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BETTER LEGISLATION : DUTCH MODEL PREFERRED FOR CUTTING RED TAPE ON BUSINESSES.

Registration and notification requirements cost companies dear and generate considerable quantities of paperwork, particularly in the environmental field. In the context of the Better Regulation strategy, the European Commission's Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry is considering means of scrapping unnecessary formalities and simplifying legislation without compromising environmental protection standards. Examples of good practice in various countries were discussed at a conference staged in Brussels on 22 June, notably the one-stop shops' widely developed in Italy and Ministry for Housing, Town and Country Planning and the Environment (VROM) initiatives in the Netherlands. These models are reviewed in a report published in May, making a series of recommendations to the member states.

The improvement and simplification of legislation and the reduction of administrative burdens constitute an important part of the revised Lisbon Strategy launched by the Commission two years ago. On this last aspect, European Enterprise and Industry Commissioner Gunter Verheugen has pledged to cut the administrative burden on businesses by 25% before the end of his mandate in 2009. He draws on the Dutch model which has demonstrated its effectiveness in this area.

In the Netherlands, the annual administrative burden stemming from environmental regulations is valued at 1.2 billion. In order to offset these astronomical sums, potentially damaging to the prosperity of businesses and in particular small and medium-sized enterprises, the government has made simplifying legislation one of its political priorities. Pieter Roos, who works at the VROM, explains that four elements are crucial in determining the success of the project: national approach, clear objectives, monitoring instruments and long-term programmes. This recipe has enabled the Netherlands to cut red tape on businesses by 9% between 2002 and 2005.

One of the latest initiatives tabled by the VROM groups together various types of authorisation requests (planning permission, air protection measures, etc.) in a single unified regime. The aim is to establish a single request, a one-stop shop', just one competent authority and a single appeals procedure. This single authorisation might be introduced by the beginning of 2008. An online request form would also enable businessmen and women to only fill in those parts that directly concern them, whilst a guide for users would provide assistance throughout the process. The VROM's parallel objective is to introduce new general rules on the environment as an alternative to the excessive number of individual authorisation requests. This should reduce administrative formalities linked to authorisation requests and yield significant savings.

Another proven initiative is the Italian one-stop shop' system. Set up in 1998 in the context of efforts by the Italian government to simplify exchanges between public administrations and businesses, all local authorities have been encouraged to set up a one-stop shop' to provide entrepreneurs with a single intermediary for all formalities regarding the setting up, maintenance and closure of production installations. This system is particularly beneficial for start-ups.

The report lists 75 examples of good practice, including 26 best practices' in 24 countries (not only in Europe). The principal selection criteria are: increased implementation efficiency, cutting costs for businesses, greater clarity, transferability between countries, emphasis on SMEs, etc. The document recommends that member states draw inspiration from these practices and implement them at home. One of the lessons to be drawn is that the administrative burden should be accurately quantified before looking at how to reduce it.
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Publication:Europe Environment
Date:Jul 7, 2006
Words:552
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