look at how many agencies do companies really deal with. A CEO of in the food industry in Maine (US), asked his staff to compile a list of administrations they have to deal with. It turns out, the company deals with at least 22 state agencies and 14 federal agencies, as well as local government. We rest our case, your honor…

Save the date: IRRC 2011!

Communication from Bertelsmann Stiftung: “We – the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Modern Regulation project – are glad to announce that 2011 will be a year with an International Regulatory Reform Conference. As ever, we would highly appreciate your presence at this event.
Therefore, please save the date for the fourth edition of the International Regulatory Reform Conference to take place on March 10 – 11, 2011!
More information will follow in due course. Registration will be opened in connection with the official invitation to be sent out in early January.
Please feel free to forward this message to interested colleagues.
We hope to be able to welcome you to the next IRRC,
With kind regards,
The Modern Regulation team   “

News from British BR

UK puts an end to "goldplating": surprising news see official press release dated 15 Dec. The key to the new measures will be the principle of copying out the text of European directives directly into UK law. How come no-one seems to have thought of that before.
The end of the “enterprise tsars”: the Department for Business will also see through the reforms to health and safety regulations that the Prime Minister's former enterprise adviser recommended in October. The Institute of Directors said it was disappointed the Prime Minister had not appointed another "enterprise tsar" to lead independent reviews of obstacles to business growth and jobs, in replacement Lord Young (who resigned a few months ago).
PM D. Cameron to enhance local democracy: radical changes to planning policy will cut red tape and allow residents to take a greater role in shaping their own communities.
New anti-corruption rules will increase red tape: According to business risk consultancy Control Risks, which has just released its annual ‘Risk Map’, new, ultra-tough anti-bribery rules coming into force both in the UK and US will be one of the main causes of headaches for businesses during 2011.

08 December 2010

How can Open Government and E-Rulemaking contribute to BR?

Members of this network are invited to contribute by 15 December to an interesting discussion about how Web 2.0 technologies can contribute to making the regulatory process more accessible, transparent, comprehensible and participatory. The discussion is opened by an OECD note on Open Government and E-Rulemaking which as presented at the October 2010 Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) meeting.

EC glowing update on cutting red tape

The Commission's efforts to cut unnecessary administrative burdens are progressing well, making the lives of businesses easier, in particular small and medium sized enterprises, and strengthening European competitiveness. The Commission has already tabled proposals with a reduction potential well above the target of 25 % and is preparing new proposals bringing the total reduction potential to almost 33 % or EUR 40.7 bn. That is the key message of the update about the implementation of the Action Programme for Reducing Administrative Burdens in the EU, published today on the eve of the Competitiveness Council. Commission President José Manuel Barroso discussed this progress today with the Chairman of the High-Level Group of Independent Stakeholders on Administrative Burdens, Dr. Edmund Stoiber. The Group advises and assists the Commission on administrative burden reduction and will produce a report on best practice in Member States by end of 2011.

07 December 2010

Uganda launches regulatory reform

Last week, Uganda launched a regulatory reform programme with World Bank support. According to the press release, the reform program will focus on reducing regulatory costs and risks associated with obtaining business licenses, and on simplifying and reducing taxes for small and medium enterprises. Uganda’s legal and regulatory regime is cited as one of the biggest challenges constraining the country’s private sector. A recent World Bank Group study of Uganda’s business licensing regime puts the annual private sector regulatory compliance costs at $175 million per year, which represents 1.3 percent of the country’s GDP.
Uganda is not alone in this venture: regulatory reforms are pursued across the region and are boosted by the adoption in November 2009 of the Common Market Protocol, which should lead to measures to ease doing business and harmonised laws that guarantee the region's competitiveness to help its economies are to surpass the current level of investments.
In a follow up to last year's peer-to-peer reformers meeting in Arusha, the World Bank Group convened another meeting in Kampala recently to assess progress and how much ease has been created for businesses to operate in the region.
The Bank's experts say the region now requires more business-friendly regulation and faster legislation of business laws, preferably handled by the region's parliament. Reforms are also needed in tax payment systems, land registration and business licensing.
This work is supported by the Investment Climate Advisory Services of the World Bank Group which helps governments implement reforms to improve their business environment, and encourage and retain investment, thus fostering competitive markets, growth and job creation. Funding is provided by the World Bank Group (IFC, MIGA, and the World Bank) and over fifteen donor partners working through the multi-donor FIAS platform

Businesses welcome security regulation

In these days of Wikileaks dominated news, will regulation as a protection rather than an obstacle make a comeback?
According to a recent survey in the US, which fielded answers from a total of 285 security pros in industries such as food and agriculture, defense and information technology, it appears that the companies with the most industry regulations to address tended to have better security practices. 39 percent said the government should "enact more stringent cyber-security legislation along the lines of PCI." Thirty-two percent believed the government should create legislation with higher data breach fines.
More and more, better regulation means delivering efficiently the whole range of public policies, not just reducing paperwork. Appropriate regulatory response to risks is an essential component of good regulatory management.

Doing Business 2011: regulatory reform going strong

Last month the World Bank issued its new edition of its famous Doing Business survey, which is well worth studying as it reports on global progress towards better regulatory management. In the past year, governments in 117 economies carried out 216 regulatory reforms aimed at making it easier to start and operate a business, strengthening transparency and property rights, and improving the efficiency of commercial dispute resolution and bankruptcy procedures.
There are some unexpected changes which demonstrate  the diversity of the possible approaches, and the complexity of what makes economies attractive. SMEs have often been the targeted beneficiaries of the improvements to the business climate.
For the fifth year running, Singapore leads in the ease of doing business, followed by Hong Kong SAR China, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Among the top 25 economies, 18 made things even easier over the past year.
Kazakhstan leads the list of countries having improved business regulation for local entrepreneurs which also includes three in Sub-Saharan Africa— Rwanda (a consistent reformer of business regulation), Cape Verde, and Zambia—as well as Peru, Vietnam, Tajikistan, Hungary, Grenada, and Brunei Darussalam.

