26 September 2012, Brussels - Today the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise and BusinessEurope (1) are holding a seminar on the role of the European Parliament (EP) in assessing the costs and benefits of regulation. Terms such as ‘smart regulation’ (2) and ‘competitiveness proofing’ (3) cannot be used as euphemisms to exploit the fears around the current economic climate in order to persuade regulators that further deregulation and an above-all, pursuit of profit are the only solutions for our sputtering recovery. In a global market where Europe’s high quality goods and services are often seen as a competitive advantage, this mistaken rhetoric is not only false, but potentially disastrous.
The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) believes that it is exactly this irresponsible approach to regulation – particularly in the banking sector – that contributed to the very real economic and human crisis facing many Europeans. Smart regulation must mean regulation that fits public policy needs in the appropriate regulatory manner – and not be used to achieve ideological objectives in the name of competitiveness. If EU policy-makers are serious about making it right, they must reshape the way in which Impact Assessments operate today. Economic factors are crucially important, but must be understood as symbiotically linked with environmental, social and public health considerations.(5)
“We have to challenge the old-fashioned approach that the only way to achieve a vibrant economy is by way of the relentless pursuit of business interests and careless deregulation. It is precisely the high standards of the European legislation that underpin worldwide confidence in European products and services,” said Monika Kosińska, EPHA’s Secretary General. “To successfully deal with growing competitiveness from emerging markets, Europe’s businesses must focus on developing genuine drivers of innovation like pioneering new ways to fulfil long-neglected societal needs, generating sustainable technologies, and promoting energy efficiency,” Monika Kosińska went on to point out.
Coinciding with BusinessEurope’s workshop, EPHA launches today its policy recommendations for a Health Impact Assessment and the organisation’s response to the Commission consultation on the review of the Smart Regulation (6). EPHA makes the case for an inclusive, well-designed legislation capable of achieving ambitious public health policy objectives. The existing integrated impact assessment fails to strike a proper balance between economic, social and environmental repercussions. Policy developments are not always looked at in terms of their impact on public health (7) – a loophole on decision-making that can carry a hefty price to the population as a whole.
“Regulations that safeguard people’s health, environmental, consumer and social protection are not only good for people, they are also good for business – and drive the innovation which will lead us out of economic stagnation. The criteria of impact assessments should be sustainability, social responsibility, and the effective promotion of high well-being standards for all,” argued Ms Kosińska.
Civil society hailed the establishment by the European Parliament of an impact assessment unit (8). EPHA encourages the EP to carefully weigh up the likely impact of its amendments to EU legislation– as it did in the case of the maternity leave directive. Impact assessments should be a comprehensive tool that carries a strong social component. As the European Parliament stated itself, “reducing administrative burdens for businesses must not have any negative social or environmental consequences.(9)” EPHA urges EU bodies to urgently rectify the EP’s insufficient role in alternative regulatory measures, such as self-regulation, what EPHA views as a serious flaw of self-regulatory instruments.
Notes to the editors
1) Business Europe represents 41 leading industrial and employers’ federations from 35 European countries.
2) “The current crisis has brought smart regulation as a tool for encouraging growth and competitiveness to the top of the EU political agenda,” opens the BusinessEurope Position paper.
3) In a letter to the Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Antonio Tajani, BusinessEurope submitted a list of legislative proposals calling for the regulation impact on competition to be thoroughly investigated. It calls for “competitiveness proofing” of Europe 2020 targets for resource efficiency, the Ambient Air Quality Directive, revisions of product safety, open access to scientific publications, and work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
4) “The financial and economic crisis has shown that regulation has a necessary role to play,” said Commission President Barroso when he unveiled the Communication on Smart Regulation.
5) The European Court of Auditors issued a report on Impact Assessmentsthat highlighted their importance in supporting decision-making within the EU institutions. The report found that the social and environmental costs and benefits were assessed at a lower rate than economic costs and benefits. The Court of Auditors undertook a survey with the Council Working Party and 25% of respondents disagreed that there was an appropriate balance between the three pillars.
6) The Smart Regulation agenda combines impact assessment (identification of policy objectives, options and problem definition), stakeholder consultation, and simplification of EU legislation.
7) A review of the 137 impact assessments revealed that the word “health” is mentioned in less than half of the impact assessments.
Javier Delgado Rivera, EPHA Communications Coordinator, Tel.: +32 2 233 38 76 or E-mail: email@example.com