Better Regulation principles get into action for better EU law application

The European Commission has delivered its Annual Report on monitoring the Application of Community Law. This report shows how the Commission is translating Better Regulation objectives into real actions, and assesses the results of EU law enforcement and infringement proceedings, also analysing the ways in which the EU informs businesses and citizens about EU la enforcement.

The measures put forward by the Commission in order to develop Better Regulation principles involve actions such as a better assessment of national impacts when it prepares legislation, working with the Member States to solve problems that citizens raise, resolving them more quickly and efficiently than could be done through legal proceedings, or improving efficiency in managing infringements and enhancing dialogue with the Council, the European Parliament and the public on the application of law.

With more than 10.000 legal acts in force in 27 Member States challenges are inevitably many and varied. The infringement process plays an essential role in guaranteeing the correct application of Community Law, as at the end of 2007, the Commission was handling 3400 infringement files, which represent an increase of 5.9% compared with 2006.

The Commission points to the fact that it has accelerated the progress of infringements management to achieve an average of 23 months to complete a file compared with the 28 month average reported for previous years. It also confirms the high percentage of issues resolved without need for recourse to the European Court of Justice (93% of complaints closed before a ruling of the ECJ).

The sectors which have the most significant case load continue to be environment, internal market, taxation energy, transport and employment among others.
Main areas of action for Better Regulation and EU Law enforcement

  • Prevention: designing laws which are simple and clear, easy to implement and enforce. The Commission is revising its Impact Assessment guidelines, carefully assessing the choice of legal instrument. More is being done to prepare for the implementation of laws once adopted by looking at the parts of the proposals which could pose particular implementation challenges as well as further developing informal networks with the Member States well before the laws come into force.
  • General management of the law, Information-provision and problem-solving for citizens and business. Extensive use is being made of committees and expert groups (roughly 1500 of them) meeting regularly to update technical requirements, issue interpretative guidelines, adopt codes of conduct, etc. Good management of the law also means following-up on the individual interests of citizens and businesses and this too is being prioritised in different ways. Information services like Europe Direct, Citizens' Signpost Service, EEC-Net, Euro-jus, provide information and advice to citizens and business on their rights. In SOLVIT Member States co-operate to resolve cross-frontier issues arising in the internal market. A pilot project has been launched with 15 Member States to answer questions and resolve citizens' problems with the application of law in many policy areas (Environment, Internal Market, Enterprise, Employment, Taxation, etc.).
  • Complaints and infringements management: To be most effective in tackling problems arising in the application of Community Law, the Commission is improving its working methods to produce the best and quickest results. When recourse to infringement proceedings is required, the Commission has to ensure that those causing the greatest negative impact for the objectives of the legislation, or the widest negative impact on citizens and business, are given priority. In this report, the Commission takes a further step in the development of its priorities in this work.

In this focus, earlier this year, in some recommendations made by the European Parliament, the Chamber highlighted the need to reduce administrative burdens especially for businesses, without falling into “legislative abstinence”, but applying the better regulation principles.

As President Barroso pointed out, "Europe is a community of law – laws need to be properly applied in the Member States. We are working to ensure that laws are well prepared, that problems in applying the law are solved on the ground and that, where there are infringements of legislation, they are pursued vigilantly and managed efficiently."