04 December 2010

Announcement of Conference on REACH - 22/2/2011, Brussels

This blog has been informed of a Conference on REACH - Challenges after the registration deadline of 1 December 2010 - 22 February 2011,  in Brussels
 It's about the challenges after the first of three registration deadlines of the REACH regulation which has just passed: Substances in high quantities and CMR substances had to be registered by 1 December 2010.
At this conference, the second in the field of law which is covered by our European Journal of Risk Regulation (EJRR), we will evaluate and discuss the impacts and challenges of this registration deadline for the chemical industry. At the beginning of the conference the actual situation after December will closely looked at 1 from different points of view with seven speakers from various backgrounds informing the audience about their experiences. Towards the end the speakers will concentrate on a possible revision (panel discussion with all speakers).
More information and registration at bock@lexxion.de

01 December 2010

Korea deregulates business permits

There are many of us regulatory experts who do not fully support deregulation. In that context, the example of Korea, which has been pursuing a deregulation campaigns since 1998, is quite enlightening.  An interesting summary is provided by a recently published editorial in the Korean Herald. The article concludes that deregulation has proved efficient to speed up recovery from the Asian financial crisis by improving the business environment. But these efforts apparently need to be intensified with  across-the-board elimination of regulations that unnecessarily require licenses or permits. A new technique has been devised for the latest deregulation initiative: transforming the current positive-list system for issuing licenses and permits to a negative-list one. A positive system prohibits all activities except those that are explicitly approved, while a negative approach allows all activities except those that are specifically prohibited. Under a negative system, a person can start a business without a license or permit unless it is banned by law.
For more on this interesting new (?) approach, see the editorial.

Senate slams National Assembly simplification bill

For many experts, France stands for the model of unswerving dedication to legal simplification, in answer to its “normative inflation”, with Italy the country that invented the simplification laws. Now after six years of intensive practice, has the simplification machinery run amok?  A recent report by the economic committee rapporteur of the Senate provides a bit of soul-searching. Under the title “Oeuvre utile ou illusion dangereuse? “ (useful work or a dangerous illusion), he signs a highly critical text showing how complex it has become to draft simplification measures. The senator criticizes the lack of justification and explanation, the absence of any impact assessment (contrary to the new rules),  the limited time for discussion. There had been signs that the procedure may have been running out of steam, the government having first given signs of weariness by transferring the onus of preparing the texts to Parliament. It is not clear against whom the severe indictment of the Senate is directed: though it primarily concerns the draft from the National Assembly, the ills seem to be inherent in the whole law-making system and responsibility shared by all the institutions.
An involuntary illustration of the problems denounced by the senator is given by the recent draft revised budget bill for 2010. Hidden in a 272 pages long bill, a number of simplification measures concerning tax and customs are well presented, with some justification. But the subject matter is so complex that the simplification will only be visible to the experts.

Viet Nam's commitment to administrative reform

We all know how much good regulatory management can bring about a better environment for investment and business, and is therefore particularly relevant in developing and transition countries seeking higher rates of growth. But knowing it and acting on it are two different things. Among the countries having resolutely adopted a regulatory reform agenda, we should single out Viet Nam, where sustained efforts to reform the public administration since the 1990s under the responsibility of the Home Affairs Ministry, have recently taken on a regulatory reform dimension. An interministerial Special Task Force was set up in 2007 to implement a large scale “administrative procedure reform.” Several foreign aid agencies supported the effort, among which USAID with its Viet Nam Competitiveness Initiative, AusAID and others.
The simplification of administrative procedures is well underway with “Project 30” having already delivered a full inventory of existing procedures, accessible online to citizens and business in a “national database” and two batches of simplification measures compiled after the officials applied the Regulatory Guillotine TM of Jacobs and Associates.
Other regulatory reforms instruments are also in the pipeline, such as the introduction of RIA, codification, electronic portals for business procedures (managed in each major city) and one-stop shops. An agency in charge of controlling the quality of new regulation according to the new principles has just been setup.
To take stock and evaluate achievements and plan further policies, the government of Viet Nam invited OECD to assess Project 30 and recommend options for a regulatory reform strategy. The report was presented at the first ASEAN-OECD workshop on regulatory reform, in Hanoi on 25-26 November. This major event, co-hosted by Viet Nam as chair of ASEAN and the OECD, was attended by some 15O Vietnamese officials and representatives from 6 other ASEAN countries. It was widely reported in the press, with official press releases from the Vietnamese Communist Party and the Government showing that this is a priority policy.
Many of the measures planned still need to be implemented, and the economic effects of the reforms have yet to be measured, but in the meantime, there is no doubt about the current government’s determination to cut red tape and reform public administration.

19 November 2010

OECD conference rethinks outcomes of regulatory policy

It seems hardly worth blogging about the OECD conference “Regulatory Policy at the Crossroads: towards a new policy agenda”, considering that among the some 330 delegates, most members of our expert community were there and are capable of drawing their own conclusions. However, some may have not been able to make it to Paris on 28-29 October, and pending the official report, here are some personal thoughts.
The conference was very rich in content, and covered all the current dimensions of the theme, with a real attempt to map out new directions for further development. With its new concept, smart regulation, the European Commission was perhaps at the core of the most significant trend. Cooperation between this institution and OECD was also highlighted with the launch of the “EU15” series of BR reviews. All the key European players were supporting the event: Bertelsmann, the European Belgian Presidency, the Swedish NNR.
Bearing in mind previous similar events (such as the Bertelsmann Nov 2009 conference and its 2008 predecessor) what new ground was broken? My answer would be the adjustment of regulatory policy to deliver updated policy outcomes.
  • The first consequence is the increased relevance of ex-post evaluation as a prerequisite step for new legislation. It is the most significant change in the newly developed “smart regulation” of the Commission, and it was suggested it became even become stage 1 in the regulatory cycle (or loop) that we could now close. The idea had already been brought up in 2009, but is now coming of age. Similarly J. Dodds (from the UK) pointed out that better regulators had to focus more on policy outcomes, to justify the resources devoted to regulatory management. This idea is linked the UK “benefits of regulation” project.
  • The second consequence is the stress on regulatory policy’s possible contribution to updated outcomes, such as innovation and green growth, as underlined by the Secretary General Angel Gurria in his introductory speech. “Both innovation and green growth are high on the policy agenda, and rightly so. (…) In both areas, regulatory policy has a key role to play. Good regulation enables innovation. It favours the growth of highly innovative small firms, by cutting red tape and administrative burdens. But what kind of regulations will foster green growth? This is one of the topics for discussion at this conference, where we are bringing together experts from the environmental and regulatory policy communities”.
At a more technical level, the conference did broach some other topics that may not have been addressed before with such force: “mapping sustainability” (=long term impacts), “governance in regulatory oversight”, social impacts of regulations.

