Genuinely 'Better Regulation' must put people and planet first

29 June 2016

The European Commission must rethink its so-called 'Better Regulation' agenda, according to Friends of the Earth Europe. The 'Better Regulation Agenda' was created by the European Commission to streamline and improve European law-making. However, Friends of the Earth Europe and allies claim the focus is almost exclusively on cutting-costs for businesses at the expense of social and environmental benefits [1].

Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe, and REFIT Platform member [2] said: "So-called 'Better Regulation' is about cutting costs for businesses at the expense of people-centric policies. At a time when European citizens feel alienated, 'Better Regulation' risks fanning flames by weakening existing laws that protect our environment, health and our social and labour rights."

"The REFIT Platform should be a forum for improving legislation, but it risks becoming a tool that undermines public interest. The European Commission and the member states urgently need to put people and planet first in European policies and decision-making."

The push for deregulation and burden reduction includes a "net target to reduce costs". This would create perverse incentives to cut costs for business even if the financial benefits for society of these regulations is greater, according to the organisation. This can be observed in submissions the Platform have been asked to deal with, such as those to weaken EU Chemicals regulations (REACH), or to deregulate safety measures in the transport sector [3]. The better regulation agenda does not take into account non-financial benefits, and has already sabotaged crucial legislation around recycling and waste reduction.

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[1] One focus of 'Better Regulation' is reducing 'burden'. This term is not defined and includes everything from paperwork obligations to compliance costs. A piece of legislation may therefore be designated as 'burdensome' even if there are no superfluous costs to cut, because every cent of the cost is associated with achieving the policy objectives.

[2] As part of the May 2015 package, the European Commission created the 'REFIT Platform' to collect suggestions on how legislation can be improved. However, in the Commission decision establishing the REFIT Platform, the Platform's role is described as being to "invite, collect and assess suggestions from all available sources, including from members of the Platform, on how to reduce regulatory and administrative burden."

[3] Examples of submissions can be found in the 'More resources' section