First results of the REFIT platform

The REFIT platform put in place in the framework of the Better Regulation agenda published the first results of its work in July 2016. It is intended that the total of sixteen recommendations for simplification or review of specific legislative acts with a view to greater coherence and cutting red tape should find their way into the work programme adopted by the European Commission each year for the coming year.

REFIT is a programme called into being by the European Commission to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in regulation. The aim is to simplify EU legislation and to create a clear, stable and coherent European legislative framework. At the end of 2015, the European Commission set up the so-called REFIT platform which is designed to help realise this aim of the REFIT programme on the basis of its own expertise with concrete recommendations.

The platform comprises two permanent groups: experts from the 28 Member States (“Government group”) as well as twenty experts from business, social partners and civil society (“Stakeholder group”). The business view is represented by BUSINESSEUROPE. Also members of the Stakeholder Group are one representative each of the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. The members of both groups can be viewed here.

The group started its work on 29 January 2016 and had adopted a total of sixteen recommendations from a range of policy areas by July 2016. These include reviews and simplification proposals from the area of single market policy (e.g. on the construction products regulation or on better functioning of point of single contact in the framework of the services directive), on a review of the coherence of reporting obligations in the banking sector or recommendations on conflicting definitions in State aid rules. As many as four recommendations come from the areas of taxation and customs union, including some highly controversial proposals for the “reverse charge” mechanism (VAT allocation rule), a cross-border VAT information portal or on standardised VAT returns. The recommendations extend to simplification proposals in the area of agriculture and rural development, environment, health and food legislation, communication network, content and technologies (i.e. on the e-privacy directive) as well as in the areas of regional policy and statistics. An overview of the recommendations can be downloaded here

Members of the REFIT platform meet regularly every 4-6 weeks. The Government group and Stakeholder group first meet separately but then regularly exchange to evaluate individual proposals in joint meetings. Decisions on individual recommendations are taken on a majority of the votes of both groups.

In order to keep the perimeter of proposals under control, the members of both working groups have developed work methods. Since REFIT relates first and foremost to legislative acts which are already in force and are being implemented by the Member States, a majority of the Stakeholder group has decided that it will not review proposals on legislative acts which are still in the legislative procedure or are being discussed in the framework of the Social Dialogue.

In addition, the individual proposals are first classified in the relevant policy areas. The groups then decide which policy areas should be given priority and nominate a rapporteur from among their midst for the area or for individual proposals.

Alongside concrete improvement proposals, members can also adopt their own recommendations on horizontal issues. For instance, several members of the Stakeholder group are currently working on recommendations for the European Commission’s consultation mechanisms, i.e. the possibilities for involving stakeholders and civil society in shaping policy.

Commission Vice President Timmermans, who chairs the REFIT platform, says that he is satisfied with the progress of work. The position papers flow into the relevant work programme. After initial difficulties with managing the volume of work, developing functioning work methods, ensuring interaction between the Government group and Stakeholder group as well as sufficient transparency about the platform’s work, the REFIT platform is on a very good path. Its work makes an important contribution to improving the European legislative framework and dismantling bureaucracy which can ultimately help to cut unnecessary costs for companies and users of legislative acts.