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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26 March 2013

ECJ enforces Environment impact assessment directive

A recent ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) says that Austrian legislation on impact assessments breaks EU rules. In case 244/12 the ECJ ruled on 21 March that European Union members states must conduct an environmental impact assessment for any project likely to have significant effects on the environment. The Court was ruling on Austrian legislation, which requires green impact assessments on proposed modifications to airports only if the modification will increase traffic by at least 20,000 flights per year.
Salzburg Airport had taken the case to an Austrian court after the government had ruled retroactively that a modification made in 2002 should have required an impact assessment. The airport said that under Austrian law no assessment was needed. The ECJ ruled that this law contravenes EU rules.
According to a comment by European Voice, the ruling will have major ramifications for projects across the EU. Member states will no longer be able to place a quantitative size threshold to decide which projects need an assessment. Instead, the threshold must be based on the potential effect on the environment.
The Commission recently published a report summarizing the rulings of the ECJ on the application of Directive 2011/92/EU of 13 December 2011 which prescribes the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, as amended, known as the "EIA" (environmental impact assessment) Directive, requires that an environmental assessment to be carried out by the competent national authority for certain projects which are likely to have significant effects on the environment by virtue, inter alia, of their nature, size or location, before development consent is given. For other useful documents, go to DG Environment page on EIA.

"Why regulations never seem to disappear?"

An interesting summary of an issue well-known to smart regulators: the tendency of all bureaucracies to secrete new regulation, and the difficulty of curbing that trend, by great expert Patrick McLaughlin, co-creater of RegData. Also note the creation in Kansas of an "office of the Repealer" as reported by The Economist.

Remise d'un rapport sur l'allègement des normes

English translation follows text in French
Selon diverses sources, un rapport préconisant des solutions pour lutter contre "l'inflation normative" a été remis mardi 26 mars à Jean-Marc Ayrault, selon l'agenda du Premier ministre, au moment où le gouvernement dit vouloir empêcher que le respect des normes ne ralentisse son action. Le site privé Weka.fr commente comme suit cette information: "Ce rapport avait été confié début janvier par le Premier ministre à deux élus de tendances politiques différentes, le sénateur Alain Lambert, président du conseil général de l'Orne, et le maire (PS) du Mans Jean-Claude Boulard. Dans sa lettre de mission, M. Ayrault demandait notamment aux deux élus de dresser "une liste de" normes à abroger" et de "recenser des normes complexes ou inadaptées". Le champ de cette étude concerne uniquement les normes applicables aux collectivités locales, dont s'étaient une nouvelle fois plaints presque tous les élus lors des "états généraux de la démocratie territoriale" organisés en octobre dernier.

RIA and Evaluation of Inclusiveness (UNESCO conference)

Organized within the framework of UNESCO's Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme, an expert workshop on the measurement and evaluation of social inclusion policies was held from 25 to 26 March 2013, at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, with the aim of developing the study and mapping of indexes and methodologies available to measure social inclusion and assess the level of inclusion of public policies.
The 100 or so experts from governments, international organisations (OECD, EC and others) and NGOs drew up together a long list of available tools and data sources, then examined their contribution to impact assessment and evaluation processes seeking to improve the relevance and efficiency of inclusiveness policies. A concept note and all contributions are available online on the conference website, thereby providing from a single link a vast array of methodological resources for Social Impact Assessment and related issues.

21 March 2013

"What the Budget means for business" (UK)

A good idea to present "What the Budget means for business, innovation and skills" on the occasion of this very important day. It's well worth visiting the Budget 2013 page on the official site, which summarizes seven measures, among which the last one concerns red tape:
"Cutting red tape: The government will launch a second phase of the Red Tape Challenge to help cut red tape for businesses. 1500 regulations have already been identified to be amended or scrapped. This second phase will look at the whole regulatory system – including laws, guidance, compliance, and enforcement, through short targeted reviews. We will ask businesses what specific problems we should look at before the launch in the summer of 2013."

Chinese gvt to free economy from red tape

According to an article titled "China's new cabinet vows to cut red tape" published by People's Daily of March 19, the newly-elected State Council has given top priority to modernising "government functions". Premier Li Keqiang had chaired an executive cabinet meeting on the day before, "advocating that transforming government functions is the key to further reforming administrative systems and developing a market economy and an economy ruled by law. Cutting red tape will be a breakthrough in achieving the transformation of government functions, according to a statement from the meeting. In a bid to let the market play its role and empower social forces, the government has vowed to take drastic action to reduce items that demand official approval or transfer such power to lower levels, the statement said. To invigorate the economy and society, the government has also vowed to refrain from intervening in micro issues, the statement said. The government will strengthen macro management and focus more on key influential issues in a bid to improve its scientific management levels, the statement said." Behind the rather emphatic language, the determination to continue liberalising the economy seems genuine.

One-stop-shop for sporting events (France)

Who would have thought that it would be so complex to organise a Sunday cross country race or a childrens' basket ball competition? A good example of simplification experimenting is provided by a French département deciding to tackle what is a national issue and set up a "web-platform" for a single access to the various administrative procedures set up by different agencies, thereby also reducing the official response time to organisers' requests. Both specific sporting requireements and general rules such as those applying to events in public spaces are catered for, in this region where one quarter of the population are registered in one or several sporting clubs. This type of solution now apparently needs to be developped at the national level. For more, see Acteurs Publics.