British pubs bogged down by red tape

BR experts looking for catchy examples for their powerpoints can take another look at the BRE’s proposals to cut admin burdens on “micro-pubs”. The Better Regulation Executive has told Lord Young, the new “enterprise tsar” appointed earlier this month, that pubs are one sector that could do with a helping hand. The group consulted the industry (see BII site on red tape for pubs) and attended a Pubwatch meeting in Enfield. The BRE report already mentioned on this blog, Lightening the Load,  concludes: “We found that micro pubs [run by a single person] have a particularly high regulatory burden — they have to be registered with around five agencies, have around eight licences of various kinds and have to keep written records for National Minimum Wage, PAYE, food safety and refusals of underage sales”.

18 November 2010

Ireland welcomes OECD BR review

While all of Europe is anxiously watching Ireland the Irish PM has endorsed OECD’s view that BR can help his country exit the economic crisis. See press release which shows the government wants to harness the potential of BR. “Noting that in many areas Ireland compares well with its European counterparts, the Taoiseach acknowledged that a greater engagement with the agenda is needed across the Government system. Referring to the need for strong linkages between this agenda and economic renewal and public service transformation strategies, he stated, "it is clear that Better Regulation has a key role to play in our efforts to improve competitiveness and reinvigorate the economy. Initiatives in this field are already contributing to better and clearer legislation and improved regulation of key sectors of the economy but further improvements are needed”

Deregulation à la française

This blog reported in March that the French president, Mr N. Sarkozy, was personally committed to some deregulation, seemingly far ahead of all other politicians in France on this topic.Two more public remarks show that Mr Sarkozy is not forgetting this dossier and wants change before the end of his mandate:
  • During his live TV interview on 16 November, while listing policies for the last two years of his administration, and in a short list of four topics, he mentioned deregulation (in French “délégiférer”) but without using the word, giving a specific example of town planning. Strangely, this item was absent from all reports of the event published by the media and was only quoted in Le Monde’s pre-event analysis;
  • Two months ago, he had been more explicit in a public speech where he said he was reflecting on the possibility of asking Parliament to take time in 2011 to devote time to rescind obsolete laws. He compared the legal corpus to a “legal cathedral… where no-one can find the exit”.
We know that France has for some time been primarily sensitive to "normative inflation". The president's approach is in keeping with recent simplification laws and is mainly directed at clearing the legal body and improving access to the law for citizens.

For legal experts: automatic transposition

This blog has been informed about a new development of IT in support of Better Regulation:  Dr Alain Souloumiac , Chairman and Managing Director of DirLab has developed and tested an innovative method of achieving better legislation, tapping ICT power. The new application claims to ensure rapid, accurate and uniform transposition of inter alia EU directives, while simultaneously integrating stakeholder participation, mutual evaluation, tables of correlation and follow-up. DirLab claims that the system is now ready for use, and that MEP Alain Lamassoure is supporting its introduction through the European Transposition Centre (ETC) and its network for transposers, EuRefer, which are presently being established. You are invited to visit the website at http://dirlab.eu/ to examine this new state-of-the-art, hands-on, better regulation tool, and give below your impressions for the network.

12 November 2010

NZ business disappointed by regulatory reform

Continuing our tour of BR in far-off places, here is New Zealand, a country known since the 1980s for its commitment to regulatory reform. New Zealand has historically experienced cycles of economic de- and re-regulation and debate has tended to focus on the heavy or light-handedness of settings. After a period of significant deregulation and public sector reorganisation in the 1980s, the emphasis of regulatory policy is now on quality management and the maintenance of robust regulatory frameworks across all sectors. A Productivity Commission was established in 2010.
Red tape reduction was launched in 2009 but has not yet yielded its full potential. A government long term report stated "as much as a third of the income gap to Australia could be closed if we were able to move New Zealand to world best practice across all the major areas of regulation". Voluminous new legislation continues to be issued. Though NZ  scores well in some international surveys such as the World Bank's Doing Business index,  the effects of regulations such as the Resource Management Act or the regulation of network industries, are not covered. Business representatives claim that New Zealand scores poorly in surveys for the restrictiveness of hiring and firing regulations. Though a number of measures have been taken recently, for instance for minor construction authorizations, or marketing some pharmaceutical products, cutting red tape for business is not sufficiently high on the agenda. See business forum communiqué.

OECD and ASEAN cooperate on regulatory reform

Regulatory reform, under the denomination of Better Regulation, has greatly contributed to European economic integration. Has its potential been recognized and tapped in other regional groups? While the Asia-Pacific countries (associated in APEC) have been discussing BR since 2000, the South East Asia countries started more recently, in 2007. In both cases, these groups tapped OECD experience and exchanged best practices with its member states.
The APEC countries recognized that regulatory reform contributes efficiently to the promotion of open and competitive markets, and can be a key driver of economic efficiency and consumer welfare. As a result, APEC and OECD agreed a Co-operative Initiative on Regulatory Reform in 2000 and jointly issued in 2005 an Integrated Checklist for self-assessment of regulatory, competition and market openness policies, to build domestic capacities for quality regulation.
More recently, the ASEAN countries have engaged a similar dialogue with OECD since 2007. To date, ASEAN and OECD have organised two regional forums to strengthen cooperation between the two organisations:
A seminar on Challenges in Cooperation and Communication for Development in Southeast devoted to “Aid Effectiveness & Regional Economic Integration Asia” was held on 26-27 April 2010 in Hanoi, Viet Nam.
Other joint-activities include “ASEAN Special Dialogues with the OECD” in October in Paris and the coming “ASEAN-OECD South East Asia Investment Policy Conference” 18 -19 November 2010 in Jakarta. Preparations are also underway for the joint collaboration on the “Southeast Asian Economic Outlook Report” in 2012.
Regulatory reform has been identified as a specially promising tool to bring about greater economic integration and competitiveness. At their meeting in August 2010 in Da Nang, the ASEAN economic ministers agreed to an “ASEAN Regulatory Reform Dialogue” at the senior economic officials’ level early next year to address some of the issues starting with trade facilitation, services liberalization and investment facilitation.
In the meantime, as announced by Secretary General of the OECD, the Organisation will co-host the first ASEAN-OECD meeting on regulatory reform in Hanoi on 25-26 November.

