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19 December 2012

EC Smart Regulation: what's new?

The Communication of 12 December 2012 (see previous post) has outlined the future smart regulation (SR) initiatives of the European Commission for the next two years, in a carefully worded programme of action placed under the concept of "regulatory fitness". What new content can be found in this document (SR2), or is it a reformulation and confirmation of past proposals? To answer this question, one must compare the new text with its predecessor, the 8 October 2010 communication (SR1).
- some language shifts: the focus of the strategy is no longer "citizens and businesses" as in SR1, but adds "workers" to the addressees or benefiaries of the initiatives. This could be viewed as confirmation that the rebalancing between economic, and social, objectives, is continuing, though the overall aim of the policy is "responding to the economic imperatives";
- a new emphasis on "regulatory fitness", presented in 2010 as an exploratory dimension, now mainstream in the SR agenda;
- in keeping with the evolution in member states and the OECD, a widening of the impacts of regulation to include, beyond administrative burdens, the full "regulatory costs" or burdens, which classically include compliance costs; SR2 systematically avoids the old terminology "administrative" burdens;
- expressly declining to follow some "leading" member states in seeking quantitative reduction targets, whether sectoral or net targets, in favour of "a more tailored approach with an assessment of actual benefits and costs;"
- some further insistence on the responsibility of member states in the creation of regulatory burdens by inefficient transposition or "gold-plating" though the word is not used;
- the announcement of the REFIT programme to succeed, with a wider mandate, the action programme for administrative burden reduction (now redesignated "ABR", on the basis of the fitness check pilot schemes, with strengthened planning starting with the 2014 work programme; REFIT to include an "ABR Plus" programme focusing, with the help of the Stoiber group, on how member states have applied the recent (2007-2012) reduction measures decided at the EU level.

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