"Growth duty" and new code for regulators? (UK)

8 March press release: British Business Minister M. Fallon "launched two consultations to re-shape the way regulators work with business, so that upholding standards does not act as a barrier to growth and enterprise. Businesses and regulators are invited to contribute to the development of a proposed 'growth duty' for regulators - which will require regulators to take into account the impact of their activities on the economic prospects of firms they regulate.
A parallel consultation will seek views on an updated Regulators' Code - which removes uncertainty for businesses by clarifying what they can expect from those that regulate them, including accessible advice and methods of enforcement that are tailored to meet the needs of the business.

19 March 2013

UK "historic" deal on media self-regulation

British media are understandbly abuzz with criticism directed at the all-party agreement on a royal charter to create a new independent media regulator with powers to impose fines and demand prominent corrections, and empower courts to impose exemplary damages on newspapers that fail to join the body. The deal is said to have been finalised at 2.30 am on 18 March, in presence of representatives of the three parties and the phone hacking scandal victims Hacked-Off.
According to the PM, the new royal charter only sets up the body and criteria to recognise the regulator, and it remains a voluntary choice for the industry to decide whether to set up the system of independent regulation. If newspapers refuse to co-operate with the regulator, or set up a body that is not accepted by the new recognition panel, they will be more liable to exemplary damages in the event that they recklessly publish inaccurate stories (see informed comment by Hollywood Reporter). Newspapers have said they would seek legal advice. Owing to the difficulty of regulating the media while respecting the freedom of expression, it will be interesting to examine the final architecture of this new example of controlled self-regulation. See Guardian article for more.

South Carolina promises regulatory reform

According to Enviro-BLR.com, South Carolina is launching a review of current regulatory burdens on businesses which will lead to formulating recommendations to relieve those burdens. A new Regulatory Review Task Force created by Governor executive order will evaluate reports submitted by agencies that identify current and proposed statutes, rules, regulations, and policies that are a burden on the state's economy. To that end, all cabinet agencies must submit a written report to the task force by May 15. Stakeholders are invited to comment on current and proposed statutes and regulations or any other state statute, rule, regulation, or policy proposed or implemented that may unduly burden businesses or employers.

04 March 2013

Eurochambers working breakfast on admin burdens

 Announcement on the LinkedIn group: "08.03.2013, Brussels (BE) – EUROCHAMBRES Business Breakfast on top 10 burdensome EU Legislative acts for SMES: What's next?" with great speakers:  Jonathon STOODLEY (Head of Unit for Evaluation and Simplification, European Commission's Secretariat General) and Costas ANDROPOULOS (Head of Unit for Small Business Act and SME policies, European Commission's DG Enterprise). If I was in Brussels, I would go ! Registration online. Comments after the event for non-Brusselites welcome.

Red Tape on Charities (Australia)

One of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission's (ACNC's) statutory objects is to 'promote the reduction of unnecessary regulatory obligations on the sector' which comprises 56,000 charities. ACNC is an independent national regulator, set up in December 2012, primarily to reduce red tape by creating a “one-stop shop”. But since then, critics have said (according to the Financial Review) that the new regulator would be increasing, not reducing, burdens by creating an extra layer of bureaucracy; its action would b e limited by non-recognition of its status at sub-national level as it had been "established without an agreement from the states and territories to harmonise their laws governing charities and non-profits." Reacting to these claims, the Federal Finance Minister announced on 4 March that updated Grant Guidelines to be released in June 2013 will help reduce duplication and the time taken to provide information to federal government bodies and the PM has announced that she would write to state and territory leaders asking them to match the federal commitment (see News.com.au).

Consultation guidelines up for comment (France)

New, well drafted guidelines on consulting enterprises and professional organisations have been published for consultation by the French ministry of industrial recovery (deadline: 15 March). Once formally approved, this "Consulter pour mieux réglementer" manual could well become the French language reference for consultation. The draft offers itself as a complement to the "guide de légistique" which covers the legal requirements for issuing new regulation. It follows up on the Conseil d'Etat's 2011 status report on consultation "consulter autrement, participer effectivement." It breaks down the process in four stages from identification of stakeholders to feed back, which are handled in four practical fiches.

Bangladesh Gvt reluctant to adopt regulatory reform

Bangladesh does not rank well in the Doing Business index: 129th out of 185 economies, falling. Experts agree on the causes of this poor performnance: "lack of regulatory reforms, bureaucratic bottlenecks, infrastructure deficit, pervasive corruption and confrontational politics" according to an editorial in the B. Financial Express. A recent parliamentary initiative to create a "business caucus" to support reform, following the publication of a book suggesting to 'build partnership between parliamentarians and the private sector to modernise and update regulatory mechanism in Bangladesh' is not well received. 'The commerce minister does not agree'. For a long-winded explanation of this double-bind, which is at the root of the problem (no clear picture in the minds of the people in charge), try the Financial Express article dated 4 March.