10 November 2010

UK: new report by BRE on SMEs

The UK Better Regulation Executive has just published a new report on "Lightening the load: The Regulatory Impact on UK's Smallest Businesses" which confirms many things we know about burdens on small companies. Some points developed in the report:
Businesses with fewer than 10 employees account for 96 % of UK businesses and around 7 million jobs. They are disproportionately affected by regulation, for instance SMEs may be spending almost six times more than larger ones on risk assessment. The study team interviewed 500 micro businesses, from which three key themes emerged:
Frustration - there are significant levels of frustration with the extent of regulation, the pace of regulatory flow and the expectation by government that a single business owner can cope with the cumulative array of regulations.
Complexity & Misunderstanding - a range of regulatory areas place a huge cumulative burden on micro businesses. For example, because of the complexity of employment law and the challenges of its implementation some businesses actively avoid recruiting and expanding.
Tax system – Although outside the scope of this project, the theme was often viewed as very close to regulation (both are seen as government intervention).
Two underlying issues emerged. 1/ Policy makers are still not 'thinking small first' when designing and implementing regulations. 2/ The level of managerial capability in micro businesses is a key constraint.
The Government is expected to present new measures within its better regulation policy.

Victoria slashes red (and green) tape

For yet another example of determined action to reduce administrative burdens, see what the State of Victoria (Australia) has been doing.
“Along with Denmark and the Netherlands Victoria is one of the world’s leaders in cutting red tape. This is one of the ways we have kept the worst of the Global Financial Crisis from crossing the Victorian border” says proudly the Treasurer (minister of finance) summing up his Government’s Reducing the Regulatory Burden initiative, now into its fifth year and credited for delivering over $401 million worth of red tape cuts per year. As in other countries, some stakeholders remain skeptic, as for instance the Victorian Employer’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) which calls for further measures to simplify procedures related to tourism, and address  “green tape” (environmental protection-related paperwork).

French PM appoints simplification czar

As announced on this blog, the French Prime Minister, Mr Fillon,  had decided to appoint a commissioner in charge of checking planned legislation for new administrative burdens.
The name of the incumbent of this new position has been made public: Mr Rémi Bouchez belongs to the Conseil d'Etat, the highest administrative court, and has contributed to compiling the "guide de légistique" which is the bible of all French drafters of regulation, with its emphasis on formal regularity. He will need to adopt the wider "better regulation" approach, including the economic perspective, to meet the requirements of his new mandate.
See previous post and today's press release.
The press release also confirms the search for common commencement dates, to be enforced by Mr Bouchez, and the moratorium on new regulatory burdens on local authorities.

08 November 2010

Decentralisation and regulatory governance in France

 The French model of public governance is generally viewed as based on the principle of unity of the territory and centralization of the normative power. This slightly obscures the amount of devolution to regional and local entities, which has been actively pursued for over 200 years under the concept of “décentralization”. This blog has reported the discussion of the most recent bill reforming the distribution of competences between the various levels of government.
Fuelling this interesting debate, the “institut de la décentralisation (a think tank on public action at subnational level) published last week a report, unfortunately not on-line, entitled “public governance: consequences of a regional legislative power on public policies.”
The theme will be discussed in an evening seminar on 15 November, and the current issue of “Pouvoirs Locaux”  includes a very thorough dossier on the a desirable “territorial differentiation”  and its legal impact.

26 October 2010

Iraq regulatory reform vacancy notice

Regulatory reform is part of the agenda for the reconstruction of Iraq, as documented by a study published by CIPE. This means employment opportunities, as indicated by an announcement by UNJobs for expert positions to support Iraq regulatory reform, within the context of the Iraq National and Provincial Administrative Reform Project. This is a four-year USAID-funded national and provincial-level capacity strengthening project seeking to improve services delivery processes through better governance and resource management approaches. Attention: closing date 29 October.

OECD takes centre stage on regulatory policy

Later this week, the OECD will be the world capital of regulatory quality with a two day conference on “Regulatory Policy at the Crossroads: towards a new policy agenda”. More than 300 delegates will be meeting in the brand new conference centre to reflect and discuss the future, and flesh out its promising new incarnation, “regulatory governance.” Experts will be looking for new trends, academics will be seeking advanced paradigms, and practitioners will be trying to learn from colleagues on how to deal with improving the quality and effectiveness of regulation.

Admin burdens on citizens

I have recently discovered another website on our regulatory issues, with a catchy name “What A Relief!” The site comprises some resources (9 documents), but nothing very recent.
Who is behind this? Quote from the site:  ‘Under the umbrella of the European Public Administration Network, a Learning Team on reducing administrative burdens for citizens was established. During four meetings in 2008, the participants of the Learning team will work together intensively, to learn more about the national approaches and methodologies to measure and to reduce administrative burdens for citizens and to improve public service delivery. More than 20 countries are participating in this learning team and it has already produced some interesting results (see also publications).
To strengthen the cooperation between the participants of both the “What a relief!” seminar and the EUPAN Learning Team it was decided to set up a common website. This website will serve to exchange news, results, best practices, manuals and other publications on improving public service delivery with less administrative burdens for citizens. The website is sponsored and hosted by the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.”
A nice initiative, a pity it is not maintained.
This group advertises a 3 day seminar on 3-5 November in Utrecht, seemingly reserved to invited persons.

22 October 2010

Reactions to Commission's smart regulation paper

For a good summary of first reactions of stakeholders to COM(2010)543, see Euractiv dossier.
Not unexpectedly, the reactions were in general quite critical, especially from the business world, mainly on the perceived failure of the Commission to give a practical and prioritized content to the new concept, and improve RIAs following the ECA audit.

Simplification law nearing adoption in France

Today the French Senat examined today in a second reading the bill on simplification and improvement of the quality of the law which was tabled in August 2009 by Mr Warsman, the chairman of the legal committee of the National Assembly. The bill contains some 145 articles, most of them very technical, but there are a few illuminating breakthroughs, or at least signs that the never-ending war on red tape is still on. For example:
Article 3 seeks to reduce paperwork by allowing administrations to exchange data to avoid asking citizens for duplicates of official documentation already held by another service (example birth certificate). Citizens may even refuse to provide copies of documents arguably already submitted. This is a further advance on the very specifically French approach successfully launched with the 12 April 2000 law on “relations between citizens and the Administration”.
Article 8 offers the possibility of substituting formal consultation of an official body by an internet consultation or any other suitable channel.
The other articles, several of which are directly transposing the Services Directive, should not be dismissed because they sound so very technical. But retrospectively, they do show a recognition of how far the over-administration of the country has reached, and are perhaps only the tip of the iceberg.

