In January 2007, the Commission launched an Action Programme for Reducing Administrative Burdens stemming from EU legislation and national measures implementing or transposing it. The objective was to reduce administrative burdens by 25 per cent to be achieved by 2012. Following the Action Programme, the Commission established in August 2007 a High Level Group of Independent Stakeholders on Administrative Burdens to provide advice on measures to reduce the administrative burden. 15 members representing business and society at large were appointed in a personal capacity by the Commission and the chairperson, Edmund Stoiber.
In September 2009, Commission President Barroso introduced the concept of “smart regulation” as a new approach to European policymaking. He also placed the responsibility for the better regulation services, notably simplification, reduction of administrative burdens, impact assessment and evaluation, in his own offices.
The Commission has put forward a number of proposals to reduce administrative burdens in the area of labour law among others. The ETUC is concerned that the Commission is cutting red tape for business at the expense of workers’ rights.
For the ETUC, the Better Regulation Agenda is a threat to trade unions for at least three reasons. First, by aiming to reduce companies’ information obligations, the Commission is attacking workers’ rights to information and consultation. Secondly, this is being done under the pretext of reducing administrative burdens or simplification, thus trying to avoid any normal decision-making process. Thirdly, proposals are made on the basis of unreliable data and methods of calculating administrative costs.