In recent years the EU has talked the talk on better regulation, but have the tough words been matched by tough actions? The Commission would like to think so. In April it handed out "bureaucracy killer" awards to officials for their ideas to cut the institution's red tape.
Nice idea, but an award is no substitute for legislation based on solid impact assessments and here, the EU has fallen short of its rhetoric.
In May, the AEI-Brookings Joint Centre for Regulatory Studies published the first statistical analysis of the EU's impact assessments to date. It makes grim reading. The purpose of an impact assessment is to ascertain the effects of legislation on business, the economy and the environment. For small businesses, where legislation hits hardest, these assessments are crucial.
The study reveals the EU's impact assessments provide "little useful quantitative economic information" and that they may have become "less informative from 2003 to mid-2005". In short, the EU is going through the motions but excluding some of the crucial economic information necessary in deciding if and how to proceed with legislation.
So, in an increasingly competitive global market, the EU could be legislating its way into an economic backwater. The AEI-Brookings study compares the EU's efforts to those of the US, concluding that the EU needs to up its game and apply the same standards applied there.
Of course, this assumes that impact assessments are, at least, undertaken. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The Commission recently proposed reforms that could have massive implications for e-commerce. In the UK alone, the channel is worth over £100bn per year, but no impact assessment was conducted.
But the Commission is not the worst culprit. The Parliament and Council are both committed to the practices of better regulation and to conducting impact assessments. Yet since 2003 the Parliament has undertaken just two impact assessments, and the Council none.