Higher profile for EP in EU decision-making

The European Parliament approved on 20 October (in plenary)  the text of  a revised Framework Agreement giving relations with the European Commission a new scope and paving the way for MEPs to have more power in EU decision-making. MEPs recognised the Commission's commitment to giving equal treatment to the Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers. The principle will apply particularly to gaining access to meetings and documentation on legislative and budgetary issues. The Parliament will also get more access to classified and confidential information and will play an enhanced role in the Union's programming: the College of Commissioners will have to meet with leading MEPs before adopting the EU's Annual Work Programme. Moreover, the Parliament will be kept informed of all developments in the EU's international negotiations – particularly those concerning trade deals. MEPs will also be kept abreast of Commission meetings with national experts on EU legislation. According to how these new arrangements are understood and implemented, there will or there will not be progress in the quality of EU law-making.

20 October 2010

North American anti- red tape "Czars"

Brian Mulroney, former Canadian PM, suggested last night that the government “appoint a Regulatory Czar with a specific one-year mandate to act on the serious analyses already on record and cut through the bureaucratic swamp of overlapping and outdated regulations that serve no real public policy purpose.” (as reported in the Canadian “National Post”)
Such a position has existed for a while in the US, and the current incumbent, Cass Sunstein, judging by the number of Google hits, is quite a celebrity. Any reaction from our US or CND experts?

19 October 2010

What next for BR in the UK?

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) has just published a very interesting report on how they view the development of better regulation in the UK, undoubtedly one of the pioneers and currently the most advanced country in this field. In the introduction, ACCA describes its purpose: “At a time when the regulatory reform agenda in Britain and abroad is facing increasing skepticism from both its supporters and its detractors. Written with the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in mind, Coming of Age: What Next for the UK Regulatory Reform Agenda? draws on the experience of ACCA’s members, on the views of our respected and influential SME Committee, on ACCA’s own experience as a (self-)regulator and on an extensive review of the literature on regulatory reform in Europe and beyond.” The approach is also presented as “Based on a template of regulation-as-taxation, it builds on first principles to discuss the fundamental shortcomings of the UK’s Better Regulation programme and how it can be reformed in order to deliver better outcomes for small and medium-sized enterprises”. A most valuable contribution to the discussion, with both lessons learnt from past BR programmes and conceptual advances. Our thanks to E. Schizas from ACCA.

Smart Regulation: a critical analysis

The European Commission’s 8 October communication on smart regulation closes was awaited as a key document concluding a cycle of reflection and consultation on the new contours of regulatory quality and a roadmap of future steps to achieve it at the European level.
As a contribution to a book to be published at the end of the year, I have drafted a full-length critical analysis of this “year I of smart regulation”, outlining the origins of the change and the relevance and impact of the changes. Here are some of the points that I develop in my article:
Better regulation had not yet achieved its full impact: the simplification effort had not yet truly reduced the perceived overgrowth and complexity of European law, in spite of the claim that the number of legal texts had been reduced. In spite of the few major successes (the VAT reform to introduce electronic invoicing for instance) the cutting red tape program which is supposed to run until 2012 needs to deliver significant additional measures in a greater number of areas of legislation, like statistics, accounting, environment, etc. All in all, in no way can it be said that better regulation had already reached the objectives set for it by its initial promoters: EU law still gives an impression of complexity and bureaucracy, the decision making process has not been made that much more transparent;
In this context the innovations introduced by smart regulation can be welcome if they do not undermine or slow down the sustained delivery of ongoing better regulation results. The two main changes in SR are 1/ the broadening of the ambition of the strategy to “make markets work for people” which is wider than “simplify the regulatory environment for business”; 2/ the new emphasis on the content of policy and legislation, which must become “smart”, i.e. deliver effectively on the full range of public policy objectives, rather than reducing the volume of legislation and its burden on companies.
This new approach will have to avoid running into some well-known pitfalls. By giving more attention on the content of regulation and requiring more evidence to justify reform, it opens the way for additional bureaucratic prerequisites, running the risk of focusing more on the process, and not enough on the outcome. The shift is not exempt from technical challenges, as the evaluation methods will need to be adjusted to accommodate SR goals. By insisting on the technical evaluation of evidence in support of decision making, SR may dilute the political initiative and further insulate the regulators from the pressure of the stakeholders. These will be some of the challenges facing smart regulation and also the criteria against which to assess its future achievements. Comments welcome !

Better Regulation in France

The OECD has just published “Better Regulation in Europe: France 2010”, in the “EU15” series. This report maps and analyses the various components of regulatory management in France, assessing current policy and practice and offering suggestions for regulatory policy and reform in the future. This is the most comprehensive and unbiased overview of what is happening in France in regulatory quality and will remain a reference for all experts interested in the French approach.

08 October 2010

Report of the European Court of Auditors on the Commission's Impact Assessment

This blog has reported on the preliminary findings of the ECA. Now the final report (79 pages) was published on 28 September.  This document gives a thorough update on current issues and makes a number of reasonable suggestions for improvement. The two most interesting parts are:
  •   the two page executive summary:
  •  the response of the Commission which implicitly gives a list of outstanding issues, including: the recent strengthening of the effect of IAB decisions, the question of IAs on EP substantial amendments, consultation on draft IAs, the use of quantifiable indicators, and many others.

Smart Regulation officially defined

Today, the European Commission issued a key document for the understanding of its most recent concept to address regulatory quality, smart regulation. According to the press release, the Commission has set out plans to further improve the quality and relevance of EU legislation. It will evaluate the impact of legislation during the whole policy cycle: when a policy is designed, when it is in place, and when it is revised. The Commission will work with the European Parliament, Council and Member States to encourage them to apply smart regulation in their work. Finally, to strengthen the voice of citizens and other stakeholders, the Commission has decided to increase the period of its public consultations from 2012 onwards. The communication itself is not yet online, but should soon be so. The moderator of this blog, Charles-Henri Montin had been preparing an analysis of the move to smart regulation for the network of BR experts, now published in draft on http://regplus.eu/ The conclusions are not yet finalised.

Administrative simplification in Viet Nam: impressive results

This blog naturally concentrates on regulatory quality issues in Europe. But now and again, it is good to take a look at what is happening elsewhere, to examine whether RQ can help developing/ transition countries to improve governance and support economic growth. The case of Viet Nam is particularly interesting as it is an example of an ambitious administrative simplification program launched as one of the main components of public administration reform, with the assistance of several international donors (USAID, Japan, Australia, Denmark and others) . The approach has been, under “Project 30” to inventory, make known to interested parties via an online database and streamline all the “administrative procedures (APs)” in application (a reduction of 30% in number): see the ministry’s simplification website in English for the official objectives and methods.  This entailed defining a specific national method for inventorying APs, and for assessing them against the three criteria of legality, necessity and user-friendliness. Infra-national levels of government (provinces, districts and communes) were mobilized in the effort, and sometimes go beyond national policies. Several cities have set up their own programs, for instance Ha Noi’s electronic portal, d. Other programmes concerning the legal system, under the aegis of the ministry of justice, are also underway, with positive RQ impacts. There is a wealth of documentation on the internet concerning these projects, the best recent summary being published by the Brookings Institute.

23 September 2010

News from the interinstitutional agreement

6 September 2010:  A report on the Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission was presented by MEP Paulo Rangel.  According to the press release , the new inter-institutional agreement reinforces EP powers and raises it to be a political actor on an equal footing with the Council and the Commission: the principle of the division of powers is taking shape in the EU.
With the entry-into-force of the Lisbon Treaty, it had become necessary to revise the Framework Agreement, as it defines the relations between the EU institutions in a period in which the European Parliament has obtained strengthened powers, especially in the legislative process.  The Framework Agreement deals with issues such as the political responsibility of both institutions, the circulation of information between them, the external relations, the enlargement and international agreements, the implementation of the budget, the political and legislative programme of the Commission and the multiannual programme of the Union, the legislative competence and specific implementation powers of the Commission, the control of the application of Community law and the participation of the Committee in the parliamentary works, among others.  The MEP writes: "The powers which are traditionally assigned to the Parliament, based on the principle of the division of powers", and highlighted that the European Parliament is becoming a true Parliament and that evolution "represents not only a repetition of history, since we, in the 21st century, are facing battles of affirmation of the parliaments which already struggled in the 18th and 19th centuries. Therefore, this is of great importance not only for the democratic control of the EU, but also of great interest to political science", underlined Rangel.
For a more balanced analysis of the issue, including Council objections, see Euractiv article. (à suivre)

ECA presenting its report on RIA on 28 Sept.

The long-expected report (a preview was available for some time on the Council website, as reported by this blog), will soon be public.
Impact Assessment is one of the cornerstones of the European Commission’s Better Regulation policy. The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has analysed whether impact assessments have supported decision-making in the EU institutions. The main conclusions and recommendations of the Special Report will be presented to the press by Mr Henri Grethen, a Member of the European Court of Auditors, on September 2010 at 10 a.m. See online invitation.

EP on BR: business as usual

On 9 September 2010, the European Parliament adopted its annual resolution of on better lawmaking, on the basis of the 15th annual report from the Commission pursuant to Article 9 of the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.
This document is useful as a recapitulation of current issues and trends, but does not include any new insights, and does not show the EP as particularly innovative. Actually, by using the same concepts as in previous years (there is no mention of smart regulation), and not volunteering any new development, the report, which follows a predetermined format, looks somewhat conservative, or at least prudent, as for instance its comment on alternatives to legislation
(the EP) “46. Warns against abandoning necessary legislation in favour of self-regulation or co-regulation or any other non-legislative measure; believes that the consequences of such choices should be subject to careful examination in each case, in accordance with Treaty law and the roles of the individual institutions;
47. Stresses, at the same time, that soft law should be applied with the greatest of care and on a duly justified basis, without undermining legal certainty and the clarity of existing legislation, and after consultation of Parliament as underlined in its resolution on a revised Framework Agreement”
No progress is made on how the Parliament would examine impacts of substantive amendments to Commission proposals.
There are, however, some encouraging ideas:
- An invitation to the Commission to clarify the content of the smart regulation agenda;
- Support to the idea that Commission impact assessments should be reviewed by an independent body;
- An invitation to the Commission to provide a two to four page summary of its impact assessments.

"Common commencement dates" arrive in France.

In a speech delivered on 17 September at a formal prize-giving ceremony to reward SME leaders, the French Prime minister F. Fillon announced a series of measures which aim to simplify the regulatory environment in which small companies operate, to boost their international competitiveness:
- Common commencement dates (CCD): the PM has indicated that “to limit regulatory instability”, he wished that new rules concerning business should be introduced on a “very limited” number of dates in the year, with the objective of reducing those dates to two a year. CCD are now part of the arsenal of measures that the countries most advanced in regulatory management strive to implement. Examples: the UK (two dates a year), the European Commission (this link offers a good analysis of the issue), the Netherlands and Denmark;
- A new senior official in charge of « reviewing draft legislation for new burdens on business”. Located in the PM’s office, the new commissioner will be in charge of checking that new regulation does not cause excessive burdens, especially for SMEs; starting with accounting rules, he will make sure that new rules are “manifestly indispensable” and proportionate to the size of the companies. The Employers Federation (MEDEF) had recently also created such a position.
These measures had been outlined by President Sarkozy in March, in a speech on industrial policy but had not yet been implemented.

21 September 2010

Stakeholder input on what Smart Regulation should be

The European Commission conducted a stakeholder consultation from April to June to to collect input for a communication on Smart Regulation which will be published this autumn. The communication will present the Commission's priorities for Smart Regulation, as announced in the President's political guidelines of autumn 2009.
The EC has recently published online the 79 contributions received from citizens, organisations and public authorities: a summary report and the Commission's response will be published at some time, but in the meantime, the contributions make for interesting reading.

French PM wants to boost competitiveness

Friend-of-this-blog Denis Besnainou (European Commission) informs us that the French government has yesterday made a firm commitment in favour of competitiveness, "inseparable from the rebalancing of public finances". This may not be much news to non-French experts, but in France, this does look like unchartered territory, not to say adopting "anglo-saxon prejudices".
The full news item develops the connection between entrepreneurship, as supported by the French government, and competitiveness, with the claim that thanks to R&D, innnovation and various public incentive schemes, especially for SMEs, France's position is now second in Europe for FDI.

27 July 2010

Egyptian Better Regulation

It is a pleasure to see that our BR efforts are now spreading to distant countries. This blog has received notification of the publication of a new site in English promoting the Egyptian Regulatory Reform & Development Activity – (ERRADA) This initiative is specifically targeted at making life easier for business. Experts are invited to visit and browse the website  to learn about the work of the Initiative and its latest developments, and give feedback and comments to help develop the website.

26 July 2010

What is "Local BR" ?

This blog, and the "smart regulation" group on LinkedIn, have been informed of the publication of a most interesting document which invites regulators to consider one of their weak spots: enforcement. It is the "outcomes and impacts toolkit" developped by the Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO) in the UK.
The site states "the concise version of the toolkit provided on the site covers all the essentials and includes a worked example from East Cambridgeshire District Council. The 13 key tools it lists are closely linked, and should be applied in sequence to gain their full value, as the elements of a comprehensive evaluation framework". A series of 6 "case studies" shows that the approach is not theoretical and can be implemented in practice. The LBRO site includes quite a few other interesting developments. A sentence such as "LBRO is developing a new scheme to help ensure that businesses that trade across council boundaries benefit from consistent regulation", seems self-evident, but how many other countries can claim that they are officially tackling the issue of regional differences in implementation of national regulation? 

"Human Rules" explained

Our friend Kris Blancke, organiser of a memorable BR event in June, informs us that the videos of the speakers on the "humanrules conference" are available on the website http://www.humanrules.be/
For those who wonder what this new concept is here is some language from the site:
"The European discussion on (good, better, smart) Regulation and its regulatory instruments is at a turning point. It is clear that some of the actual regulatory mechanisms have shown deficiencies and need to be revised and even re-designed. Recent reports and the launching of the open stakeholder consultation on smart regulation aim at activating this debate. The Human Rules Conference contributed to this debate by looking at this theme from new angles but with one common factor : people were in the centre of our attention."
The video is sleek and challenging. There are some snappy sound bites.  I invite you to discover them. They are really worth a visit.

Regulation and innovation: an American viewpoint

A friend of the network draws our attention to an interesting article in the Washington Post entitled "Can Regulation beget innovation", which explores the relation between red tape and the capacity of business to recruit and invest. The article also depicts the current perception of the Obama administration by the business world. Good reading for those who keep a watch on US-style regulatory reform.

07 July 2010

Summer break for the blog

Work will no doubt continue, but I am taking some annual leave and will not keep up my regulatory quality watch during the summer.
So the news will have to wait a few weeks ! Season's greetings to the network !

06 July 2010

UK Govt launches consultation on reducing legislation

The Coalition Government  has just launched a new website to gather input from citizens on ways to "restore and defend (their) freedominter alia by "repealing unnecessary laws" and "cutting business and third party regulations."  The site has apparently already attracted a great  number of suggesions. It is interesting in that it expresses the new government"s approach to legislation, clearly inspired by the old (UK) slogan "less is more".

French industry gets red tape overhaul

A member of the network, Laure Baillargeon, has pointed out for us an interesting development in France.
Following the major consultation exercise called "Etats généraux de l'industrie", which aimed to collect as many as possible stakeholder views on the future industrial policy and closed at the end of February, the minister in charge Christian Estrosi announced a series of measures to support private companies in the industrial sector. An overview of the new policy is provided on the ministry's dedicated website.
Most interestingly for regulatory quality, the minister has entrusted a Member of Parliament (Laure de la Raudière) with a mission to conduct a comprehensive review of all regulation and procedure bearing on industrial companies, to seek ways to lighten burdens and increase competitiveness. This is explained in a "letter of mission" to Mme de la Raudière who will have the full support of all the ministry services in her investigations, and be seconded by a delegate from the ministry of economy.

22 June 2010

France reviews precautionary principle

France is probably one of the only countries to have written the precautionary principle into its Constitution, in 2005. The need to forestall any re-occurence of the "scandal of the contaminated blood" was one of the driving forces behind the reform. Attention has recently been drawn back to the issue by the excessive precautions taken against the swine flu that did not materialise, and again yesterday 21 June by the publication of a report on the past hasardous effects of an insecticide in the Antilles. Earlier this month, Parliament held a seminar bringing together lawyers, philosophers, academics and others to publicise and discuss the results of a parliamentary review of the implementation of this principle. Today, Parliament examined the report.
The 2005 constitutional amendment introduced a Chart of the Environment defining conditions (grave danger, uncertain scientific evidence) in which specific risk assessment procedures and conservatory measures should be used. The drafters of the review have noticed that the principle was being applied to a wider range of issues than initially foressen (on this see previous post on this blog) and call for a new text to further specify the conditions, stressing proportionality and insisting that precautionary measures should always be temporary. Good dossier on Vie-Publique.fr (in French.)

"Human rules:" a new approach to regulation

Belgium, which will take up the presidency of the EU on 1 July for six months, organised a (restricted) conference on 17-18 June in Ghent. It stated its ambition to take a fresh look at regulatory quality and management, settin g up a good looking dedicated website: http://www.humanrules.be/ Extract from the homepage: "It is clear that some of the actual regulatory mechanisms have shown deficiencies and need to be revised and even re-designed. Recent reports and the launching of the open stakeholder consultation on smart regulation aim at activating this debate. This year's meeting of the Directors and experts of better regulation (DBR) will contribute to this debate by looking at this theme from new angles but with one common factor : people will be in the centre of our attention". This was the theme of an original conference, including a "field work" session (canvassing local inhabitants), the purpose being to unleash "creative thinking." The site already offers a definition of "human rules", as the next step for regulatory quality: it may be worth watching for the announced "booklet on human rules" compiled from participants' contributions.

21 June 2010

Portugal launches new phase of SIMPLEX

Our colleague Susana Brito is circulating an official presentation of the new phase of the well known SIMPLEX programme, called SIMPLEGIS, launched in Lisbon in May, and comprising three main components, aimed at both citizens and businesses:
  • net reduction the number of laws, by-laws and amendments, repeal of obsolete legislation and faster transposition of EU law,
  • better quality legal acts thanks to training of legal experts, improved access for citizens (including summaries in plain language, in Portuguese and English, and online publication on specific websites) and systematic codification;
  • improved enforcement, to be achieved by helping stakeholders understand the content of legislation, and more comprehensive ex post evaluation.
There is also a Q&A document. This new document offers a specific approach to Better Regulation, based on the search for better legal quality of texts, and easier retrieval and access to the corpus, rather than on a more comprehensive study and limitation of their impact. We would also need a summary of the results of SIMPLEX over the past years.
For more information, see official brochure and webpages from Secretary of State for modernisation, French ministry of modernisation (in French) and OECD report.

18 June 2010

New British cabinet outlines regulatory strategy

UK Business Secretary Vince Cable announced on 2 June an action plan to bring an end to the excessive regulation that is stifling business growth. He detailed the first phase of the Coalition Government's action plan to reduce regulation following the Prime Minister's commitment last week to "re-open Britain for business". The action plan:
  • Creates a new Cabinet "Star Chamber" that will lead the Government's drive to reduce regulation which is stifling growth, especially of small businesses. This Reducing Regulation Committee will be chaired by the Business Secretary and will enforce a new approach to new laws and regulations, ensuring that their costs are being properly addressed across the entire British economy.
  • Announces an immediate review of all regulation in the pipeline for implementation which has been inherited from the last Government. The cost of implementing this amounts to £5bn annually before April 2011 and £19.1bn per annum thereafter. This will be the first action for the new Cabinet committee.
  • Establishes a new "challenge group" to come up with innovative approaches to achieving social and environmental goals in a non-regulatory way. This team would work with experts including Richard Thaler, the US behavioural economist.
  • Introduces a new approach that will control and reduce the burden of regulation. A "one-in, one-out" approach, designed to change the culture of government, would make sure that new regulatory burdens on business are only brought in when reductions can be made to existing regulation. (from the official website).

European Parliament votes for simpler food labelling

On 16 June, the EP voted in plenary on a 2008 Commission proposal for new legislation on providing food information to consumers. The proposal combines existing rules on food labelling and nutritional information into one regulation. The aim is to make food labels clearer and more relevant to consumers, without introducing excessive labelling costs for the packaging industry. The regulation includes specific requirements for displaying information on the front of packaging. A significant part of the discussion centrered around "traffic-light" labelling supposed to provide dietary information. It seems that the some balance has been struck, in the new legislation, between the need to inform consumers, without imposing unnecessary and often illegible labels on food packages, a permanent challenge for quality regulation. Some countries, such as the Netherlands, do not consider third party labelling as administrative burdens. For background information, see Euractiv dossier.

16 June 2010

A new source of legislative initiative

The General Affairs Council yesterday (14 June) outlined a "general approach" to the European Citizens' Initiative, paving the way for citizens to call on the European Commission to table legislative proposals on specific issues. 
No doubt this development will generate many comments, most of them welcoming this new democratic tool to express the vox populi. But we BR experts know that the statute book is already replete with volumes of legislation on all possible topics, and that politicians are rarely slow to seize the mood of the public when it is asking for more regulation. But this key item of the Lisbon Treaty may still prove useful, as it is aimed at supplementing the Commission's right of proposal. See European Council site, and Euractiv dossier, for more.

10 June 2010

EESC advocates 28th regime

In a press release issued last week, the European Economic and Social Committee advocated offering businesses and consumers the right to choose common rules in certain sectors: the EESC's own-initiative opinion on "The 28th regime" (rapporteur Jorge Pegado Liz, Group III, Various Interests – Portugal), adopted at its May plenary session, is part of the EESCs contribution to discussions on "better lawmaking". The 28th regime, an optional instrument that leaves national legislation intact, constitutes an alternative to the traditional harmonisation approach by offering a set of common rules for national and cross-border trade.
We remember that the Monti report (May 2010) also backed the 28th regime option: "Harmonisation through regulations can be most appropriate when regulating new sectors from scratch and easier when the areas concerned allow for limited interaction between EU rules and national systems. In other instances, where upfront harmonisation is not the solution, it is worthwhile exploring the idea of a 28th regime, a EU framework alternative to but not replacing national rules. The advantage of the 28th regime is to expand options for business and citizens operating in the single market: if the single market is their main horizon, they can opt for a standard and single legal framework valid across Member States; if they move in a predominantly national setting, they will remain under the national regime". (p.93)
The EESC also publishes on its site full information on self regulation and co regulation, and a comprehensive table of useful links, in a site managed by the Single Market Observatory. Experts should particularly check out past opinions of the EESC on better regulation(2008), better application of EU law, simplification.
Reminder: the Committee of Regions also publishes interesting opinions on these subjects, containing a lot of information, see recent post on this blog. (with JP Faure).

09 June 2010

France restructures local government

An important draft legislation was voted yesterday by the national assembly to introduce some historical changes in the structure and competencies of French local authorities. It is one of Mr Sarkozy's flagship initiatives, and has been quite laborious in getting through Parliament. It still needs to go back to the Senate for final approval or further legislative work. In a country renowned for an efficient centralised system, how will local democracy be improved by this reform? Will it help tackle the regulatory quality challenges? Answers are of course not ready, but we can take a look at the innovations, as they currently stand:
  • reduction, nearly by half, of locally elected officials: 3500 conseillers territoriaux, acting at both département and region level, replacing two corps totalling 6000 councilors, a move welcomed by taxpayers;
  • the possibility for départements and regions to amalgamate, by no means a panacea for those who consider that there are too many small non viable regions; the purpose of the change is to sooner or later combine the two levels, where it would be more efficient;
  • a count-down towards a clarification of the competencies of regions and départements with 2014 as the target for clearing any misunderstandings;
  • various technical measures to improve the management of larger cities, including a new type of authority, "metropolis", for conurbations beyond 450,000 inhabitants, that could be granted a wide range of powers beyond those of a group of communes (including transfers from the département, the region and even central government).

08 June 2010

COR work on multilevel governance and BR

Following a recent post on this blog, a Committee of Regions friend of the network points out for us some interesting documents from that advisory body.
The CoR regularly publishes opinions on the EU better regulation agenda, the most recent dealing with the Commission 2nd and 3rd strategic reviews of BR.
Earlier opinions address the regular Better Lawmaking reports from the Commission (drawn up in conformity with the protocol on subsidiarity and proportionality), and related communications:
The White Paper on multilevel governance offers an impressive background study and a number of recommendations on integrating the multilevel dimention into policy making at the European level: including "territorial action plans" to accompany stratregic reforms, territorial impact analysis, and the development of participatory governance indicators and territorial indicators, in conjunction with regional and local authorities. The CoR envisages to contribute to the use of "instruments" of Better regulation such as impact assesmment .

Impending simplification of GMO authorization

As announced in March, the Commission is working on a review of its approval system for genetically modified (GM) crops. With most Europeans showing no appetite for GM produce in food, EU politicians have approved just two varieties for growing in 12 years, compared to more than 150 worldwide. Following an in-depth evaluation of GMO policy, proposals due to be adopted on 13 July, will give the European Commission greater freedom to approve new GM varieties for cultivation, in return for letting EU governments decide whether or not to grow them. According to the press release shows that EU policy is to be based on scientific assessment of health risks and sustainable innovation, and challenging the "instinctive fear and suspicion (that had) taken hold among European consumers due to scaremongering and a reluctance of industry to explain the science behind their products" (J. Dalli). This "regulatory risk" approach to EU law is consistent with President Barroso's new political guidelines. Good background on Euractiv dossier.